Building the female pipeline in the NHS

The NHS is stepping up action to increase the number of female managers. Earlier this month the NHS Confederation and NHS Employers held its first Health and Care Women Leaders Conference.

NHS, Doctor


The Health and Care Women Leaders network was set up just over two years ago under the name HSJ Women Leaders Network and has held a number of smaller and online events.

A representative from the network said that around 100 people attended the conference. Several senior women spoke about their leadership journeys and about the importance of being the change they want to see, including Samantha Jones, former NHS England’s Director for New Models of Care, who stepped down from her role earlier this year to spend more time with her children.

The conference also discussed culture change. Using an audience engagement tool Slido which allows for real time polls, culture change came out top in terms of priorities for aspiring female leaders. Another poll showed confidence was the thing women struggle with the most. The network representative said: “Imposter syndrome is so prevalent. It is surprising that so many women think they did not get to where they are on merit.”

She says mentoring is one good way to instil confidence because it provides women with someone who believes in them and can see the bigger picture.

From tweet chats to podcasts

The network has set up blogs, podcasts and tweet chats about issues such as gendered language – why, for instance, we talk about career women but not career men or why we use the term soft skills in reference to those skills associated with women – which have been well received.

It also held a roundtable led by NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer on what organisations can do to promote more women at board level. There have been internal and external speakers at events, including some from other sectors.

Flexible working is also a key issue, highlighted in the recent Flexible First report which the network supported and which shows how many potential recruits are turned off by employers who don’t make any effort to have  conversations about flexible working. Another area of interest is returners.

The network has linked up with returner initiative She’s Back which provides mentoring, support with cvs and other advice for those who have taken a career break and want to return to work.

The network is fairly young and is focusing on creating more events and a bigger online presence. It is also linking up with other women’s networks, including the London Women’s Leadership Network and the Medical Women’s Federation to see how they harness their collective networking power and define and influence the strategic agenda.

The first meeting of this broader collaboration is in January and will be looking at how change can be affected across the healthcare sector.


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