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Dr Jennifer Bute "obstacles are opportunities to spark change"

Dr Jennifer Bute is a resident, living with dementia, at Richmond Villages in Cheltenham. In celebration of International Women’s Day Jennifer comments, “Today, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, we remember that women also have a tremendous impact and potential for doing good things in our world and society.”

Jennifer had a long and successful career as a doctor; along the way she faced many challenges and overcame several obstacles. Her journey was not as straightforward as a man’s would’ve been during the start of her career. However, with determination, hard work, and an aspiration to succeed, Jennifer used the obstacles that arose as opportunities to spark change.

You can always do more

From a young age, Jennifer was highly motivated and learned a great deal of acceptance and how to adapt from her father. If she was to give her younger self any advice she would say, “always stretch yourself and never sit back because there is always more one can do.

“There is no point sitting back and complaining - enjoy what one has and make the most of it.” Her advice to young women is ‘women and men should work together to celebrate all their achievements’.

Jennifer has experienced many challenges in her time, one of the first was being offered an interview for a position in healthcare on Mercy ships. However, upon arrival she was turned away due to being a woman. “It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you respond to what happens to you”, Jennifer comments. This then led her to working in rural Africa, “It was a wonderful accomplishment, and I didn’t think I could ever do something like that."

Jennifer was accepted into Barts Medical School and once qualified she realised that she was paid less than everyone else, simply because she was a woman, adding "The men all had an extra nought on the end of their pounds". She later decided to change the narrative. “I made myself indispensable to them, I worked my way up the system and became a Managing Partner and the first thing I did was change the pay structure.”

“You have to step out. I was the first woman who did a lot of things in Hampshire, because I was a little bit of a rebel, I think. We have to take the opportunities. We don’t wait for people to ask us; we have to step ahead. Every challenge is an opportunity so let’s make the most of it all".

"As women, we have a responsibility to other women as well to lead the way for them”, Jennifer adds, reflecting on the importance of women’s representation and leadership.

Coping with work life balance…..

Resilience has been important to Jenifer throughout her career, “Jigsaws help me remain resilient and relax me. Jigsaws have remained with me my whole life.” Once getting married, Jennifer had to work even harder to balance work and her personal life, along with her busy career, she was also busy with household jobs and raising children. However, she also took this in her stride, adding “I have seen challenges as opportunities, so I was grateful for yet another stretching experience because the more you are stretched, the more you can do.”

….and a mental illness

Jennifer took early retirement when she discovered she had dementia. This became a huge challenge and having to retire from her lecturing role at a university was not an easy decision to make, however Jennifer began to teach others about dementia across the country and internationally, adding “it hasn’t been a down thing, it has been an up thing.”

“Acceptance, value and purpose” are Jennifer’s core values. “Everyone should be accepted, even if we don’t agree.” “Everyone has equal value no matter what.” “Everyone needs a purpose and one’s job sometimes is to help people find that purpose.”

Discussing opportunity for growth, Jennifer believes that “this has to be within more difficult circumstances than normal because if everything is easy, we are not stretched and the more we are stretched, the more opportunities there are to grow personally. All my life, I have wanted to help other people to benefit them in some way, so we learn how to do that. Bumps, you either trip over or stand on them to see better.”

“I have always enjoyed my work and people. Everything that has happened to me has been an opportunity and a challenge, whether that has been in my personal life or work life.”

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