As the final days tick down on the first year of my presidency of Macra, I have taken time to reflect on the year past for our organisation and also for myself on a personal level.

In January 2023, running for Macra president went from being a childhood dream to a reality when I threw my hat in the ring for the position.

Taking over as the organisation’s 39th President has certainly come with its ups and downs.

I hit the ground running, heading to Brussels a day into the job and then came back to navigate the news of a possible cow cull, derogation changes, pre-budget submissions and everything else in between.

Believe me, it wasn’t an easy road, but we got there with the teamwork of all in Macra. We created policy positions, we led the charge and, most importantly, we highlighted just how important science is for our industry.

There is also a side of leadership that nobody wants to talk or write about and that’s the reality of a position such as mine. Being a leader is amazing – it’s something I enjoy doing and a privilege, but it can also be a lonely place.

You are the one fighting for your members, but at the same time getting abuse that you aren’t doing enough. There are only so many times you can say “try standing in my shoes” to people.

Putting your life on hold

Leadership means putting your life on hold, missing out on family events, missing important milestones, and sitting in your car by yourself for hours a week. Maybe the postman is right by asking me if I have managed to get an Eircode yet for my car.

Over the past year I have heard more negative things said about me than positive and, believe me, it does take its toll, it does bother you, regardless of how much you say it doesn’t.

I could easily turn around and say is it just because I am a female that I am treated or feel this way?

But no, it isn’t because of my gender, my age or my ability. It is the stark reality of leadership and maybe the saying about loneliness being the penalty of leadership is correct.

I hope by beginning this conversation, we can make a change and ensure that leadership becomes a less lonely place. One thing is for certain: remaining silent isn’t going to change anything.