International Women’s Day 2018
08 March 2018

International Women’s Day 2018

International Women's Day 2018 is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender equality. You can find out more about International Women’s Day here.

Our trust is made up of a whole host of amazing people, from all kinds of backgrounds.

As women all over the world come together to mark International Women’s Day 2018, we hear from some of our inspirational women leaders.

We wanted to know which women inspired them, how the NHS helped them become leaders and what their top tips for colleagues thinking of taking on more responsibility at work.

Siobhan Melia
Chief Executive

There are two women leaders that I having been reading about over recent years, both of whom inspire me because they were brave, they took risks and they broke new ground.

The first is Constance Markievicz – she was an Irish politician, a revolutionary and a suffragette. I am inspired by her passion for change, by her commitment to equal rights for women, and by her courage. She was a political leader before women could even vote, and in 1918 she became the first woman to be elected to the House of Commons. She believed that anything was possible and she followed the courage of her conviction.

More recently I have been inspired by Sheryl Sandberg. She is a business leader in the USA, who started out with an economics career and worked for the US Government. She worked for Google and became the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook. I am fascinated by the success she has had, through a varied career path, but also how she has focussed on how women leaders can flourish in male dominated industries. I read her book a few years ago, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead – and found it to be an inspiration.

We are a large and diverse organisation, and we need to ensure that our leaders can resonate with our teams in order to support, motivate and inspire them. I would like our staff to be able to see a career development path that they can follow, with leaders at all levels of the organisation that are representative of the diverse make up of our workforce. It’s also great for teamwork to have a rich variety of leaders, we all think and act differently and that adds to our collective strength.

I have had some fantastic development opportunities all the way through my NHS career. I have undertaken postgraduate leadership training, completed a King’s Fund (and very reflective) leadership programme for senior female leaders, and have completed an MBA degree to equip me with more business and financial skills.

My message to colleagues thinking about taking a step up is, don’t worry if you haven’t mapped out your whole career path, be brave and seize the opportunities as they arise. Seek breadth and challenge, which at times may put you outside of your comfort zone – so focus on developing your emotional intelligence as you will need to know when to ask for help too.

Be kind to yourself, leadership roles can be tough at times, make sure you can build up your personal resilience. Most of all enjoy it, the people in the NHS makes it a fantastic place to be a leader!

Caroline Haynes
Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development

My number one tip for colleagues thinking about taking on a leadership role or looking to develop their careers is to be yourself, but be a good version of yourself.

Simone Veil is a leader that inspires me. She was a French politician who sadly died last year. She championed women’s rights and was a Minister in a very male dominated environment. Generally I’m inspired by strong, intelligent women who champion gender equality by their actions.

It’s really important that organisations like ours have representative leadership teams because, like any diversity, visible gender diversity is really important. It’s a powerful message and goes beyond statements of intent.

 Ours is a great organisation to work for and there is a supportive and collaborative culture here that means that people can seek advice and guidance if they want to develop.

 The NHS has been hugely supportive to me. I was given my first real opportunity by a woman, I pitched an idea and she supported me.


Susan Marshall
Chief Nurse

The women who have really inspired me are Florence Nightingale and my mother.

Florence was really ahead of her time and understood the importance of review and audit to improve. She wasn’t afraid to identify new ways of caring for people.

My mother, who I lost recently, taught me the importance of working hard and gaining my independence, not to rely on others and to make my own way in life to achieve my dreams and ambitions. She also taught me the arts of compassion and empathy, to be really interested in others because it adds richness to your own life.

I feel lucky to have been supported to develop throughout my career, both here at Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust and in the wider NHS as a whole.

Some of the best leadership traits I have learned are observing others, talking to people and having an inquisitive mind. Remember, no learning is bad learning – even if you’re just learning how not to act!

My tips for people considering taking on a leadership role are know what you want to do and where your passion lies, listen and learn. Don’t be afraid to approach or ask people to support you because it shows your intention to develop.

Anuschka Muller
Director of Performance and Improvement

Diversity just makes better teams and creates better results. It’s proven a thousand times in research and it’s true whether those teams are in the public or private sector. The best teams I have worked in and led were a wonderful mix of men and women from all kinds of backgrounds. Inspiring people who inspire each other!

When looking for inspiration about how to be a good and authentic leader in a world of powerful (and loud) men, I have been inspired by books and talks from a number of amazing women.  In particular, Susan Cain who brought the power of quiet people to life for me and Sheryl Sandberg whose example gave me the push to be brave and bold as a leader. This was really powerful when I was first sat around the top table having just made the (scary) jump from being a subject matter expert to be a team leader.

I have only recently joined SCFT and the NHS but even in that short timeframe, I have been fortunate to share my experience as a leader with colleagues on our leadership masterclass and talked to them about what it means to be a director. This has been brilliant learning for me as well because the questions raised have helped me to reflect on my own leadership journey.

If you’re thinking of taking on a leadership role, go for it! Discuss with others the reasons that hold you back and what you can do to overcome them. Be brave and approach a senior manager you admire or trust, ask them a specific question or ask them for some coaching to help you thinking through your next steps.

Kate Pilcher
Director of Operations

There’s a long list of women that inspire me, but here are just a two. I think Nimco Ali, the social activist, is a wonderful example to women. Her tireless campaigning against female genital mutilation is having a real impact for girls around the world.

Another would be Michelle Obama for her fantastic work championing the rights of girls. But she’s also inspirational because of the way she can bring people together, her open and honest nature and her skill as a communicator make her a great role model.

The NHS and our Trust in particular have been hugely supportive of my development, the opportunities and encouragement have been there to help me progress during my career. That’s vital but it’s only one side of the coin, I think I have been able to succeed because I have taken a chance when opportunities have come up.

I joined this organisation 10 years ago as a newly qualified health visitor and my first clinical training was in midwifery. By being open to new experiences and taking on challenges I’ve been able to make progress and develop my career, becoming part of a great leadership team.

My advice to women around the organisation who are thinking about taking the next step in their career is to go for it, don’t wait. Take the risk and put yourself forward. We learn by challenging ourselves, it’s worth it even if it scares you at first.

If you’d like to share your IWD story or tell us about your experiences as a woman at SCFT, you can: