Action for equality: the time is now

This report from the Health and Care Women Leaders Network explores the diversity of NHS and arm's-length body boards across England.
Professor Ruth Sealy

9 September 2020

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Action for equality: The time is now by the NHS Confederation’s Health and Care Women Leaders Network builds on and expands the work undertaken for the 2017 NHS Women on Boards 50:50 by 2020 report which examined the steps the NHS needed to take to reach the target of equal gender representation on boards by 2020.

Written by Professor Ruth Sealy of the University of Exeter Business School, the new report includes analysis of board-level data on over 3,000 directors across NHS trust boards in England and arm’s-length bodies, and over 70 interviews with board chairs, directors, and women aspiring to directorship positions.

Research found that while progress has been made to increase the proportion of women in leadership roles across the health service, there is much more to do to meet the NHS’s target for 50:50 representation this year, as set by the NHS regulator in 2016.

The report makes 16 recommendations for action which focus on the behavioural responses required of senior individuals within NHS boardrooms. Including the need for chairs of NHS organisations to have explicit objectives to support diversity across their boards, and for clear succession plans to be set up to improve female representation, particularly in medical director and chief finance officer roles, with emerging leaders at mid and senior levels given the opportunity to experience board-level working.

The report concludes that we need 150 more women in board level positions to reach our goal of truly diverse boards.

Read the full report (pdf) and the executive summary (pdf).