Redefining Leadership: Integrating women’s wellbeing and professional success

09 Jun, 2024
Lily Cheng
In recent years, there has been a notable surge in the number of women leading companies, sitting on boards and founding their own ventures, writes Lily Cheng, Founder & CEO of the Rising Network.
Credit – CrizzyStudio /

It’s an encouraging trend, particularly with the increasing numbers of young women stepping into entrepreneurship. However, amidst this progress a silent crisis looms over the wellbeing of young women in their early twenties.

The Hidden Struggles: Addressing Mental Health Challenges

According to the Mental Health Foundation, young women in their early twenties are three times as likely as young men to suffer from stress, anxiety, and depression. This statistic sheds light on the hidden struggles that often accompany the pursuit of career advancement.

The journey to the top for many women is paved with sacrifices. The pressure to excel professionally often leads to postponing starting families and sacrificing personal time for the sake of climbing the corporate ladder. This imbalance takes a toll on both mental and physical health, contributing to the alarming statistics on stress-related disorders among young women.

Unique Challenges in Women’s Career Trajectory

Furthermore, women encounter unique challenges as they progress through various stages of their careers. Issues such as menopause present significant hurdles: in a recent late 2023 survey conducted by UK workplace-healthcare provider SimplyHealth, over 2,000 working women aged 40 to 60 were polled. Astonishingly, twenty-three percent considered resigning due to the impact of menopause, with 14 per cent intending to submit their notice.

Although this survey’s sample size might seem modest relative to the seven million women in the UK workforce within that age bracket, it echoes anecdotal evidence from women who have openly shared their experiences as menopausal workers. Left unaddressed, this issue could potentially affect millions of workers who may contemplate leaving.

Furthermore, for those who opt to remain, the financial toll of sick days, unpaid leave and missed opportunities due to menopause accumulate to a substantial cost. The UK Parliament’s ‘Menopause and the Workplace’ report cites 14 million working days lost each year to menopause, which equates to £1.88 billion in lost productivity.

According to a previous British Menopause Society survey, 45 per cent of women indicated they felt their menopause symptoms had a negative impact on their work.

Integration: Bridging the Gap Between Leadership and Wellbeing

For too long, discussions on women’s leadership and wellbeing have been treated as separate issues. Many companies have implemented commendable well-being policies without adequately addressing the personal struggles faced by women leaders. It’s time for a paradigm shift. Dorothy Byrne, President of Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge, advocates integrating women’s health and wellbeing into the leadership narrative.

Drawing from her own experiences, Byrne emphasises the importance of prioritising health and wellbeing, not just for individual leaders but for the collective success of organisations.

Join the Conversation: The Rising Festival Keynote

In her upcoming keynote address at the Rising Festival, Byrne will passionately champion this transformative shift, urging women to prioritise their health and wellbeing as integral components of effective leadership.

Byrne, who herself struggled as a senior leader in television while enduring a post-menopausal autoimmune disease and significant symptoms of menopause, asserts that it is time for women leaders to prioritise their own health and wellbeing. She believes that by doing so they will become more effective leaders and their companies will benefit.

By fostering a culture that values wellbeing, organisations can cultivate environments where women thrive professionally while leading fulfilling lives. It’s a call to action for women to redefine leadership and empower each other to prioritise wellbeing.

At the Rising Network, we prioritise holistic wellbeing and mental health. Our mission goes beyond conventional business priorities; we’re dedicated to empowering women to achieve their full potential and bridging the pervasive gender gap in the workplace.

Recognising that true empowerment is inseparable from prioritising mental health; as the Founder, I am deeply committed to foregrounding this vital aspect in all our endeavours.

For us, self-care isn’t just a buzzword; it’s at the core of everything we do. We firmly believe that by nurturing individuals’ wellbeing, we lay the groundwork for sustainable success and fulfilment in both personal and professional spheres.

Join us at the Rising Festival on 21 September for an impactful keynote and urgent conversation on integrating women’s leadership and wellbeing. Secure your ticket now to become an integral part of this game-changing discussion. Learn more here –

Gratitude to Our Sponsors and Partners

I want to extend heartfelt gratitude to our partners and sponsors who have pledged their commitment and joined forces with us to build a more equitable future where individuals can thrive. Special thanks to Wellcome Sanger Institute, TTP, St Mary’s School Cambridge, Business Weekly, British Antarctic Survey, Mills & Reeve, Kiss Communications, Bourn Hall and Babraham Research Campus for their invaluable support.


Lily Cheng is an entrepreneur, community builder, and change catalyst, with a background in marketing and a profound dedication to mental health and wellness. Rooted in a family heritage steeped in traditional Chinese medicine, Lily's holistic approach to life, health, and wellbeing is deeply ingrained in her ethos.

As the Founder and CEO of the Rising Network, Lily is on a mission to create a more inclusive world. She is a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusivity, fostering dynamic communities that prioritise the well-being of individuals. Under her leadership, the Rising Network has become a beacon of empowerment and inspiration, offering vibrant events and initiatives designed to ignite positive change, including the Rising Festival, a festival for inspiration and growth.

Lily is renowned as a passionate mentor, dedicated to shaping future leaders and nurturing emerging talents. Leveraging her expertise and experience, she strives to make a meaningful impact as an inclusive community builder, empowering individuals to reach their full potential and being a catalyst of change making world inclusive for all.

Throughout her career, Lily has delivered exceptional results in brand creation, execution, and management, demonstrating a proven track record in driving positive change. For media enquiries or further information, contact Lily Cheng, Founder & CEO of the Rising Network –