One of the main reasons why women lag behind in leadership is that they are less likely to have extensive networks to support and promote them as potential leaders, writes Beryl De Souza

Some people question the need for having a network for Women Leaders. But I think it can be an important platform for women to offer support and guidance and help nurture each other’s talents.

Beryl De Souza

Beryl De Souza

For a lot of women the locker room chat or beer after work does not factor into their timetable. So how else can they collaborate other than through the networks?

The expertise in the network and peer support that can be offered means all individuals are able to share their defeats and triumphs.

More importantly, there is also an ability to collaborate on recurrent problems and find solutions.

‘For a lot of women the locker room chat does not factor into their timetable’

There is that sense of togetherness when you have women in a room sharing stories; and openness in discussing family, work, wellbeing and career issues that is uplifting.

A lot of this, of course, is dependent on who is in the network, how the network connects in the sense of who you talk to and what you achieve.

Balancing resources

My experiences of networks are organisational – Medical Women’s Federation, the British Medical Association’s Women in Academic Medicine, and the Women in Surgery group. All are different women networks but with similar challenges for women in the medical workforce.

There are training issues especially if you’re working part time; or perhaps career choice issues particularly in my field where the perception is that surgery is difficult for women. Then as one get more established in the profession, there are challenges such as how to progress in the face of scarce recognition.

It saddens me when I come across women who feel that they are not good enough because they do not identify themselves as being competent and smart.

‘Women lag behind in leadership because they are less likely to have extensive networks to support’

A research from Stanford University identified the ideal make up of a network as “part pack rat, part librarian and part Good Samaritan”.

The pack rat brings documents and resources collected over a long career that can be tapped to create new ideas and connections; the librarian brings the latest data and pertinent information; the Good Samaritan, though, might be the most integral player - she’s there to help out at every turn.

This combination is the best balance of resources, information and good intentions to make a network not just functional, but beneficial to all members.

It is known that a key reason why women lag behind in leadership is that they are less likely to have extensive networks to support and promote them as potential leaders.

HSJ Women Leaders network provides a useful forum where talented and knowledgeable members can develop relationships, with common aims to support women in health and social care.

Indeed, a network where the connections can share experiences and work towards common goals, goodwill, commitment and interests is much needed.

Beryl De Souza is honorary clinical lecturer in plastic surgery at Imperial College London and honorary secretary of the Medical Women’s Federation