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Male managers are the key to gender equality in the NHS, says a new report.
Men in senior positions and across the health service must act as allies if the NHS is to move to balanced gender representation among its workforce and especially at the highest levels, according to a new report.
The Men as Allies report, published by the Health & Care Women Leaders Network, gathers views from men in senior frontline and system roles in the NHS.
It explores some of the actions and behaviours men can take on to support the development of women leaders and recognises the need to go much further than gender and the importance of reflecting gender fluidity, as well as those who identify as non-binary and trans in order to be truly inclusive in leadership across the NHS.
The report calls on managers to be more aware of the business benefits of diversity and to recognise potential barriers for women’s career progression, including caring responsibilities, lack of confidence and unconscious bias. It says male managers need to be aware of and challenge assumptions about women at work, for instance, refusing to accept all male shortlists.
It adds that one obstacle to a more family-friendly approach may be the increasing demands on the NHS for 24/7 staffing and the growing expectation that senior leaders will make themselves available at any point. However, it says what people want out of a job may be changing as more men become actively involved in parenting and flexible working becomes more normalised.
“To achieve progress on gender balance across the NHS, we need men, as leaders and as colleagues, to understand the barriers women can face in the workplace and be prepared to ask women how they can be better allies,” says Network chair Sam Allen said.
“To attract, retain and motivate our workforce together, we all have a role to ensure the working environment in the NHS is one that supports all and helps everyone to achieve their potential. Balance is better for everyone.”
Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers and deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “As men, we have to accept that our role as allies demands more than speaking on platforms against sexism or supporting networks. It is about truly listening to our female colleagues’ stories and experiences; it is about challenging our male co-workers and friends in our day-to-day interactions; it is about recognising that as part of the problem, we are also required to be part of the solution.”