Beverley Bryant, Director of Digital Transformation at NHS Digital, and Digital Leader of the Year in the Women in IT Awards, explains why International Women's Day is important to her.
This Wednesday is International Women's Day, with the theme 'Be Bold for Change'. As a female leader in technology, which is traditionally a male dominated industry, this time of year is important to me. It leads me to reflect on my own experiences and also the things I can and should be doing to support other women to succeed in the world of technology.
My job has a fancy title, but basically what I am here to do is to support the development and application of technology that makes the NHS better. Better for patients; better for staff; and better for taxpayers.
But making things better is a big job, and it is impossible to create usable solutions for the entire population, if half of that population is under-represented around the decision making table. Getting more women into industries where they are traditionally under-represented and supporting talented women to be the best they can be isn't just good for those women, it is good for everyone.
And at a time when we are focused on doing more for less, it becomes more vital than ever to recruit the best talent. And that means working from a pool of all the available talent, not just one demographic.
If you work in a male dominated industry then for a woman there is something about being bold to even enter into your profession. That isn't how it should be, but for a lot of women, making your way in a profession where you aren't traditionally represented feels like a huge mountain before you have even started. It is difficult to see yourself in a job if there is nobody like you succeeding in that role.
On a personal level, being bold for change has also been a bit of a recurring theme in my own professional life.
My first Be Bold for Change moment was when I decided to move to Japan to fulfil my dreams of being a translator. My next was when I decided to change career and go into the traditionally male world of technology. The thing I loved about translation was also the thing I loved about my new career in technology. It was the ability to create meaning from complexity, and in technology I also had the chance to do some really creative and innovative thinking to solve big, real world problems.
Later, as I progressed in my career, one of my boldest moves was when I was working in the Department of Health as CIO. The more time I spent working with NHS organisations the more I realised that I absolutely had to just get out there and work with clinicians and other frontline staff, where I could learn more about what it is that actually makes technology work (and not work) on the front line.
I begged my managers to let me go onto secondment to a local NHS organisation. I found myself working on areas like commissioning, which I had no experience of, but it helped me enormously with my development. I needed to take all of my problem solving skills and apply them to something new, and I also had to prove myself again in a new environment. But, most importantly, I learnt first-hand how the NHS works in reality, the challenges they face and how technology can help to make things more efficient.
Now, as a Board member at NHS Digital, I have a responsibility to support my organisation to be bold and to make sure we support our women to be the best they can be. I am aware that I have a role to play in empowering the organisation to make the right choices that help women to be able to meet their full potential.
There is a role for all leaders, in all sectors, to recognise and nurture talent wherever it comes from, and to encourage a diverse and representative workforce. If you are a leader in your organisation, at whatever level, think about when you last did something to support a talented person working through the ranks. That's how you develop and keep the best people in your organisation and it is worth taking the time to invest in these people.
Basically, being bold is the only way that you can create and lead change to your own design. Change is, in itself, always scary. That's why International Women's Day is asking people to make a pledge. Because making a commitment to change is brave and bold and is the only way that we will collectively make things better. My pledge is to continue, as part of the Board at NHS Digital, to champion gender parity across my organisation. What's yours?
HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today
Through blogs, features and video, we'll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity. If you'd like to blog on our platform around these topics, email firstname.lastname@example.org