It’s taken me some time to write this blog for Womenentre. I always think that I have nothing to say of any importance and, others may be surprised to learn, that I too succumb to moments of imposter syndrome. However, I felt that at this joyous time of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, it was the time to stop procrastinating and to put pen to paper. Some may applaud me for my success in working in a male dominated industry. To me, it is business as usual. However, I acknowledge that to others to speak out and have a voice in an industry which predominantly consists of middle aged men, can seem daunting.

Previous Senior Traffic Commissioner, Beverley Bell, referred to the transport industry as ‘pale, male and stale’. Surely then this provides an opportunity for women to fill the void, to be courageous and to step out and be vibrant. In this respect I think of our Queen, who did not go to university and at a very young age was thrown in front of society, in a country at the time lead by men and yet she stood tall, faced her undoubted demons, donned the most vibrant of colours and became a tower of strength, a silent leader and an inspiration to others.

This weekend, I took out my copy of The Servant Queen and the King she serves. In the preface, which is the only preface to a book the Queen has ever written, she quotes from a poem by Minnie Louise Haskins:
‘I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.’

It strikes me that, whatever their beliefs, the women who reach out to the WomensCentre step out into the darkness of the unknown and in doing so, with the brilliant help of those who work there, find the light. In the words of a poem on a wall at the Centre, ‘Just when I think all is lost, I remember….women.’

When I left the corporate world of transport, with the comfortable high salary and perceived luxuries, I took off my dark protective armour, with which I could hide amongst the pale, male and stale. For me, I had escaped, but stepped into the scary darkness of the unknown. I recognise my fortune and privilege in having time to reflect, breathe, re-invent and emerge the new authentic me, with a voice and a power to speak.
Nervous at speaking for the first time at a conference, my husband said, Lesley, ‘be brave be strong and fly’.
I feel that The Women Centre provides a space for women to be brave, find space to breathe, escape from darkness into the light, find strength in their authentic selves and emerge stronger, with a will to fly.

Lesley O’Brien OBE
Director, Freightlink Europe

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