Friday, 26 October 2012

NHS should invest more in women

NHS should invest more in women: Female dominated boards should be the norm rather than exception
As the NHS goes through major structural upheaval, we have a great opportunity to make changes for the better. One area often over looked is the place of women — particularly women doctors — in leadership positions.

Having been brought up in a family where men were more important, juggled my medical career part-time with family life, and followed my husband's job around the country, 18 months ago I took the opportunity to look at women doctors' careers in depth.
A report created from many long but inspirational late night interviews and research led to a job and a plan to support women doctors' progression to a leadership role.
Women doctors, like women in the corporate world, are not making it to the top. While they have been the majority of entrants to medical school for over two decades, they make up only 38% of GP partners, 31% of hospital consultants, and 11% of consultant surgeons.
They are in a significant minority in more senior leadership roles, including on the new clinical commissioning groups where about 20% of the new GP leaders are female, not to mention under representation among hospital medical directors and on Royal College committees.
More women doctors are taking on relatively lower paid and lower status salaried posts in general practice (65%).
And this is a loss — for patients, for the NHS and for women doctors themselves. Not just because they are often brilliant but modest as I heard in my interviews with them, but also because the NHS has invested considerably in their careers.
Women at senior levels will inspire the next generation of doctors, the majority of whom will be women; and research suggests they make safer decisions, are better communicators, and are more patient centred.
Women doctors are more likely to understand the needs of women — who are the main consumers of health care, especially in old age.
The corporate sector is investing in women as it makes good business sense: gender diverse boards have improved financial performance and diverse top teams benefit from improved decision making, innovation and creativity, better governance and less "group-think". A critical mass of three or more women in top teams can change working cultures.
The UN is investing in women because they are the key to economic development.
Research indicates a positive "ripple effect" for families and communities when women's health, education and employment are promoted. The UK government is committed to meeting all eight millenium goals, three of which focus on gender equality, child and maternal health.
For the NHS, women doctors are only the tip of the iceberg. But they are a growing and influential part, and clinical leadership lies at the heart of the NHS reforms. Promoting their career and leadership development will bring better value.
In the long term the NHS will need to invest equitably in all women leaders, not just doctors.
Together as a majority we are responsible for tackling the challenges ahead, and for ensuring care is both highly technical and at the same time compassionate. Investment needsrequires us to move flexibly between periods of full and part-time work, gives us the skills to lead, tackle organisational bias, and support and measure progress.
Given numbers alone, female dominated boards should be the norm rather than exception.
If my three daughters make it to medical school, I hope they will have the same opportunity as their male counterparts to shape healthcare for the 21st century. As the new replaces the old there has never been a better opportunity to do things differently.
Dr Penny Newman is working with the NHS Leadership Academy to help tackle the under-representation of women doctors at leadership level. Guardian Professional.

No comments:

Post a comment