The NHS Confederation's Health & Care Women Leaders Network has released new research that elaborates on the progress made towards equal gender representation on NHS Trust boards across England by 2020.
The target for 50:50 representation of women was set by NHS Improvement in 2016 as outlined in a report by the then Chair of NHSI, Ed Smith. The report called for a further 500 women in board level positions by 2020.
This latest report - 'Action for Equality / The Time is Now', concludes that a further 150 women are needed in board-level positions for the goal of true diversity to be reached. This should include 40 more female Medical Directors and 50 more female Chief Finance Officers.
"The good news is we have made some progress but there remains more for each of us to do," says Samantha Allen, Chair of the Health & Care Women Leaders Network and Chief Executive of Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust in the introduction to the report.
Within a workforce that is 77% female, the data reveals an overall increase in women's representation on NHS Trust boards in England to 44.7%, up by nearly 5% from 2017. Data from 213 boards shows representation ranges from 15.4% to 77.8%. However, this figure is skewed by the over-representation of women in nursing roles - 89% of Chief Nursing Officer roles are held by women.
The report also looks at gender equality in Arm's Length Bodies (ALBs) and touches on the representation of black and minority ethnic (BME) leaders.
"I ask every leader and aspiring leader across the NHS to read the full report. The evidence within it and the case studies included demonstrate what can be achieved when leaders set clear goals for the diversity of their boards," adds Samantha.
Amanda Pritchard, Chief Operating Officer, NHS England and NHS Improvement and Chief Executive of NHSI says: "Leadership isn't just about seniority or about a place on an organisational chart, though it's clearly a part of it. It's also using your position, influence and platforms to make improvements for your colleagues, staff, patients and your population. Collectively, each one of us has a part to play in creating a fairer, more equal NHS.
"This report highlights the progress we have made and how far we have to go. While it is important to look back at how far we have come, we must also take this opportunity to look forward and work for more."
The report makes 16 recommendations for action, which focus on the behavioural responses required of senior individuals within NHS boardrooms, including the need for Chairs of NHS organisations to have explicit objectives to support diversity across their boards and for clear succession plans to be set up to improve female representation, with emerging leaders at mid and senior levels given the opportunity to experience board-level working.