Dear PPMA colleagues and friends,

You will remember from Caroline Nugent’s term as our President last year, how passionate she was about Women in Leadership and likewise the amazing President of SOLACE, Jo Miller has made Women in Leadership a key platform for her term. So this year, to further confirm our commitment to our partnership with The Guardian, we have decided to become a Sponsor of the Women In series. Caroline and I attended the launch of the series last year on behalf of PPMA and it’s really great to see how our involvement has developed since then.

What you’ll see as part of our sponsorship is the PPMA brand prominent in all the Women In content – online and printed. We will also have editorial content and targeted adverts across I’m so thrilled with this as it further reinforces the work we have been doing on our own branding, whilst at the same time supporting the topic.

I was delighted to introduce a Women In event last Thursday in London. We had some incredible women working in healthcare come and join us from across the country. They were incredible as was the panel. The panel comprised:

  • Chair: Alexandra Topping, Guardian news reporter
  • Samantha Jones, former director of the new care models programme, NHS England. She now works independently supporting people to improve health and care services
  • Dido Harding, Baroness Harding of Winscombe, chair, NHS Improvement
  • Juliet Bauer, chief digital officer, NHS England
  • Dr Aruna Stannard, specialty doctor in emergency medicine with an interest in frailty and geriatric emergency medicine
  • Cecilia Anim, president, Royal College of Nursing

The panel question was: How can we make healthcare a better place for women to work?  And the discussion was fantastic. It was humbling, inspiring and supportive. Plenty of ideas were shared but I’m reflecting on the fact that many of the issues talked about are those that we as HR & OD professionals have been grappling with for a long time – much too long in fact. At the end the panel members spent some time in speed mentoring events with participants. For those of you who followed my live tweeting you will know that the event as measured in decibels – was a huge success.

Some of the questions have made me reflect again on something that has been on my mind since I attended the Green Park/MJ Summit on Diversity in mid-June. For those of you who aren’t aware, Green Park produce an annual Public Service Leadership 5,000 report looking at gender and ethnocultural diversity at top leadership roles in Local Government, Civil Service, UK Government fully or partly owned organisations, Healthcare and Russell Group Universities and Educational Regulator sectors.

The results obviously represent a subset of the protected characteristics set out in the Equalities Act 2010 – nevertheless it is a rigorous analysis of data that is available across those sectors. Over time, I hope we will see a much more comprehensive dataset and one that includes an analysis of talent pipelines.

Wherever you are on social media you can see that the volume around diversity is dialled up significantly – that is all to the good. BUT, we seem to be stalling on the progress that has been made in the last 10 years. I think there may be a number of reasons for this and it was a discussion that I had with a fantastic Doctor last Thursday that made me think yet again about our overall approach to diversity.

She had asked me why there were no men in the room.  This was both an obvious but an important question – especially as I had made the case in my introduction that Women In leaderhship isn’t just an issue for Women, it is clearly one for men.

The desire to create mutually supportive networks for groups who are underrepresented is, I think, a perfectly natural response to feelings of being ‘different’ and ‘being treated differently’.  Women supporting women is as understandable as men supporting men, LGBTQ supporting LGBTQ and so on.

I think these groups retain huge value. But in an of themselves, I increasingly feel they are isolating and that we need to put more focus and energy on ‘inclusion’. There are a few reasons for this:

  • Diversity as a term is now confused with other meanings, over and above the protected characteristics. Rightly so, we increasingly talk about diversity in the context of social mobility, cognitive diversity, multigenerational workforces etc.
  • We are potentially conflating the purpose of EqA with targets. The point about EqA legislation was to level the playing field so that the best people could flourish and not be artificially constrained.
  • We don’t yet have a sufficient body of evidence that tells us what interventions works best and why. We do though have a body of private sector evidence that demonstrates that diversity at Board level sees an organisation doing much better financially than those organisations who aren’t.
  • We are living in political times where diversity is an increasingly politically charged issue and in my experience that is not helpful at all.
  • Whislt mutually supportive networks are helpful – I saw that with my own eyes last week – the reality is that everyone needs to be invested in the issue.
  • Under the banner of inclusion, it is perhaps easier to see diversity as an issue of representation of our communities. That seems to be more helpful, but it needs more thought and evidence.
  • We also have to reflect on the fact that this will take time. I was especially struck by the recent storm of protests around the appointment of the latest Board member of the Bank of England.  The initial howls of outrage that a man was appointed from a shortlist of 5, 4 of whom were women, completely overlooked the fact that of the 3 interview panel members, 2 where women.

I hope we can have more conversations about this and it may be that we devote our next PPMA quarterly supplement to the issue.

I’d be very keen to hear whether you are interested in that idea.  So please get in touch with me via social media or [email protected].  If you are using my email please copy Grace in on [email protected].