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by | Tuesday, March 8th, 2022 | News

Livewell Southwest is proud to be a leader in #breakingthebias around female inequality and discrimination in the workplace; Employing over 2,200 employees identifying as female, that make up well over two thirds of our entire workforce.

Over 1,980 of our colleagues are leading ladies working in management positions, responsible for overseeing services, welfare of patients, and the line management of other colleagues in Livewell.

105 of these incredible women are colleagues in senior management roles. To name just a few of these roles, we have:  Our Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Operating Officer (COO), Director of People and Professionalism, Head of HR, Head of Communications, Operational Risk Manager, Deputy Director of Finance, Director of Children and Young People Services, Head of Estates and many more!

Our continual professional development and training programme enables all colleagues access to resources, training, and opportunities to further their career progression.

Livewell our pleased to be an organisation that empowers colleagues, treat them equally and without judgement.

Today we celebrate our female colleagues and their work life journeys.

Emma Edwards – Parkinson’s Specialist Nurse

“I am a 2nd generation mental health nurse and started my career the day after my 18th birthday, working in the local psychiatric hospital as a nursing assistant on a long stay dementia ward. It was only meant to be for a year, but I loved it so much, and my female ward manager was so inspiring, I made it my career! 29 years later I remain in the business, although not in a traditional mental health nurse role.

In 2010, I became a Parkinson’s specialist nurse. It’s traditionally a general nurse role, but they liked the cut of my jib, and offered me the post. As far as I am aware, I remain the only RMN in the country in this role.  It was a huge learning curve for me as I had to learn about many aspects of physical health and even learn how to take blood pressure properly!

 In recent years, my confidence has grown by joining the Livewell Community Parkinson’s Nurse team. I have been encouraged by my awesome female colleagues Kate Hill and Dr Camille Carroll, to use my RMN experience to inform colleagues, locally and nationally, about the importance of assessing for mental health issues in Parkinson’s. I would never have had the confidence to do this without these super strong, amazing women having my back.”

Kerry Dodd – Principal Social Worker

I have 29/30 years’ experience in social work, including front line safeguarding, 2 years as a practice supervisor and many years as a team manager, the last 6/7 years working as the professional practice lead.

Over the years I have strived to support, encourage, and empower other women to attain management and leadership roles.  Recent evidence has proven that women managers are more likely to coach, mentor and develop their direct reports than their counterparts, and that women are true talent agents and use effective feedback and direction to help people grow and to unlock potential and effective cooperation in teams and organisations. As an aside, I have been given a rough estimate and we have 253 Women and 68 Men in management/leadership roles in Livewell! Proving we are inclusive and support women leaders in these roles.

Over the course of my career I have taken pride from my inclusive leadership style and have supported countless working mums to juggle complex caseloads and home and family challenges, including pregnancy, sickness and the menopause, from earlier personal experience these were all areas  I had real struggles with especially when your manager wasn’t female – so just because we are women and women as we know take on the lion’s share of childcare and family responsibilities doesn’t mean we have to be disadvantaged due to our gender or cannot take on pivotal leadership roles.

I take huge pride when I reflect on the women, I have worked with over the years in ASC and can see such fantastic achievement, dedication, and commitment in the fine balancing act they endure every day, managing work and home/life and getting the balance just so. No mean feat!

Before I conclude I would like to use an analogy close to my heart about the significance of being able to follow a recipe particularly when trying hard to produce the perfect cake (and who doesn’t like a nice piece of cake!!!) all the ingredients have to be carefully considered, measured and weighed up and perfected to get the ultimate result. So on that note, I’d like to share with you my recipe for what makes a good female leader- women in leadership and achieving an equal future:

A huge dollop of care and compassion

Several spoonfuls of perseverance, grit, and determination

A few spoons of emotional Intelligence, hard work and professional curiosity

A bag full of empathy and integrity

A huge dash of kindness, fairness, equality, and inclusivity

And for the topping:

A whole load of respect, conscience, resilience and pure determination, vision, and flexibility.

Mix all the ingredients together with a huge wooden spoon, place in a warm nurturing environment and hey presto, we have a woman who has all the necessary ingredients to step forward and make a difference to be a leader!

Helen Hutchings – HR Business Partner 

“When I left school, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do so I took a business qualification and moved to London. When I returned to Devon, I was able to get a job at Plymouth City Council. It was here that another woman in a senior position encouraged me to move into HR. I worked full-time and I took all my professional qualifications. My message is don’t worry if you left school, not knowing what you wanted to do. There are loads of directions that you can go in. If you work hard and you have a supportive organisation, there are many opportunities out there for you.”

Annette Benny – NED

“My girls are now grown and they laughed at me when I told them that I originally made my initial career choices based on being able to go back to work part-time after I had children!!  It is a very different world for them. 

I chose pharmacy or podiatry, didn’t get anywhere near a good enough chemistry A level, so podiatry it was!  I qualified in 1988 and enjoyed five years as a podiatrist before being seconded to project manage the redevelopment of South Hams Hospital and the new build of Cotehele Unit and 140 Mt Gould Road.  I absolutely loved project management and I learnt so much about so many services to get the plans right in each building.  At the same time, I took the chance to complete my MA in Management & Leadership in Health & Social Care at the Nuffield Institute, Leeds.

Two years as the deputy manager in general surgery, Derriford gave me some operational experience before I moved to NHS Estates and the Department of Health in Bath and Bristol, respectively. During this time, I worked with the National Blood Authority and National Blood Service (now NHS Blood and Transplant) to get the business case for leucocyte depletion written and approved. Now, every donation of blood in Britain is treated using this method to prevent risk of spread of Variant CJD. 

It was 13 years before I finally had my family.  I got pregnant just as a wave of changes to the NHS and DH were announced.  I don’t think there is ever a right time and moving from Wiltshire back to Plymouth – job and house whilst expecting twins kept me busy.  I worked a 28-hour week with the Strategic Health Authority for a few years once I had my babies and picked up the Choice lead for Devon and Cornwall – implementing the Choice and Choose and Book with colleagues in provider organisations.  It was interesting shaping the policy with DH colleagues using feedback from the patch and required a monthly trip to London to meet with them. One of these trips was on the day of the 7/7 terrorist bombings and, with one of my colleagues, I set up a temporary first aid area in the Russell Square Hotel to receive casualties from the Russell Square Tube station.  That day, I worked alongside a counsellor from Transport for London who really helped me to see the value of being present for such traumatised people when we could do very little for their physical injuries.  Another two NHS reorganisations saw me taking opportunities in Torbay learning about the power of integration and then helping to set up the largest CCG in England and getting it authorised without conditions (this at the time was a huge accolade). 

As a director in the CCG, I was proud of working with my Plymouth City Council colleagues to get Delt Shared Services set up. With the risk of IT services being outsourced to the M4 corridor we created an organisation which has safeguarded local jobs and contributes to the health and well-being of local people. Part of my game plan has always been to finish work by the time I was 55 so I could focus on our smallholding, in fact I was able to finish aged 51.  So, I have spent the last four years raising pigs and lambs (and trying to grow veg!) as well as joining Livewell as a NED. I was asked to share how I overcame obstacles and barriers throughout my journey.  I think the overriding message is one of mindset. 

I didn’t get that chemistry A level – thank goodness because I think I would have been a rubbish pharmacist! When one door closes other doors open that you could never imagine, and I’ve weathered quite a few NHS reorganisations! If stuff has looked interesting, I’ve got stuck in and made it happen.  I have never stopped myself from doing something because I felt I wasn’t paid enough – I got on and proved my worth and that, for me has worked.  I’ve had a bit of a life plan but been flexible.  Role models and mentors have been important for me. 

I have worked for some amazing people, from whom I have learnt so much, but who also gave me the space to get on and do things.  Finally, never stop learning – there is always something to discover. Happy International Women’s Day!”

Karen Cooke – NED
“I am currently a non-executive director and chair of the sustainability committee for Livewell Southwest and am a Chartered Management Accountant by profession. Prior to my role here I have had senior leadership roles across the education sector.

As a woman of a certain age (late 50s) there were probably more barriers in place to career progression and hardly any legal protections in place in the early part of my career – and I am so pleased to see that there have been significant changes over my working lifetime. I know that doesn’t mean that life is easy as a working woman and that there are no challenges, particularly for women with caring responsibilities.

Reflecting over my career there were some challenges that would not (or should not) be tolerated today in an inclusive workplace.

After leaving university I was appointed to a management accounting post in a private sector organisation in Aberdeen and my director said to me in his welcome conversation that he couldn’t believe that I had been appointed as I was a woman of a certain age (mid 20s) and was no doubt going to go off and have babies! Not the best welcome to someone who had relocated from the southwest to take the job.

When I did go off and have babies a couple of years later, I requested a reduced working week. This was offered to me in another part of the business, but the non-working days were not covered, and I was expected to do the full-time job within the part time hours. I was just grateful to have some time to spend with my children, so took the pay cut and did the job. Looking back this was not unusual in the early 90s and many of my friends at the time had to give up work as their employers were not so flexible.

Moving to the quasi-public sector of further education in my 30s I felt that things had moved on, particularly in terms of working parents. This may have been because I was working in the public sector, where organisations have clear legal responsibilities to commit fully to the legislation relating to equal opportunities for example. However, there were occasions where I wasn’t taken seriously by external contacts. I remember travelling to a company in the Isle of Wight with a male colleague who was one of my line reports. The external contact (a middle-aged male) spoke directly to my colleague despite me being the decision maker – I was clearly invisible to him, or maybe he felt I was the ‘secretary’ to my colleague.

Although there have been several challenges in my working career, some relating to just being a woman and others relating to my role as a working parent (which could also have applied to my male counterparts), I feel lucky to have had the opportunities that I have had, and I was able to progress in my career. As a strong character I have been able to challenge when I felt things were unfair, unreasonable, or downright unacceptable. This doesn’t always make you popular, but hopefully it helps others who feel less able to challenge see that positive change can come from standing up to this type of behaviour. It is important to challenge in a polite, questioning, and open way. Remember that some people don’t seem to recognise they are behaving in a misogynistic, sexist way – they haven’t been educated to understand the impact they are having on others by their behaviour, so it is important to explain this to them.

My daughters are now of working age and they are so much more enlightened about what is acceptable behaviour in the workplace, which to me proves progress has been made over the last 30 plus years.”


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