Dr Navina Evans is chief executive of East London NHS Foundation and an alumni of the NHS Leadership Academy’s Aspiring chief executive programme. In her latest blog she discusses why the need for male allyship in the NHS is greater than ever.
This is a call to all men who work in the NHS. To the brothers, fathers, grandfathers, partners, husbands and friends who believe in the difference women can make in our health service. This is also a call to all the men who are humble, kind, respectful and authentic in their support and understanding of the issues facing women in the NHS.
As 2019 begins I am conscious of much recent celebration of the achievements of women in the NHS. I have had the pleasure of working and interacting with many strong, inspirational women who are all around me.
Paradoxically I have personally experienced some shocking interactions because of my gender and I am aware of other stories which are distressing. Many of these reflect deep rooted inappropriate attitudes and bias, descriptions of which range from prejudice, to boorish behaviour, to sexism and even misogyny. Many of the problems faced by women in the health service are not talked about or addressed openly. There is an assumption that as the number of effective women leaders grows, things are better than they used to be and progress is being made. I have felt greater prejudice and lesser inclusion as I have progressed in my career and venture further into a male dominated world. As a woman of colour I also know that I must try that much harder, always. And I do, always.
I therefore want to tell you about my dear colleague Edwin. Edwin tells of how he grew up in a family with a strong female influence (as the only boy with three sisters). Because of this, acting as a champion for women always – especially when they are not in the room – comes naturally to him.
Edwin sees himself as more than an ally to women; he wants to walk alongside us, and he tries to tune in to women’s experiences and especially to be alert to the fact that we do not always get great or fair treatment. He sees it. Edwin has learnt that success in almost every walk of life requires the ability to live or work with people who are different to him. He knows he has to take into account his personal view of the world which he says, for many men is along the lines of gender. He wants to be a positive influence. He wants to take action to support others who are different to him.
Women in the NHS hold the key to unlocking many solutions to the problems we face now and into the future. We can make a difference to recruitment and retention, to culture and leadership, to improving quality, respect and dignity. And much more. We are a crucial and undiscovered resource.
I know that there are many men like Edwin out there. Please will you stand with us? Please will you speak out? Please will you lend us your voices to help those who cannot hear to understand why this matters?
I thank you all in advance.