Is an equal gender split on NHS boards within the next four years a reasonable target? We think so but we want your opinions

You won’t find HSJ arguing for the imposition of yet more targets on NHS bodies very often. But there is one target every organisation should have its eye on – that is getting more diverse boards.

This year HSJ Women Leaders will push for gender balanced boards and we are delighted to have Ed Smith, chair of NHS Improvement and self-appointed equality champion for the NHS, to help us push.

What should that target be? Walk into any NHS trust board meeting and you won’t find appalling disparity – it is very much a case of ‘could do better’. An up-to-date picture of the gender breakdown on boards isn’t easily accessible, but we are in the 35-40 per cent territory. When we look at the make-up of NHS trust chief executives, the picture is really improving.

But we are not there yet. Just a quarter of those making our HSJ 100 list are women, for example. The 2016 leadership team for the NHS remains an ‘old boy band’. Different faces, but same format.

A 50:50 gender split on all boards by 2020 would, surely, be a reasonable target? However, it is not for HSJ to stipulate so this month we will ask members of HSJ Women Leaders to tell us. We’ll then announce our target on 8 March. To have your say, join our Linkedin group.

Diversity is important because it increases the chance of thought diversity and healthy challenge. Women think differently from men so it is important to give their thinking airtime in board discussions so that more balanced decisions are made.

Anyone who has worked through challenges in a close personal relationship and come out the other side will recognise just how healthy challenge can be.