How the Roman goddess of wisdom and strategic warfare is supporting the female leaders of tomorrow

Anne Cooper

In this blog Anne Cooper, clinical director at Ethical Healthcare talks about being a woman in tech and explores how we can improve work culture to support women's careers.

I’m lucky enough to have had more than one career. I’ve been a nurse, I’ve led major digital programmes in the NHS, I’m a Clinical Director and NED and on my way to becoming a leadership coach. I have stepped off my big career in the NHS and now work in other not-for-profit organisations who have similar values to me – it’s been a liberating and scary journey so far with hopefully more exciting challenges ahead.

In the health technology environment, I’ve been lucky enough to work with some brilliant people but time and time again I’ve found myself in the same situation – the only nurse in the room, and often the only woman. Being a woman in tech is particularly challenging with only around 17 per cent of the sector being female.

The feeling of being the only one is uncomfortable and it affects the way people behave. This situation is often referred to as ‘onliness’. A 2019 study from McKinsey[1] shows the likelihood of feeling this way is higher still when women find themselves alone in a group of men. They are more likely to have their judgment questioned than women working in more balanced teams. It’s not an easy story to read.

Other biases are evident too. As Caroline Criado Perez points out in her book Invisible Women, cars are designed around the body of a man so although men are more likely to crash, women involved in collisions are nearly 50 per cent more likely to be seriously hurt. Speech-recognition software is trained on recordings of male voices: Google’s version is 70 per cent more likely to understand men. We still live in a man’s world.

It’s time for us to tackle these issues and support women and other under-represented groups to make the contribution they can make, and in doing so improving the culture of the organisations we work in.

The right culture attracts the right people, which in turn create the best results. Avoiding onliness and supporting underrepresented people to succeed seems like an obvious choice. That’s why I’ve created Minerva, a women’s leadership programme designed to help women understand their unique abilities and how they can use them to improve their leadership skills and become the leaders of tomorrow. And yes, you guessed it, Minerva is indeed the Roman goddess of wisdom and strategic warfare.

Minerva is based on the simple idea that individuals are best placed to identify their strengths and weaknesses and decide what they want to work on. Working with the programme team and external partners participants will explore their strengths and identify their learning needs to co-design a programme that provides challenge, inspiration and support and has real impact on them as a leader.

We believe that to develop as a leader is to develop as a human and that is how we will help women achieve.

Our first cohort have just graduated, and we’ve had some fantastic feedback: “The most important thing I’ve taken away is the importance of investing in friendships and the network we all need to support each other in a really challenging work environment. I highly recommend Minerva, particularly if you’re starting a new role or if you’re thinking about what direction your career path might take.” Melissa Andison, associate CCIO and clinical safety officer at Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

I’m happy to say that after this year’s success we’re going to do it all over again. If you would like to be a part of Minerva, they're accepting applications for cohort two. Visit the Minerva website to find out more.

The Health & Care Women Leaders Network is a free network for women working across the health and care sector, which connects through events and tweet chats and shares learning through podcasts, blogs, videos and key reports.

Join the network and connect on Twitter @hcwomenleaders.

[1] McKinsey Jan 2019 One is the loneliest number 





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