Highlights so far, this year!
Gearing up for our first anniversary and looking back at recent highlights
I feel proud and privileged to have met so many amazing women in the NHS over the last year. As anyone I’ve interviewed will know, I started 'Women in the NHS' as a voluntary project during the pandemic.
At the time, it struck me that we’d stand outside applauding NHS workers every Thursday. Yet we didn’t know who these people were, and especially the women who make up over 75% of the workforce. I decided it was time to find out!
Since beginning this adventure, 'Women in the NHS' has become a voice for the many under-represented women whose voices are not easily heard. I’ve had the privilege of talking to nurses, GPs, hospital workers, women in digital, and people of all ethnicities and ages.
As a working mum-of-three, I know how difficult it is to develop a meaningful career while being the best parent you can. From the women I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing, it seems evident that, unfortunately and unfairly, women from ethnic minority backgrounds have to work even harder. A massive congratulations to each and every one of you.
Here are six highlights from the start of 2022.
For International Women’s Day this year, we talked to Sarah Baig about smashing the stereotypes associated with being a Muslim working mum-of-three in a leadership role. Lead Pharmacist at Dudley Integrated Health & Care NHS Trust and Programme Director at a Higher Education Institute, Sarah has weathered negative stereotypes about the parenting responsibilities of Muslim, South-Asian heritage women throughout her fifteen-year career. “It’s a triple whammy,” she laughed.
Raised in Nigeria, a GP in Dorset and a working mum-of-three, Nkolika Anyabolu shone a light on the challenges faced by international medical graduates on arriving in the UK from overseas. Based on her own experience of leaving Nigeria and starting a new life in the UK, she stressed how important it is to train international medical graduates in cultural adaption on arrival. She also talked about the art of communication as a core skill of any GP. "Medicine is an art as it’s about communication," said Nikolika.
Shera Chok talked to us about co-founding the Shuri Network to improve female diversity in the world of digital. A GP in the NHS for 29 years, Shera is also the Deputy Chief Medical Officer at NHS Digital. “We've got, I think, the only virtual shadowing programme in the NHS," she said. "It gives women the chance to connect with health and digital leaders from across the country, to get an idea of what people are doing in their roles as CIOs or startup founders or product developers.”
One year on, Becky O’Dwyer looked back at the experience of working through the pandemic in Intensive Care. As Lead Nurse and Joint Clinical Lead for Critical Care Services, at Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, Becky remembered the recent traumatic past. Many healthcare workers had suffered PTSD as a result of working through the pandemic, but the milder variant gave us hope that we had found a way to live with the virus. "Lots of people ... would ask for the vaccine like it was an antidote when they were on the unit seriously ill," stated Becky.
Juliana Ansah, the Director of Black Leaders in Healthcare, voiced the need for representation and transparency in the NHS. She also addressed the “glass cliff” - a phenomenon that predominantly affects women from ethnic minorities in the NHS. “A glass ceiling affects all women,” said Juliana. “It’s about your career limitations as a woman. A glass cliff predominantly affects black women. It’s not just how far you can go. It’s about being given Sisyphean tasks (Sisyphean: relating to a task that can never be completed).”
A big inspiration for lots of females and very easy-to-talk-to, Ming Tang spoke about her journey to becoming Chief Data and Analytics Officer at NHS England and NHS Improvement. Ming considered the benefits of having a female perspective on technology and offered her wisdom on how to be a good role model for young girls and women in general. Ming said: "I’m from a very working-class family – I had very few role models encouraging me. I had to find my role models outside of the family."