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Published on 23rd May 2023

WUN at UWL 23 : Building Personal Resilience in Challenging Times


A number of the WUN Board and Advocate team attended Utility Week Live last week at the NEC. From the stand, we had the opportunity to talk to a range of individuals about both the individual memberships and the partnerships available to those in the Utilities sector, including: being a pan-industry network of women across different career paths, the podcasts, in-person and virtual events, as well as the access to the mentoring programme.

At the end of the first day of the event, WUN hosted a keynote and discussion on ‘Building Personal Resilience in Challenging Times’. Following an insightful introductory keynote from Ruth Cooper-Dickson from Champs on defining resilience, Hayley Monks, one of the original WUN Founders, chaired the panel around resilience.

Ruth opened the session referencing challenging times in her own earlier career in male-dominated industries and living in affluent cities through to a favela in Brazil, Ruth alluded to how there were a number of times that she had had the opportunity to either recoil or bounce back in the face of adversities. Talking of the psychology behind post traumatic growth and how some individuals find resilience more natural than others, she referred to resilience like that of a tree. A palm tree that signifies recovery – swinging and swaying in a storm but able to survive with little damage; resistance in the form of a metaphoric oak tree that is so strong rooted in the face of adversity and reconfiguration when a tree is knocked down in a storm but manages to reform and continue to grow despite the challenging conditions faced.

Ruth set the scene with a resilience bucket, demonstrating the challenges that add to your bucket and take away from it and the importance of needing ways to alleviate the pressure; particularly through self-care and awareness of burdens that are being carried. How can we stop our buckets from leaking? How do we contain the liquid in our buckets?

Hayley then asked the panel for their own examples of both personal and professional moments where resilience was required, the examples were relatable and thought-provoking.

Emma Clancy of CCW, Monica Collings of So Energy, and Sarah McMath of MOSL each shared times in which they had had to dig deep and build their own resilience personally to overcome challenges in both their work and personal lives.

The conversation covered bouncebackability, resourcefulness, remaining purposeful with your approach, and remaining authentic – all whilst ensuring that you don’t reach burn out.

Sarah shared details of her career as a scientist, regularly being the only woman in the room during her career and learning to be aware of what things give and drain energy. Sharing an exercise that she now adopts on a regular basis, looking at the meetings scheduled for the week ahead and thinking about how each meeting makes her body respond. By doing this, Sarah has been able to ensure that she is able to reengineer the way she has entered meetings and has enabled her to prepare for the meetings and events that require more resilience.

As well as this, Sarah referenced that it’s important to care less about what others think of you and often flips the mindset on this to assume the best intent from others. By doing this, you are then able to be your true, authentic self rather than trying to fit into an environment or to align to others’ expectations.

Monica made a comparison to putting on ‘your own mask first’ as if in an inflight emergency, and that with responsibility becomes a resilience that requires you to take care of yourself in order to help others. Referencing some personal challenges in her life, Monica also said something that really stuck with me, “There’s never enough of you to go around, so don’t beat yourself up over it, just take the lessons from it.”

Emma added that it’s imperative to trust yourself and your judgement when facing challenging times. It’s important to be visible and present as a leader, but fundamentally you need to be tuned into your feelings. Likening your resilience to a full glass of water in the morning, Emma demonstrated that enthusiasm can waiver as family members losing important items for the day, train strikes and similar set backs can reduce the water available before you step into the office of a morning, and that it’s important to consider what it is that is draining your resources and to recognise when your head and heart don’t align to protect yourself during these recurring challenging moments that occur.

Hayley added that there is huge value in maintaining and leaning on your network when facing challenges that require resilience as well as ensuring that you’re developing your own skills and talent as well as those around you.

As a group, the panellists had been in a range of environments, situations, and challenges that have tested their resilience. Including: experiencing single motherhood whilst balancing a leadership career; navigating and challenging toxic work cultures; pressure from regulatory bodies / media and customers; growing and divesting businesses and many other scenarios. All agreed that authenticity, bouncebackability, remaining true to yourself and trusting your own judgement were imperative pillars to remaining resilience through the toughest of times.

The Women’s Utilities Network is accessible to women at any stage of their career within the sector. So if you’re yet to have the opportunity to explore the benefits, would like to know more about how to become involved in future sessions or to attend future events, then Join the Network for free today and find your tribe.

Holly Beeston, WUN Advocate