HSJ is teaming up with NHS Employers to launch a network for women leaders – but should Simon Stevens be allowed to join?

We are in our first meeting, brainstorming a network for women leaders and it does not take long before someone asks the question: “Are men allowed to join?”

Adele waters

Adele waters

“Obviously not,” I reply. “It is a network for women.”

“Yes, but a network for women won’t achieve much without men,” was the reply.

And there it is – the bald truth. It’s 2015 and that’s still the case.

Hence the need for the HSJ Women Leaders network, set to launch on the 23 September at the Trades Union Congress in London.

Opening debate

It will kick-off with a debate about this very issue: should we allow men in?

Some will argue that a women only forum would allow female leaders and those aspiring to join them to share, network, help each other without being crowded out or dominated by men who don’t communicate or relate in the same way.

Others will say that if men hold most power – and they do, unquestionably, in healthcare as in every other sphere of public life – women will not be able to navigate a route to join that power structure without their help, without understanding how the male dominant worldview works.

Isn’t it more realistic to aim to influence alongside men than without them? If Simon Stevens wanted join Women Leaders, would we really want to be saying “no”?

The answer will be decided by a debate at the launch of our network – and it will be our network’s members who decide.

Building a community

With that decision out of the way, we’ll look to build a network that will be a useful community for leaders and emerging leaders in health and social care.

‘I want us to examine the business case for balanced boards’

Its vision will be to achieve fair representation of women on boards of health and social care organisations, an aspiration that our strategic partner NHS Employers is very happy to support. The network will be a positive place, helpful and friendly.

If you are engaged in health or social care at a senior level – or aspire to be – and are explicitly committed to our network’s aims (see box below) then please join by sending an email to: hsjwomenmembership@emap.com

Spreading the word

The network also has its own Twitter account so please follow us and spread the word.

Ultimately, I am ambitious for this network. I want us to examine the business case for balanced boards.

Wouldn’t it be great to build that evidence base together?

Let’s find the evidence for what steers an organisation to deliver the best for patient care and the staff that deliver that.

With or without Stevens, that’s something we can all agree is worthwhile.

Adele Waters is executive editor of HSJ

Aims of network

  • To empower, encourage and celebrate the skills and talents of both existing and emerging women leaders.
  • To identify, encourage and promote good practice in improving opportunities for women to secure board level positions on health and care bodies in public, private, voluntary and third sectors, as well as in nurturing and retaining women of talent in those sectors, through means such as mentoring, coaching and shadowing.
  • To scrutinise and challenge bias against women on health and social care boards.

HSJ launches Women Leaders network