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International Women’s Day: The rise in women in tech and estates in the NHS

Women make up 75 percent of all NHS staff from clinicians to porters to admin roles and senior levels. The NHS is one of the largest employers of women in the world and continues to support females from all backgrounds to fulfil a career within the healthcare sector.

As of 2022, over 35 percent of technology service roles at NHS Property Services (NHSPS) are filled by females, a large increase from 2018 which saw less than 5 percent of females in these types of roles.

Chief Information Officer, Roslyn Churchill now leads the team whilst also creating a better representation of women in senior levels, with 80 percent of senior technical roles now being undertaken by women.

Last week, NHS Digital celebrated Programme Lead, Susie Day’s win at the Women in IT Summit & Awards Series, where she was awarded Digital Transformation Leader of the Year after her role in leading the integration of the NHS App and the national roll out of the NHS COVIS Pass.

The NHS have many women in senior roles across the sector including Sally Tombs, Principal Operations Manager at NHSPS, who shares her experiences before and during her time at the NHS.

She said: “I was lucky to grow up in a household with a strong role model; a headteacher who later became a magistrate. She was strict but fair and encouraged us to challenge ourselves and always work hard.

“I was unsure what to do after university, so I joined the Civil Service as a graduate and ‘fell’ into a Facilities Manager (FM) role. I love the variety of FM and the broad spectrum of people that I get to interact with every day. I have been lucky to work with some amazing teams and supportive, inspiring managers, who have helped me to grow and progress along the way.

“Early on in my FM career, I attended a meeting for a construction project in one of my sites and was the only female in the room - not something that was unusual or bothered me. One of my peers, the project manager, started barking orders at me, asking me to write down notes and actions and taking no notice of my opinions as the building manager... I stopped the meeting, stepped outside with him and asked him why he was asking me to do his job for him, that if he wanted my help, he could respectfully ask me rather than assume I would act as his assistant. He looked suitably embarrassed and apologised.

“This is a small thing, but it has stuck in my mind over the years. I sensed that he was treating me differently… I told myself that going forward, I wouldn’t allow that to happen; I would call out that type of behaviour and I would always treat people equally and respectfully.”

Stereotypically technology, construction, estate management and a wide range of STEM roles are predominantly male dominated. The NHS keen to break the bias on these types of jobs and encourage even more women to consider roles within these areas.

Jo Tuck is the Senior Construction Manager at NHSPS and says that “working in a predominantly male industry has its ups and downs”.

Jo added: “Often if I am with male colleagues on sites I am overlooked, and contractors will speak direct to my male colleague. This differs however with customers on site where I find they direct conversations to me, I don't feel I am singled out and find being confident in what I do supports the non-bias that any gender can work within construction.

“We are seeing a more varied spectrum in construction, and we recently joked on a large-scale project how many women were part of a successful project.

“Having a quick conversation on this with my 7-year-old daughter this morning and reading this to her, she replied with ‘so basically what you’re saying it doesn't matter if your girl as long as you are good at your job?’, which I wholly believe sums it up perfectly.”

National Health Executive are taking this International Women’s Day to share the experiences of women from across the sector and shine a light on those who achieved great success despite the difficult few years our health sector has faced. You can find more inspirational stories from organisations like NHS Procurement and NHS England with the hashtag #BreakTheBias.

NHE will be hosting an NHS Workforce virtual event on 7 April 2022. Join us for the full day event by registering here.

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