The number of women and BME people appointed to NHS boards has fallen. We must find role models, offer to mentor someone, and seek out mentors to address the shameful lack of diversity in the NHS, writes Rhiannon Smith
HSJ editor Alastair McLellan says that the lack of diversity in the NHS is shameful and must be addressed. Sadly, our experience suggests it will take time to redress this imbalance.
‘Research shows that companies with a more diverse workforce outperform those with less diversity’
Hunter Healthcare’s appointments are a good reflection of the age, sex and ethnicity of the current talent pool in the NHS.
Across all posts our placements have been 55 per cent male and 45 per cent female, but that is skewed for certain roles.
While our chief executive male to female ratio is 1:2, for chairs it has been 3:1 and for chief operating officers 1:1.For chief finance officers it has been all male, and chief nurses all female.
In his editorial Mr McLellan points out that the make up of today’s NHS leadership is one that “even the fustiest private sector business would work hard to avoid”.
However, the reason why the private sector embraces diversity is because there is a proven link to performance. Research shows that companies with a more diverse workforce outperform those with less diversity.
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Embrace it or not?
The question we need to ask is: do we really welcome and embrace diversity in the NHS? Or do we just pay it lip service?
If we continue to fish from the same narrow and finite pool we are never going to solve the problem. In the past the Appointments Commission put a lot of effort into outreach work to improve the diversity of non-executive directors on NHS boards and it had a good track record.
‘If the system isn’t going to help anymore maybe it’s time for collective action’
Strategic health authorities also used to play a critical role in supporting and developing talent on the executive side of the NHS, but this too has gone and with it the active programme of engagement, mentoring and support.
We have now seen the numbers of women and people from the black and ethnic minority community appointed to NHS boards fall.
How can it be right that London has no BME chief executives and only one BME chair?
If the system isn’t going to help anymore maybe it’s time for collective action. Find the role models in your organisation or network, offer to mentor someone in your team who you can see has potential and seek out a mentor for yourself.
Rhiannon Smith is a partner and head of executive search for Hunter Healthcare