I started in the sector as a graduate trainee in NHS management. I couldn’t imagine myself being fulfilled in an organisation that was motivated by profit as I wanted to be able to impact on issues of concern to people – quality of life and access to services amongst many others.
I’m motivated by seeing people flourish, develop and reach their potential – not just in their jobs, but in their lives. I love to see people grow in their skills and knowledge, and to be able to pass those on to others – that’s one of the things I enjoy about my job.
Being a woman in the sector has sometimes been a challenge. I’ve at times had to leave jobs because of a family move, but I’ve been fortunate to be able to pick up again and progress in new organisations and places. I haven’t been a ‘trailing spouse’ exactly, but I have had to make some moves that I wouldn’t have planned. Having said that, it has worked the other way round in my marriage too – we have moved because I’ve wanted to.
When I was starting out over 30 years ago, I found my age was a barrier. I felt as a woman in a male dominated environment, that I wasn’t always treated fairly and listened to as an equal. I remember turning 30 and thinking I would be respected more from then on. In truth this may have been a perception on my part rather than a reality, so maybe it was me who was the barrier rather than others. I certainly encourage people who work for me now to have confidence in their abilities whatever their age or gender.
For a young woman starting out in the sector I’d tell her to have confidence, work on your self-awareness as well as your job-specific skills, find mentors you can learn from (men or women), and be yourself.
The sector still has some way to go. I see that there are more men than women in senior positions. That’s changing but too slowly. Having more women being visible in the sector will help erode that difference, so I’d encourage women to do more speaking at events, conferences and networking opportunities, and get published. If we don’t push at the barriers, they won’t shift, so it’s up to us to show that we’re competent and to go for those positions of leadership.