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Celebrating 100 women in healthcare leadership

Celebrating 100 women in healthcare leadership

by Carina Dowson, Johann Malawana, Melody Redman & Hazel Awarah

Sunday 8 March will mark International Women’s Day (IWD) 2020. This annual event celebrates the wide and varying achievements of women across the world and is an opportunity to highlight the need for continued progress towards gender equality. This year the theme for IWD is Each For Equal, which is based on the concept of “collective individualism.” This is the idea that we are all responsible for our individual actions and behaviours, and although it can be difficult to make an impact on our own, collectively we can bring about substantial changes.

This year’s International Women’s Day is also the 100th and final day of the 100 Word Project carried out by Women In Healthcare Leadership. The Healthcare Leadership Academy (HLA)  began the 100 Word Project in 2018, when it initially focused on resilience in healthcare. It asked what resilience meant to 100 people over 100 days. Quotes were released each day, each less than 100 words.

This year the Women in Healthcare Leadership (WIHL) team have taken on this project, but in place of resilience focused on women in healthcare leadership, featuring 100 inspirational women over 100 days.

WIHL is led by a group of HLA scholars and faculty with the objective of working towards removing gender as a barrier to pursuing a leadership role; therefore, ensuring we equip the NHS with representative and discerning leaders of the future. By taking on the 100 Word Project, the WIHL team hoped to showcase the great work being done by so many women in healthcare, while inspiring and encouraging others to achieve their full potential regardless of gender. The project has been heavily supported by men and women alike.

The majority of women featured have been chosen after nominations from their peers.  Each answered three questions: what their greatest achievement was, what would they tell their younger selves, and to describe themselves in three words. An inspirational quote from their answers is posted (see image 2) alongside their full responses (image 4). Posts are shared daily across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and on the HLA LinkedIn page.

The women we have featured have come from a variety of health professions and have a wide spectrum of career experience, from students to past presidents of Royal Colleges. In their answers, these women have shared prominent life events, personal reflections, and heartfelt advice.

The successes of all these women was, without a doubt, due to hard work and determination; the words they most frequently used to describe themselves were determined, passionate, and driven.

The lessons learnt from them have been more extensive and deeper than a list of admirable character traits though and can be broadly broken down into five recurring themes.

Be confident

One of the strongest recurring themes among the women we spoke to was their wish that they had been more confident when they were younger, and that they should have had more belief in themselves and their abilities.

We were advised over and again, not to worry so much, especially about what others think of us; and that often the things we see as weaknesses can be what makes us great.

Be brave

Failure, and the value of learning from it, was discussed several times. We should not be afraid of failure, but see it as the path to progression and improvement.

Say yes to those opportunities we are presented with, and take a view not of “who is going to let me, but who is going to stop me.” (Alison Pittard – Day one)

Be kind

Be kind to yourself, and be kind to others. Champion and lift up those around you.

Remember that “relationships are more rewarding than achievements.” (Dawn Ashley – day two)

Be patient

Life, and the career ladder, is not a race; you don’t need to have it all worked out from day one. All those opportunities taken and lessons learnt may end up taking you somewhere unexpected, and that is okay.

Be present

It is essential to set aside time for personal wellbeing, such as exercise and sleep, and to prioritise the things in life that are important to you. It is not possible to do everything at 100%, all the time, and we should not feel guilty about this.

Reactions across social media have been overwhelmingly positive, with many commenting that it has inspired them, and they look forward to the daily post.

“Inspiring to scan the 80 tweets so far. Reminded me in particular how many brilliant, caring successful women I worked with in my NHS career.” (Barry Tennison – Twitter)

“This is such an amazing project, thank you so much for including me in it, it’s the post that I look forward to every morning.” (Cristina Costache – Facebook)

This project has given these brilliant women an opportunity to share their collective knowledge, as well as inspiring others to be their best self. We hope  that the ripple effects of this project endure long after 8 March and that  the readers have been inspired to believe in themselves and what they can achieve. Apply for that job role with confidence; don’t worry so much about the end result, but enjoy the journey; and, most importantly, be kind and #liftasyouclimb.

If you would like to read the 100 posts, all those published so far are available on Twitter @100wordproject, Instagram on 100wordproject, and the100wordproject on Facebook.

This piece is jointly produced for BMJ Opinion and The Leadership Blog .

The Healthcare Leadership Academy aims to nurture leadership, foster frontline innovation and empower the next generation of clinical leaders. Applications are open until 30th March 2020 for the admission of scholars onto our innovative year-long scholarship programme. For more information, see:

The 100 Women:

  1. Alison Pittard

  2. Dawn Ashley

  3. Melody Redman

  4. Rebecca Richardson

  5. Emezie Okorocha

  6. Laura Duffy

  7. Anna Harvey

  8. Jessica Roberts

  9. Bhupinder Sandhu

  10. Samantha Batt-Rawden

  11. Tricia Campbell (Walker)

  12. Uzma Jaffry

  13. Namita Kumar

  14. Cecilia Anim

  15. Charlotte Bates

  16. Colby Benari

  17. Olamide Dada

  18. Kitty Mohan

  19. Tafhima Haider

  20. Shivani Fulchand

  21. Catherine Monaghan

  22. Tirtha Rana

  23. Verona Beckles

  24. Praveena Deekonda

  25. Stella Vig

  26. Carole Boulanger

  27. Alison Curnow

  28. Lenneke Schrier

  29. Olufunmilola (Funmi) Ogundiran

  30. Rosie Baruah

  31. Sian Copley

  32. Katerina Anesti

  33. Lucy Jane Davis

  34. Chizo Agwu

  35. Lorna Harries

  36. Aisha Salim

  37. Chloe Gimbuta

  38. Kathy McClean

  39. Hannah Barham-Brown

  40. Emma Cox

  41. Azra Khatun

  42. Alison Leary

  43. Daniele Bryden

  44. Sonia Ike

  45. Catherine Ternes

  46. Eithne Fyfe

  47. Faduma Sharif Ahmed

  48. Suga Roy

  49. Emma Hartsilver

  50. Leanne Patrick

  51. Fizzah Ali

  52. Carrie MacEwen

  53. Amal Hassan

  54. Baroness Hollins

  55. Dianne Cook

  56. Sara Dorman

  57. Emily Lyon

  58. Rebecca Myers

  59. Amrita Ahluwalia

  60. Lynsey Mottershead

  61. Amina Ibrahim

  62. Rachel Isba

  63. Julia Flaherty

  64. Lindsey Graham

  65. Sue Smith

  66. Katherine Henderson

  67. Jenny Vaughan

  68. Michelle Horridge

  69. Caroline Leech

  70. Michelle Drage

  71. Irrum Afzal

  72. Sarb Clare

  73. Scarlett McNally

  74. Cristina Costache

  75. Margi Jenkins

  76. Jacky Hayden

  77. Sarah Marsh

  78. Vishakha Tripathi

  79. Rasha Al-Lamee

  80. Rita Issa

  81. Sarah Hallett

  82. Beverley Harden

  83. Emma McLaughlin

  84. Ann Cooper

  85. Chloe Scott

  86. Sandra Nicholson

  87. Victoria Betton

  88. Katie Lunnon

  89. Victoria Thomas

  90. Isabel Straw

  91. Anna Batchelor

  92. Roz Davies

  93. Hannah Farrar

  94. Tracy Nicholls

  95. Devina Maru (World Hearing Day)

  96. Jane Dacre

  97. Rachel Hawes

  98. Jane Thurlow

  99. Henrietta Bowden-Jones

  100. Alexandra Adams

____ Carina Dowson is an acute medicine higher specialty trainee in the Northern Deanery and a current HLA scholar. Johann Malawana is best known as the former chair of the Junior Doctors Committee of the British Medical Association, but has held a variety of leadership roles over the past 15 years. Melody Redman is a junior doctor, a leadership fellow (Health Education England Yorkshire and the Humber Future Leaders Programme) and a faculty member of The HLA. Hazel Awarah is a 3rd year medical student at the University of Exeter and current HLA scholar.



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