NHSCC calls for more action to boost numbers of women commissioners

Advice for women holding senior CCG positions has been published as NHS Clinical Commissioners (NHSCC) called for more action to achieve gender parity in the NHS.

Women make up 77% of the NHS workforce but are chronically under-represented at senior levels, making up just 37% of CCG board membership.

NHS England is now planning to introduce 50-50 gender quotas on its boards. The new NHSCC guidance is intended to support this new generation of female clinical commissioners.

Dr Amanda Doyle, co-chair of NHSCC and clinical chief officer of Blackpool CCG, who was also one of the commissioners interviewed, said: “Achieving gender equality in clinical commissioning leadership is vital not only in terms of fairness but also in terms of improved performance.

“As the NHS continues to face unprecedented challenge, now is the time to act to encourage and empower more women to become leaders.”

The report is based on interviews with female clinical commissioners, many of whom said that they felt they had different leadership approaches to men. They attributed success in the role to qualities including communication skills, inclusiveness, strategic thinking, emotional intelligence and collaboration.

A 2012 study of over 7,000 leaders found that women outperformed men even in stereotypically ‘male’ competencies such as strategic leadership, taking initiative and driving for results.

The NHSCC report noted: “It’s important that women are recognised for the unique qualities that they individually bring to leadership rather than adjust to a leadership culture that has traditionally been male-dominated.”

The guidance also urged women clinical commissioners to actively put themselves forward for new opportunities, as well as seek support from peers and mentors and encourage other women to apply for leadership roles.

It suggested one approach might be revising the language in job applications, since evidence shows women are more likely to apply for jobs if skills are described as “desirable” rather than “mandatory”.

The report also revealed that many women expressed concerns about taking on leadership roles because they felt it would be harder to balance with childcare responsibilities. However, the surveyed clinical leaders said being promoted had allowed them to be more flexible at work, because colleagues were more willing to schedule around their commitments.

In a session on diversity at this year’s NHS Confederation, Dr Ruth Sealy of City University London said it would be “a big stretch” to meet the NHS target on gender parity.

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