Juliana Ansah, Population Health and Financial Strategy Manager, NHS North East London CCG
Focusing on representation and transparency to achieve diversity in the NHS
When she was younger, Juliana Ansah dreamed of becoming an architect. A Londoner through and through, a two-time university graduate and a working mum, she is the Population Health and Financial Strategy Manager for NHS North East London Clinical Commissioning Group. “I might not be designing buildings but I am designing pathways. I use a lot of my design and maths skills in the work I do,” she says. Juliana and her team use data analysis and insight to support transformation in the NHS, which includes remodelling systems and services to make them more efficient for patients.
Juliana is also the Director of Black Leaders in Healthcare, a non-profit, community-interest company that aims to reduce health inequalities by positioning black professionals as leaders within the NHS. High on her priority list are representation and transparency to promote diversity within the NHS.
"I’m here now, to be a spokesperson and an advocate for change, the person who asks decision makers: ‘Have you thought about how this affects black people?’"
Juliana explains: “It’s difficult for me to work in a system that frequently fails black people as patients. There are so many ‘four times more likely, three times more likely’. But that’s part of the reason I’m here now, to be a spokesperson and an advocate for change, the person who asks decision makers: ‘Have you thought about how this affects black people?’”
Advocating change is the remit of Black Leaders in Healthcare. It provides mentoring and a forum where people can discuss their experiences. “We help people progress through all the barriers they face," she says. "It helps to hear that you’re not the only one feeling the way you do, that it’s normal and that other people have found solutions. Sometimes these barriers can be psychological. You don’t know anyone who’s done it, so how could you do it? Groups like this are incredibly important in black and ethnic minority communities. Sharing stories and sharing experiences so the next person doesn’t have to suffer in the same way.”
So, what should be done on a systemic level to promote equity and diversity? For Juliana, “representation is everything. If people who are seldom heard can see someone like them in an aspirational role, they will believe they can do it too. It also helps to develop a sense of trust around that type of work. With the heightened race issues that have being going on over the last few years, trust needs to be reasserted into the community and services that we use.”
"If you’re doing a difficult project that no one really cares about, it’s disheartening"
Equally important as representation is transparency and the need to address what Juliana refers to as the glass cliff: “A glass ceiling affects all women. It’s about how far you can go and 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). These might be projects that go on forever, or projects that many people have tried before but have failed. These are projects where the stakeholders aren’t really engaged, that aren’t a strategic priority. If you’re doing a difficult project that no one really cares about, it’s disheartening. It also prevents people from building a career. You need evidence that you’ve achieved something to move up, but you’re given jobs that don’t allow you to get exposure or create any evidence of progress. Ultimately it makes people leave.”
Acknowledging the need for greater representation and transparency, Juliana reflects on both the security and opportunities offered to women by the NHS. She says, “The NHS is its own world. It has historians, scientists, lawyers, marketing and finance. It has everyone. The NHS gives women the opportunity to be whatever they want and allows them to grow skills they didn’t think they’d be able to, in the healthcare community. I’m one of those people.”
Genevieve Shaw, Editor
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