Midlife women are revolting & Dr Lucy Ryan is here to explain why…

— by Alyson Walsh


Dr Lucy Ryan is multi-talented. She’s a leadership coach and consultant with an MSc in Positive Psychology, a passionate advocate for women’s professional development and an author. Her PhD research project investigated the phenomenon of leadership in women over-50.

And she likes cycling and swimming and has two Bedlington terriers…

Now Lucy has written a brilliant book called Revolting Women: why midlife women are walking out. Using her valuable research, personal stories and interviews, she covers the demands on midlife women and explores why we are leaving the workforce in droves. The book highlights how 50-plus women are undervalued and, worse, ignored in the workplace; how we are taking control of our careers and reinventing ourselves. Calling out gendered ageism she demands systemic change. Is it any wonder we are revolting?!


Dr Lucy Ryan


Here’s an extract from the book and Dr Lucy Ryan is also offering one lucky That’s Not My Age reader a copy of Revolting Women (see below).


‘My study showed that midlife felt like a collision for the participants. I don’t know why this surprised me, as in the five years from start to completion of the research, I experienced most aspects of life related by participants. After a difficult peri-menopause, I have in the last two years experienced some of the post-menopausal zest described to me by participants. Interestingly, as some participants related their hot flushes in rich detail, I experienced them again in the moment. That’s empathy!

Both my children started and graduated from university, leaving home for good to set up their respective lives elsewhere, with all the concurrent emotions of pride, concern, loss, and joy. In this time period, my father died of dementia and alcoholism, my mother-in-law descended for years into Alzheimer’s, and my father-in-law more recently suffered delirium, a stroke, and a broken hip. With our siblings, my partner and I have shared their care, travelling the country to answer urgent caring calls.

My 94-year-old mother remains a vibrant source of joy and we share a desire to make the most of our remaining time, travelling together. (As she has recently published her first children’s stories, she became a writing ‘study buddy’, and we stole away to Devon twice a year to write for four-day stretches.)

My partner and I moved house and our thriving business hit a bumpy patch when I took time off for health reasons, and then it ground to a halt in the pandemic (like so many people, it climbed back out in a different shape and form than before). At a deeper autobiographical level, it became apparent over the course of five years that ‘life was imitating art’ with many of the research questions reflecting my own personal age and stage of life as I grappled with the midlife questions of middle-aged identity, caring challenges, and ambition.


On the couch


It helps to see midlife as a transition, or a threshold. The need to ‘let go’ of one phase of your life before embracing the next. Metaphorically, thresholds are connected with the breaking point of a life, the moment of crisis, the decision that changes a life – or the indecisiveness that fails to change a life, the fear to step over the threshold. Over the course of exploring the lives of middle-aged women, I realised that there is a fragility in the midlife transition that either prevents growth and change or, at its best, is the natural precursor to revolution and transformation.

In every single interview (during my doctoral research), the subject of ‘loss’, in one form or another, was discussed, together with the impact of this on the respondent’s decisions about work and their relationship with their current employer. Discussions included the loss (or potential loss) of parents and friends, the departure of children, the loss of a career. The perceived loss of sexuality or fertility was considered along with the sense of loss of beauty, youth, and fitness, and often of identity. Emotions were high, with fear, guilt, exhaustion, uneasiness, and disappointment existing alongside those of joy, relief, liberation, astonishment, and abundance.

Not only this, but my study showed me that there was a different kind of ‘letting go’ happening: the letting go of old jobs or ways of working. Two thirds of respondents were, at the time of interviewing, in the midst of career changes. This is, quite frankly, astonishing! In contrast to the literature suggesting the trajectory for professionals at middle age is that of a decline and out, the range of career movement was heading in all directions. There were as many women in the process of stepping up within their organisations, as were moving to self-employment; with further transitions including starting a job-sharing role; facing retirement or embarking on student life.’




Leave a comment below, before 10 October 2023,  explaining why you’re a Revolting Woman, to receive a copy of the book. Read more about Lucy HERE.

More That’s Not My Age book recommendations HERE.

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