Why more women should throw their hat into the ring for senior roles | Ian Trenholm

Ian Treholm

Ian took up the role of chief executive of the Care Quality Commission in July 2018, following four years as chief executive at NHS Blood and Transplant. Ian spoke to the Health & Care Women Leaders Network about why he believes more women should put themselves forward for senior roles.

Recently I met Natasha Sloman, head of hospital inspection for the South East region here at the Care Quality Commission. Natasha is an advocate for the Health & Care Women Leaders Network, an initiative delivered by the NHS Confederation and NHS Employers. We had a great conversation about why there are not enough women in senior leadership roles and what can be done systematically about that.

While I think a number of the big things have been done at an employer level – for example, few employers would tolerate overt sexist behaviour or recruitment practices – there is clearly more to be done.

Natasha and I talked about the idea that there remains in most countries an assumption that ‘full-time work’, or 37 hours a week worked sometime between 8am and 6pm, is good and ‘part-time’ is less good. The idea of ‘portfolio careers’ are reserved for those in the latter part of their lives when doing lots of different part-time things is somehow positive.

In that context, it can be hard for some women to balance the complex demands of partner/mother/career. It is also hard for men to do the same, but societal expectations on men are still arguably tilted away from caring responsibilities and towards career.

As a sweeping generalisation (and it is a generalisation), I also think women are harder on themselves than men. I have lost count of the times I have applied for jobs where I have been only 70 per cent qualified and have either got them, or not, but learned a lot about myself/the process.

My sense (from the perspective of a man and therefore maybe wrong) is that women want to be nearer 100 per cent fit. My challenge as a chief executive is that I can’t appoint a woman to a senior job if she hasn’t applied – so my appeal would be – give me (and other recruiters) a chance to prove I am not biased by putting your hat in the ring, even when you think you are only 70 per cent ready.

At the Care Quality Commission, an employee-led Gender Equality Network has recently been set up aimed at providing a collective voice for gender equality issues, and as a vehicle to enhance leadership opportunities for women. Employee-led networks like this are a great way of driving real and meaningful change from the people that experience these issues in their day to day working life. The work of the network supports CQC’s wider commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Ian Trenholm is chief executive of the Care Quality Commission. Follow him and the organisation on Twitter @ict22 @CareQualityComm

The Health & Care Women Leaders Network is a free network for women working across health and care. The network connects through events and shares learning through blogs and key reports. Find out more about the network, including how to join on their website, follow them on Twitter @hcwomenleaders or email them at women.leaders@nhsemployers.org

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