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Woman to Woman

Honest talk from an ob/gyn & menopause practitioner dedicated to mid-life women

  • Catherine Hansen

Why women need to say no

As women we try to be everything to everyone at all times. We don't like to disappoint, so when someone asks something of us, even if we don't have the time or energy for it, we say yes. I've seen this over and over again with patients who feel over-extended and stressed—it's time to start saying no! Ignoring your own limitations, poor time management skills and excessive worrying can cause lots of stress that can trickle into other parts of your life. Saying no when you don't have time or energy for something is more important now than ever before. A McKinsey & Company study reports "women are doing the lion's share of emotional labor at work." Female mangers are more likely to do the following for their employees:

  • provide emotional support,

  • check in on their worker's overall well-being,

  • make sure work loads are manageable,

  • help navigate work-life challenges

  • take actions to prevent or manage burnout

And while this is commendable, the extra invisible work being done by professional women is going unnoticed, uncompensated, and causing them to leave the workplace due to the burnout and fatigue. Consider this Harvard Business Review report:

The top words used to describe women in the workplace: compassionate, inept, selfish & enthusiastic. I've been thinking about how many times these words have been used to describe me while working in the healthcare system... Dr. Shikha Jain, founder of Women in Medicine®, shares: "the import of these words thrust women like me into doing more invisible work than ever before. And while this inevitably led to burnout, it also taught me an important lesson: how to say “no.” As women, we've all been there before. As the study shows, we're "compassionate, and want to make a difference where we feel we can...But it’s also those sticky perceptions of women as “inept” and “selfish” that drive us to overburden ourselves." So this week, I invite you to say no.


Not to all your responsibilities, but to the things being asked of you that you don't have time or energy for or simply don't want to do. I'll be doing the same!