Tuesday, 22 March 2016

NHS Embraces Target to Achieve Gender Balanced Boards

Reproduced under license from Flickr:NHS Confederation
The Health Service Journal Women Leaders Group, set up in September 2015, has set an ambitious target to achieve gender-balanced boards in the NHS by 2020.  A goal which has been backed by senior figures from across the NHS including Ed Smith, NHS Improvement Chair and the health service’s Gender Diversity Champion, who said: “I accept that challenge and will work hard to drive that ambition through the NHS. Now let’s get to work.” 

The leaders group is made up of representatives from The HSJ’s Women Leaders Network, set up to support female leadership in the NHS, following a set of aims and guiding principles:
  • To empower, encourage and celebrate the skills and talents of existing and emerging women leaders.
  • To improve opportunities for women to secure and maintain board-level positions on health and care bodies in public, private, voluntary and third sectors;
  • To scrutinise and challenge bias against women on health and social care boards.

  • To be supportive – providing a forum for members to share, network, help and support each other.
  • To challenge – rejecting the ‘status quo’ or any view that women cannot contribute as much to a board as a man can.
  •  To be positive – encouraging positive, safe connection and sharing.
  • To be responsive - asking members what they want from the network.

Other leaders backing the target include University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust Chief Executive Jackie Daniel and former Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell.
The NHS Confederation is also keen to see progress on the NHS achieving fairer representation of women on boards. In 2013, it asked senior leaders across the NHS to address gender inequality.
Helen Birtwhistle, NHS Confederation director of external affairs, said: “It is not acceptable, particularly with a predominantly female NHS workforce, and simply not fair, to allow gender imbalance to be perpetuated and I firmly believe that balanced boards better reflect the communities they serve.
“We know that there is robust evidence which showed that a diverse workforce, in which all staff members’ contributions are valued, is linked to good patient care.” 
HSJ Editor Alastair McLellan said the HSJ would play its part in driving the ambition. “Setting a target is right – our health service can only perform well if it reflects the society it serves,” he said. “HSJ will do its bit to promote equality – we will endeavour to make sure that we have gender balanced panels at our conferences. Likewise, when I am invited to contribute to speak at external events I will not appear on all male panels if I can possibly help it.”

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