Central & North West London NHS Foundation Trust women's network

The first in a new series from the Health and Care Women Leaders Network highlighting other women's networks in our sector.

26 August 2021

Rebecca Dunkerley, head of Camden integrated adult services at Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL) and co-chair of their women’s network, tells us about their network, what they are focusing on, their key achievements to date and what next for their members.

About the network

CNWL provides community and mental health services across large geographical areas from newborn to geriatric populations, across schools, homes, clinics, rehab units and in prisons.

Our network was set up off the back of Sheryl Sandberg’s book; Lean-In, where she invited women to set up lean-in circles to support each other with projects and common challenges at home or work. A CNWL colleague brought a group of women together with wine and nibbles and asked if they would like to be part of a network of women at CNWL. At the meeting, those present shared what they wanted from the network, how often to meet and how the network should be run. A group member suggested setting it up as a formal network, and, a few months later, CNWLWomen became an official staff network, one of seven across the trust.

The first two chairs, Jess Lashko and Jess Partington, did a lot of ground work to get things up and running, they launched the network on 8 March 2019, International Women’s Day. The network has grown its membership from around 50 to over 400, representing women of various ages, cultural and ethnic backgrounds, nationalities and workplace roles.


Every two years, the network asks its members to share their concerns and say where they would like the committee to focus its attention. Currently CNWLWomen are focusing on:

  • Menopause - increasing awareness, providing resources, working towards accreditation.
  • Rest spaces - for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
  • Leadership and networking - supporting by sharing resources, plugging in to existing tools and providing mentoring to women who reach out.
  • Gender pay gap - we have data and are working through what the data shows and how to translate the data into any actions required.

We have both an executive and non-executive director sponsor (all CNWL staff networks do), who we go to for support and advice. CNWL’s executive board invites the co-chairs of one of the staff networks to present each month, and CNWLWomen has presented to the board twice in the last 12 months. The board shares our passion and enthusiasm for the issues we have raised and are supportive. They have provided us with platforms and practical help to develop and deliver our work, including a dedicated staff networks administrator and an annual budget.

Our committee consists of six members and we meet monthly to progress actions and plans. All CNWL staff network co-chairs meet every two months to share priorities and look at the intersectionality between our networks. It creates a rich environment in which to share and support each other, much like the national NHS Confederation Health and Care Women Leaders Network promises to do.


  • Setting up the network on the 8 March 2019 was a big success, as the process wasn’t straightforward.
  • Launching a regular quarterly newsletter with useful and relevant content, helping to keep our voices alive and maintaining engagement.
  • Hosting regular events including annual International Women’s Day and workshops on flexible working, impostor syndrome and creating spaces for networking.

​​​​​​​​​​ As with any other staff network the committee deliver all of this on top of their day-jobs, so our successes are a big achievement.

What next

In the next twelve months CNWLWomen would like to launch the menopause accreditation programme, working in partnership with Henpicked. It will be a huge piece of work that will extend beyond our network, bringing it to the attention of the trust is going to be a big central piece for us.

Feature in our new series

If you'd like to be part of our new series feature women's networks in the health and care sector email us at

  • All CNWL staff networks have two co-chairs so that they can support and share the work. The current co-chairs are: Cassandra Balisson and Rebecca Dunkerley, both voted in by members earlier in 2021.

    Find the network on Twitter  using the hashtag #CNWLWomen and contact them at

    Find out more about the Health and Care Women Leaders Network.