Published on: 15 March 2024

I’m Sharon Gilligan, Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Chief Executive at the Trust, and it gives me great pleasure to be blogging this week and recognising the amazing work being done to reduce inequality here at ELHT.

Last week was International Women’s Day with the theme ‘Inspire Inclusion’, which was the perfect opportunity to take a moment to look at our journey, spotlight progress being made and look to the future.

Picture of Chief Operating Officer and Deputy CEO Sharon Gilligan

As the Executive Sponsor of the Trust’s Women’s Network I get to see the work going on in this area on a regular basis and am constantly humbled by the work done by the amazing women in our Trust. Sadly I couldn’t be there for the live event as I was on leave but I have received a lot of positive feedback about it so thank you to everyone who was involved or supported it.

When I first took on the role of Sponsor I met with the chair of the network and truly inspirational woman, Dr Uma Krishnamoorthy, to hear about the progress already made and the ambitious agenda it has for the future. Uma is also Co-chair of the Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) Network, and takes an intersectional approach to the agenda of inclusion, which is really powerful. Intersectionality is a way of understanding how and why every person’s view of the world is different – each of our experiences are influenced by the various elements of our own identity, including race, gender, sexuality, disability, class and more. It also recognises the complex way in which various forms of discrimination can overlap for marginalised groups and encourages us to address discrimination holistically. 

As a result, the IWD24 theme of ‘Inspire Inclusion’ was particularly poignant and at our celebration Uma spoke about equity and inclusion for women and for the many roles that women play. She also shared her pride in the network’s support for the Trust’s new Anti-Racist Charter which Martin wrote about in his blog last week.

Thanks to Sophie in our amazing Comms team I was able to record a video to welcome everyone to our event where I talked about my passion for working at ELHT and shared my core values which are quite simply that the care we provide should be good enough for your mother, that we should spend public money like it was our own and most importantly I only look at me in the mirror so I have to be authentically me. I come from humble beginnings and have achieved the things that I have through hard work, determination and self-belief. I encouraged all attendees to believe in themselves.

It felt like a fitting way to introduce our event as during our planning sessions we  discussed the role that our women leaders have made and continue to make to the world of digital and operational leadership. These roles are at the coal face and are very demanding and rewarding. This was particularly visible during the role out of our new Electronic Patient Record system and I remain immensely proud of what was achieved for this through the dedication and resilience of the whole team. Their innovative and collaborative leadership style with an emphasis on listening, empathy and patience made such a difference and continues to ensure that we improve and adapt on our transformation journey. Vicky Hampson, Nicola May and Clare Owen received the nicknames of Digital Divas with the audience I believe!

Our IWD24 event shared some truly inspiring stories, including Samina Saboor, our Gynae and Breast Care Ward Manager who talked about her lived experience as a BAME and Muslim midwife. She focused on providing person centred and culturally competent care, and also highlighted the support she had received in her career. This reminds us to continually lift others up and to pay forward the support we receive in our careers.  We might not see what others see and need to believe in ourselves.

I know that the session was emotional at times as speakers opened up about their mental health challenges. It is a stark reminder that we do not know what is really going on for others and that it is ok not to be ok. This is why groups like the Women’s Network are so important, as it brings people together and provides a forum to share their challenges so we can make a change for the better. We have already seen how this can make a tangible difference as the Trust has introduced new services and policies relating to the Menopause, as a result of the Women’s Network, who worked with our Well Service and HR colleagues. 

Looking to the future, one of our key focusses will be to progress the Sexual Safety Charter, as we need to take a stand and have a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment or any form of harassment, so that we can all feel safe. Tracy Dewe from the Safeguarding Team, updated the event with an overview of the sexual safety and domestic violence support for colleague and patients. It is a great starting point for us to build on to ensure our Sexual Safety Charter is embedded as part of our day to day work.

And finally, I was pleased to hear that the Trust continues to offer career coaching – if you have the opportunity to make use of this then please do so.

I pass a lot of hospitals on my way from home to ELHT, (as you know I am a proud Geordie), but firmly believe that this is a special place and I know that the feeling of being ‘part of the ELHT family’ is not something you get everywhere and there is no where else I would rather work.

Everyday we witness remarkable achievements by women in our Trust. From dedicated healthcare professionals on the front line to the talented minds shaping our policies and strategies, women have played a pivotal role in our success. As we celebrate these achievements, it is crucial to acknowledge the progress made in breaking down barriers and promoting diversity.

While we celebrate our achievements, we must also acknowledge the challenges that persist. Gender disparities and biases continue to impact women in various fields, including healthcare. As the Executive Sponsor of the Women's Network, I am committed to working alongside our dedicated members to address these challenges head-on, advocating for policies that promote equality and fairness.

And as a final note, I need to stress that we also need great male allyship on this journey and I have experienced this in many of my roles. I also commit to becoming a white ally, in support of our journey to becoming an anti-racism organisation as we inspire inclusion in all that we do.

If you work for ELHT and have been inspired to develop inclusion and help shape our future, then please take a look at our Staff Networks and get involved. Or if you don’t work here, you can also get involved through our Patient Participation Panel – everyone’s lived experience is a valuable insight that can help us understand our strengths and areas for improvement.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and please value yourself and believe in yourself.