Happy #InternationalWomensDay #IWD2019! It’s been a week of global celebrations leading up to the 8th March, recognising the social, economic, cultural and political difference that women make in the world. The day has been marked for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911, supported by over a million people, today IWD belongs to all groups everywhere, follow @womensday @UN_Women @LeanInOrg for tweets.
This year the celebrations importantly call for an acceleration of gender parity using the hashtag #BalanceforBetter. It was a joy to join the Global Institute for Women’s leadership @GIWLkings with Julia Gillard @JuliaGillard on Tuesday evening as they shared the findings from @IpsosMORI’s global survey on equality https://www.ipsos.com/ipsos-mori/en-uk/men-are-not-emasculated-caring-children . At the Q&A panel Pamela Hutchinson @pshutch01 challenged us, encouraging us to be more savvy in our lobbying and ensuring women from BAME, along with those who are disabled, are part of our more gender balanced future, all of which is good for women, men and children.
This call was reflected at the @NHSBartsHealth #BHIWD19 celebrations where the challenges relating to caring responsibilities were also highlighted, celebrating managers who could see the importance of flexibility in retaining and nurturing staff who are carers.
I’ve been reflecting on the opportunities I’ve had throughout my life and career, there have been so many wonderful women who have encouraged and inspired me. There were many in volunteering roles such as my Brownie and Guide leaders, Jean Erasmus, Hilary Ferris and Miss Tanish. Their support resulted in me gaining my Queen’s Guide which I’m sure helped me secure my nurse training place back in 1988. Then ‘Sister Pat’ of Coronation ward at Cardiff Royal Infirmary gave me my first staff nurse post on the Children’s ward in 1991, I’m sure having been a Brownie Guide Young Leader was the magic ingredient that meant I got the job! It was where I met Sian Thomas another of my Children’s Nursing heroes, friend and colleague to this day, do follow her @Thomas16S.
Other key influencers were my Sunday school teachers and youth church leaders, Margaret Wells, Cynthia Chiswick, Mary Jones, Marilyn Moulding, Pauline Davies, they all instilled the values of thinking beyond family connections, to community and global issues and the difference we could make personally and collaboratively with kindness and a spirit of helpfulness.
There was also my dress and design teacher, Miss Beresford of Pentrehafod Comprehensive in Swansea who wore bright stylish clothes, she fostered a quirkiness that continues to this day with my love of finding something bright and cheerful particularly in charity shops, amplified if it’s comfortable too, hence my love of Doc Martins!
There are so many wonderful women who I could celebrate in this blog, but I’m going to fast forward to 2013 to when I first joined NHS England. I was ‘adopted’ by Gillian Fletcher and Mary Newburn @MaryNewburn1, both are hugely experienced in Co-production, Co-design, Co-delivery approaches, or to put it simply working ‘with people’ to make things better. They led the way on refreshing and amplifying coproduction with people using maternity services, moving us from Maternity Services Liaison Committees (MSLCs) to Maternity Voices Partnerships (MVPs), resulting in chapter 4 of Better Births published by @NHSEngland https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/nhs-guidance-maternity-services-v1.pdf This work along with a coproduction programme of ‘Whose Shoes’ workshops, developed and led by the amazing and incredibly determined Gill Phillips @WhoseShoes and Florence Wilson @FWmaternity continues to create positive creative connections and relationships with professionals and communities, bringing women’s/family voices to the forefront in always working to improve maternity experiences.
Mary introduced me to the wonderful Lisa Ramsay @Doula_Lisa who was the chair of Reading Maternity Voices at that time. Lisa makes partnerships flourish, it’s in her DNA, resulting in her joining NHS England and establishing the ’15 Steps in Maternity’ programme https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/15-steps-maternity-toolkit-v9-1.pdf
Which brings me to women empowering women, for the NHS’s 70th Birthday in 2018, nominations were invited by the NHS London Leadership Academy @NHSLLA to identify 70 women NHS leaders in London. Lisa without my knowing nominated me and the result was I joined the ASCEND women’s leadership programme led by @gemmamunro1 of @inklingwomen, commissioned by @NHS_Jane. I will always be grateful to Lisa for investing the time in that unexpected nomination, it has opened so many doors to fresh thinking for me.
Being part of the ASCEND programme has been an enlightening experience, it resulting in me joining a group of women from diverse roles across the NHS, who all want to be their best at work, at home and in life. The programme has been hugely valuable in shifting my thinking, encouraging me to recognise my ‘lizard brain’, to step into the ‘ring of fire’ as well as carving out ‘balcony time’ to regularly address my purpose and personal intent.
On our first day we were given workbooks (I still have my very dog eared copy!) from which I was asked to read, Marianne Williamson’s words…
That affirmation that when we shine it gives others permission to do so too is powerful. Having a catch up with Lisa last week, we chatted about this and a previous blog I’d written about Peacocks, she said her coach had shared when we bake the most glorious loaf of bread we don’t put it under the counter we put it on display, we share it and enjoy it together, it’s a great reflection, thanks Lisa!
During the ASCEND programme we did a strengths identifier, mine are that I’m a learner, empathetic, a developer, I value connectedness on many different levels, and seek positivity, my strengths lie in the domain of relationship building. Having this affirmation means I can now continue to build on these strengths and seek out those colleagues are more strategic and detail focused than I am!
A quote that was shared during the programme is ‘Your life is your masterpiece you decide the colours and what goes on it’ and ‘Don’t expect your future to look like your past, let yourself imagine a wild new world’ we can all take control if we want to. Leadership development opportunities such as ASCEND create the space for us to brighten and develop our lives, ultimately enhancing our contributions on many levels and the ASCEND programme has certainly done this for me.
Interestingly I’ve been listening to the Brené Brown’s audio book ‘Daring to lead’ as I walk to and from the train station (another nudge from Lisa was a gift of this paperback). Brene reflects on loneliness and how exhausted it can make us feel, yet cultivating and nurturing our women’s networks can be really energising tackling this loneliness we can sometimes feel head on. Last Sunday I spent a day with two amazing girl friends conquering the hills of the Chiltern’s, creating headspace, enjoying the views (and the drizzle) it was so important for all of our mental health, before looking ahead to the week in front of us. I suspect many leaders in the NHS feel lonely on occasions and the CNO Summit next week will be vital in securing support systems for and with each other. Do follow the action via #CNOSummit #TeamCNO I’m delighted the @NHSYouthForum will be part of the conversations.
So, thank you to the women and also the men who support women to flourish, we can only achieve #BalanceforBetter and create better more balanced futures for children, if we all share this space and work collaboratively to progress this agenda.
Thank you also to my daughter Beth for the fabulous poster she did for me back in 2017 (posted at the start of this blog) which celebrates women and the difference they make, let’s keep celebrating and opening doors for each other so that we can become our very best selves.
As a final gift, here are some of my favourite books from women I admire, thanks to @malala @jessphillips @LisaSaysThis and whilst written by Jo’s husband Brendan I’m also including Jo Cox’s ‘More In Common’ supporting the @JoCoxFoundation, its essential reading.
Do take a look at the tweets coming from London Women’s Leadership Network on International Women’s Day #LWLNIWD #IWD2019 celebrations it’ll be wonderful!
Happy International Women’s Day 2019, lets celebrate! and take action to secure #BalanceforBetter.