Pushing the Boundaries - Women in leadership

Tue 8th Jan 2019 – by Rachel Blunt

Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump, the introduction of misogyny as a crime in the UK…it could certainly be argued that 2018 brought about a step change in equality for women - a powerful continuation of a movement started by the visionary suffragettes almost a century ago.

As a female leader within the NHS, the unfolding of these events sometimes seemed a million miles from my day-to-day life but the impact has been undeniable and I began to recognise that the ensuing movement has been as much a celebration of femininity in all of its forms as it has been empowering.

I wanted to blog about these reflections in the hope of inspiring both my female and male colleagues to play their own part in this monumental shift in attitudes towards supporting women in leadership roles.

My personal story is not one of drama. For as long as I can remember I have had an innate desire to lead and after an initial promotion in the 1980s, I have never looked back. I’ve worked as a senior manager  in both the private and public sector and have always felt extremely privileged to have the professional support of both male and female colleagues who have helped me to develop, who have challenged me appropriately and who have helped grow the confidence that I have in my own abilities.


Sadly, this is not every woman’s experience and as an Executive Coach, I have come across female colleagues who have experienced sexual harassment or who have felt discouraged from moving forward in their leadership journey by their peers.


Working together inclusively and demonstrating mutual respect is in my mind key to fostering a renewed confidence in our female NHS leaders. One that sees them recognise their own potential, their strengths and the value that they bring to an organisation. Sometimes through a lack of self-belief we can create our own barriers to success or imposter syndrome sets in. If this is something we are actively conscious of, we can ask for help and support each other through these moments of doubt.

As Associate Director of the East Midlands Leadership Academy, an organisation which exists to help all NHS leaders reach their full potential, I am proud to be involved in this movement and will play an active part in the newly launched East Midlands Women’s Network. The network will bring together both male and female colleagues from across the  health and social care system, providing opportunities to progress this important agenda;


Let us remind ourselves that we are making progress (NHS Digital, 2019):


  • The proportion of NHS doctors who are women has grown every year since 2009.
  • Between November 2009 and November 2017, the number of female hospital and community health service doctors increased by nearly 11,000. Over the same period, the number of male doctors rose by just over 4,000.
  • Every speciality group across hospital and community health services doctors has seen an increase in the proportion of women.
  • 44 per cent of all Chief Executives across NHS Trusts, CCGs, supporting organisations and central bodies are women. In 2009 this was 38 per cent.
  • There has been an increase of 340 female executive directors over the same period, meaning women now account for 47 per cent of this group, up from 43 per cent in 2009.

Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump, the introduction of misogyny as a crime in the UK…2018 was certainly a year to remember for the equality agenda.

Where might 2019 take us and how will YOU be a part of it?


Find out more about the network


NHS Digital. (2019). Narrowing of NHS gender divide but men still the majority in senior roles - NHS Digital. [online] Available at: https://digital.nhs.uk/news-and-events/latest-news/narrowing-of-nhs-gend... [Accessed 8 Jan. 2019].