What does it feel like to be a woman transforming health and care in 2022?
In recognition of International Women’s Day, the Bevan Commission would like to share three personal blogs written by three very different and inspiring women involved in transforming health and social care services in Wales
I’m not convinced my gender has had anything to do with my approach to work but others can be the judge of that. I remember a younger woman asking me many years ago now – “Sue, are you a feminist?” I had to reply “How can I be anything else”. I’ve always had a very strong reaction to unfair discrimination of any type and, like many of us, was pleased to see the Sex Discrimination Act and the Equal Pay Act come into being in 1970’s. I was also proud to march into Hyde Park to show my opposition to Apartheid. Sadly, I’ve also seen gender discrimination in the workplace, and even experienced it myself, as recently as 2006.
My father was a massive influence on my approach to work and life in general. He faced discrimination as an Irish immigrant coming to dig coal in Wales after WWII, when he was looking for lodgings, he saw the sign “No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish”. This did not deter him and he found lodgings with my grandmother in New Tredegar. He married her daughter Rona and produced 6 children, I was the 4th born.
My dad was the eternal optimist, seeing the best in everyone, running youth clubs, football clubs, involved in many charities and, later on, as a town councillor, raising funds through local businesses to develop new facilities and services for young people.
Growing up in a large family, where local and international affairs were regularly discussed at the dinner table, taught me a lot about people. Many people are very clever but find it difficult to hear others’ voices; Some find it hard to compromise; Most people can be persuaded to change if the case is strong; Working with people you trust to solve problems is rewarding; Observing and gathering data is necessary to provide evidence; Different perspectives create better solutions; Some people are more powerful than others.
Since starting work in industry, aged 16, I have felt a natural desire to question the status quo and find solutions to problems I’ve observed, or others have pointed out to me. I’ve recently been called a “Positive Disruptor” and I’m OK with that description – it suits me well.
Being previously responsible for de-commissioning hospital services, re-designing social care services and developing alternative service models has provided significant experience of transformation over many years. These transformations are not without risk and require transparent decision making, if we are to bring the workforce and the public with us on the journey.
I use my own experience of being an unpaid carer to keep my focus on citizens and my leadership skills to support the workforce to deliver those digital, technological and practice changes that are needed to improve efficiency and outcomes for people.
If I’d been born a boy, I may have chosen another path, who knows?