The level of discussion about the underrepresentation of women in NHS leadership has increased since our first list, and this year’s inspirational women can keep the momentum going

It is now 12 months since HSJ published its first celebration of the most inspirational women in healthcare. It was accompanied by worrying statistics that showed why it was such an important initiative.

Our research showed that, despite women making up 81 per cent of the non-medical NHS workforce, men constituted the majority in the leadership teams of all but 12 per cent of providers and 10 per cent of clinical commissioning groups.

Alastair McLellan

‘Our hope is that this serves as celebration and much needed recognition for those who are making a difference in healthcare’

There will not have been a significant change in those figures in the year since we published them.

But what has changed is the level of discussion about this serious underrepresentation. Late last year, the NHS Confederation invited our first 50 inspirational women to discuss their experiences of being female and building a career in healthcare. The confederation has now set the welcome goal of having 50 per cent more women on all NHS boards by the end of 2018.

What the individuals celebrated here demonstrate is that a lack of talent is certainly not the problem.

The women profiled in these pages are from all levels and areas of healthcare. We have chief executives; clinicians and managers both junior and senior; and, particularly pleasing, a number of patient leaders.

Our hope is that, once again, HSJ’s identification of the most inspiring women serves as celebration and much needed recognition for those who are making a difference in healthcare.

Last year was the start of an important discussion. This year we continue it, in the hope that it again takes us one step closer to an NHS whose leadership truly represents its workforce and the communities it serves.