Fortius Clinic Consultant Shoulder Surgeon Susan Alexander is also a Certified High Performance Coach and a Gallup Global Strengths Coach. To celebrate International Women’s Day, Susan shares her thoughts on this year’s theme Embrace equity.
Attitudes are changing. There’s growing recognition that talent isn’t the exclusive domain of the privileged few. Everyone is born with a unique set of innate skills but may not have a fair chance to develop them into strengths.
Equal opportunities don’t always equate to equal outcomes. Equality refers to the same opportunities and benefits for all sectors of society irrespective of their starting point. Equity is providing different levels of support according to needs so that the outcome can be fairer.
Ideally, everyone should be respected as an individual and given the chance to flourish. More thought is required to provide assistance at the appropriate time to reflect gender, cultural, religious, sexual orientation and physical ability differences.
Is it worth an employer’s effort to encourage more women into the workforce?
Absolutely yes! Having women in senior positions:
- Attracts top talent
- Increases innovation
- Means better decision-making
The number of businesses implementing practices to improve gender equality has increased. Studies show that companies with gender-balanced boards see higher returns on investments. Organisations where women have equal representation across management levels experience lower exit rates.
What about equity in healthcare?
Traditionally there were well-established gender-dictated roles within healthcare. For example, nurses were largely considered ‘female’ roles. Surgeons, by contrast, were mostly men. These gender stereotypes are gradually changing. There was resistance to accepting women into surgery, but nowadays there is a positive drive to recruit more women. Within my own specialty, orthopaedic surgery, over 20 per cent of women start the orthopaedic training scheme, but there is a significant dropout rate. Only 4.7 per cent of consultant orthopaedic surgeons in the UK are women. There are many reasons for this, including balancing family life with a demanding surgical career.
How do you encourage women into the workforce?
Most people want the same things in life – to feel like they belong and to feel valued. It’s the simple things that make the difference.
Here are 10 ideas to improve the workplace:
1. Opinions - ask for someone’s opinion. This shows that you care enough to value what they think
2. Recognition - compliment or recognise the work that people do
3. Make eye contact and smile at people
4. Equal pay – there’s acknowledgement that men are paid more than women for doing the same job. To reduce the pay gap, companies are introducing non-binary salaries
5. Promote women to senior roles - it’s important for women to have something to aspire to
6. Flexible working - COVID was a gamechanger for the workplace. It proved the concept that people can work from home
7. Benefits – offer alternative benefi ts such as healthcare or childcare packages
8. Focus on strengths - conventionally organisations focus on areas of weakness to develop an improvement plan. A more effective approach is to identify talents and develop them as strengths
9. Adaptability – there’s increasing acceptance that employers should make provisions for women going through the menopause
10. Coaching – having a good coach can improve wellbeing and increase productivity.
I passionately believe that women are the power-houses in our society and can contribute to a better, fairer world for everyone. If we embrace equity, provide the right support and give them the opportunity, women can transform humanity for generations to come.