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International Women's Day: Exclusive Leadership in the NHS

International Women's Day 2017 on 8th March is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

This year's theme for International Women’s Day is #BeBoldForChange calling for a change in the working world in a better way by various actions including the striving for gender-balanced leadership.

There seems to be positive news for women when we talk about their contribution to the NHS workforce: 41% of the chief executive roles at the NHS are taken by women, 52 per cent of GPs are female, 85 per cent of nursing directors are female, and 54 per cent of doctors-in-training are female.

However, according to a report by Dr Penny Newman NHS women in leadership: Plan for action, a lot of work still needs to be done to bring gender balance to the NHS. Chair of NHS England, Simon Stephens, said in support of the report: “The vast majority of NHS professionals and other staff are women, and we're far more likely to succeed by being able to make full use of their talent, dedication and experience - at every level throughout the health service.”

So what qualities make women good leaders in the NHS?

The research published in 2012 by Harvard Business Review investigates the ways leadership styles vary between women and men. A comparison of how women and men are perceived in terms of specific competencies shows that women actually scored higher than men on 12 of the 16 competencies, including the following ones: 

1.    Taking initiatives. In general terms, taking the initiative at work means handling duties and responsibilities without having to wait on instructions from others. It helps to improve organisational performance and speed up decision-making processes.

Offering a broad range of life and work experience, women are not afraid to face challenges and are capable of handling effectively different situations ensuring services meet patients’ needs.


2.    Drives for results. The NHS needs to tap into the productive power of women, achieve better return on investment, and anticipate increased caring responsibilities. As leaders, women outperform men on 360 degree feedback criteria and make safer decisions, increasing work productivity.


3.    Building relationships. Communication is one of the most important keys to leadership success. In comparison to men, women are more polite in conversation, not using commanding language when in authority and encouraging others to take turns speaking.


4.    Inspiring and motivating others. Influence is a leader’s ability to motivate and influence their followers to change their behaviour, beliefs, and attitudes, which is why influence tactics are one of the most common ways to measure a leader’s effectiveness.

Women are natural cheerleaders: they tend to influence by means of consulting and inspiring, while male managers are more assertive and authoritative when trying to influence others.


5.    Collaboration and teamwork. NHS staff are required to work well in solitude when it’s needed, and always be ready to work as part of a team and contribute to team goals. Women have a genuine passion for working with others. That means that as leaders, they’re good at supporting, rewarding, mentoring, networking, consulting, teambuilding, and inspiring.


Many women have impressive leadership skills. These leadership skills are strongly correlated to organizational success factors such as retaining talent, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and profitability. Thus, the role of women on boards is business critical to the NHS – and therefore we encourage you to pay attention to gender equality in the work place.


If you are interested in learning more about NHS female leaders, take a look at our articles What success can be achieved in the NHS? and Positive Action: Practical Steps for Women in Health and Care.

Interested in searching for a new position within the NHS? Click to check out the latest available opportunities on our website. 

Written by Tatiana Prichislenko, Marketing Manager at GoToJobBoard. 

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