Work Like a Woman

With International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day falling on the same weekend this year, we felt it was only right for this month’s blog to be a celebration of Girl Power. 

The feminisation of the veterinary workforce has continued to gather momentum in recent years. 34% of respondents to the 2000 RCVS survey of the veterinary profession were female, which rose to 58% in 2019. This trend is set to continue with the proportion of female new UK practising registrants rising from 67% in 2017 to 77% in 2021(RCVS Workforce Summit 2021). 

A study of 32,748 of Dutch women between the age of 15 – 45 reported that presenteeism accounts for a massive 9 day loss of productivity due to menstrual symptoms every year (BMJ Open, 2018). 81% of women in the study reported presenteeism during their period and said that they were less productive as a result of their symptoms. 

Chinese Olympic Swimmer, Fu Yuanhui made the headlines in 2016, not because her team came fourth in the 4x100m medley relay, but for breaking the taboo and publicly acknowledging a drop in her performance due to her period. 

So why as women are we still trying to work like men? The classical 8am – 6pm model is based around the daily rise and fall in testosterone that men experience, not the average 28 day female cycle. As vets we’re all familiar with reproductive cycles in animals and used to manipulating them to our advantage. So why can’t we learn to optimise our own performance?

Your cycle is your superpower. 

Follicular phase

Menstrual: The beginning of your follicular phase, oestrogen and progesterone are low. This is when most women report unwanted side symptoms such as lethargy and cramping. Your superpower? Organisation. Plot, plan and set the tone for the rest of the month. “Me” days or personal days are common practice in other professions. If they exist in your workplace, this is a really good time to utilise them. 

Proliferative: As follicles develop, oestrogen levels rise. You’re high energy, less emotional, uber productive and multitasking like a boss. So plan that big meeting and climb those big mountains because for the next few days you’re on fire. 

Ovulation – Your peak. Ultra articulate, super confident and energetic. You have so much to give during this short lived phase. For female leaders, this is when to plan your one to ones. You are at your most warm and empathetic and have the motivation to action the points raised. For an employee, this is when you should lean in to those difficult conversations. Negotiate that pay rise or flexible working request with ease. Record podcasts, host webinars. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve. 


Luteal phase 

Secretory: Post ovulation, oestrogen is falling and progesterone is on the rise. Although your energy levels drop, your metabolic rate is higher, so if you want that extra snack, have it. This is where you are likely to experience symptoms of premenstrual syndrome so be kind to yourself. Your superpower during this phase is creativity and thinking outside the box. Use this time for marketing, branding and strategy. Work remotely if you can, get some fresh air, breath. However lots of women report a short burst of increased productivity just immediately prior to their period. 

So, to do list: 

  1. Start by keeping a diary and tracking your cycle moods each month. 
  2. Look for patterns
  3. Plan your work diary as best you can to play to your superpower during that phase. 
  4. Learn to dodge bullets. 
  5. Take over the world.

Your cycle is your superpower. Focus your femininity. Harness your hormones. Work like a woman. 


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