It starts with you, Head Office, Early careers

International Women's Day 2024

In our series of International Women's Day stories, we spoke to Nicole Swaby, Head of Learning Excellence. spoke to Jodie Howes – Multi-site General Manager, Olivia Tyler – National Fitness Assurance Lead and Nicole Swaby Head of Learning Excellence in NH’s Learning Foundation.

Which woman has inspired you and why?

Jodie: “Caroline Smith – She has a huge presence when you are around her, she’s extremely honest & kind she made me feel comfortable and gave me the confidence to excel within my role in the time that I really needed too make a change! She is a massive inspiration.”

Olivia: “My female friends and family inspire me everyday for lots of different reasons. I appreciate them and all women the older I get as I add more to the list of challenges that women face daily. I’m also inspired by our female subject matter experts & leaders in Nuffield Health of which there are so many to choose from! I was lucky enough to meet Judy Murray recently and she inspired me with her adaptability. Her ethos was that there are lots of things that are thrown at us throughout life and you just have to keep adapting based on what you ‘can’ do especially when it comes to keeping active.” 

Nicole: “I’m fortunate to be surrounded by women who inspire me day to day, in many different aspects.  The common denominator of the women who I’m inspired by is the combination of their strength (through life’s challenges or in some cases adversity) with their capacity to deeply care about others.  The one ‘woman’ (technically still a few months away) who stands out to me is my 17 year old daughter.  When I looked up the themes of 2024 International Women’s Day I came across 2. ‘Invest in women – accelerate progress’ and ‘Inspire inclusion’.  These are both particular apt for my daughter, who is from mixed heritage and in 6th form, trying to understand her career options and starting applications into higher education.  She is working her way through this new stage of her young life, as she has worked through all previous stages, whilst growing up with and learning how to navigate the unknowns of a rare genetic cardiac condition. Her courage and grace inspire me daily.”

What do you think the future looks like for women in the workplace?

Jodie: “I think that we are giving young women the hope & opportunities they need to show them that the future is bright with a variety of roles that we could only have dreamed of a decade ago.”

Olivia: “I think the future looks bright! More women are starting to realise their potential and the more workplaces are starting to hold flexibility to ways of working as a priority, the easier that will be for women so that they can adapt and thrive.”

Nicole: “I’m conscious that this is ‘International’ Women’s Day, but based on my own experiences here in the UK I would say the future looks positive, and incrementally improving.  Straight out of college, I hit the corporate world in the late 1980’s, as a secretary, and I am pleased to say that I’ve seen a significant shift in gender equality in the workplace since that time, with marked acceleration in recent years.  On a personal level, I have experienced opportunity to develop in the workplace and have been able to create a career pathway that I am proud of.”

What struggles do you think women still experience in the workplace?

Jodie: “I think the one thing that we still experience struggles with is the gender pay gap, although we have improved over the years, so it is starting to balance out.”

Olivia: “Women still experience inappropriate comments regularly, fear when getting to and from work in public spaces and transport, challenges with childcare, feeling guilty when they want to prioritise work and their progression, difficulty accessing equal pay, being perceived as bossy and facing challenges to their authority that are not equal to their counterparts.”

Nicole: I suspect the types of struggles will vary massively globally, but possibly the common theme that would link women around the world is combining work with motherhood.  My children are now 20 and 17 and so I am coming out of the other side of it, but at the time of joining Nuffield Health in a regional HR role, they were 8 and 5.  I have been extremely fortunate to have worked for an employer with good family policies, and in roles that have enabled a level of flexibility but for many women that is not the case.  More recently I’m experiencing, first hand, navigating menopause and the impact that has, as I continue to try to advance my career in my 50’s. Thankfully my hitting menopause comes at a time of increased awareness, in the UK, of the challenges women can face in the workplace.”

How do you think people could best celebrate International Women's Day?

Jodie: “We should all as women reach out to another female work colleague with something about them that inspires us.”

Olivia: “By highlighting stories of success but also recognising the challenges. It’s important to understand the full scale of the issue in order for true improvements and developments to be seen. But we can of course celebrate our successes along the way! Women should use the day to celebrate themselves and recognise what they’ve been able to achieve. Often we are so focused on where we are going that we don’t appreciate all the work that’s gone in to get to today.”

Nicole: “I think it can be as simple as taking the time, (as being invited to respond to these questions has done for me) to think about the women who have inspired us, and why.  And, if it’s possible, telling them the impact they’ve had, and then sharing and celebrating this with the younger girls and women around us. Finally, I think it is a time to reflect on the bigger challenges of women across the world.”

How do you think businesses should celebrate International Women's Day?

Jodie: “Is it important that they do this? Appreciate our female colleagues and members particularly on this day by all coming together in unity by wearing the national colour purple to celebrate each other – Its is important as what we show our younger peers is important as these young ladies are our future and deserve to be celebrated.”

Olivia: “By celebrating together. It’s important that we have women’s only spaces and events where necessary and sometimes that is what is appropriate, but it would be wonderful to be able to share that celebration with all other genders and identities. I would love to see more men celebrating women and vice versa so that we can all support each other in success. I also think businesses need to be authentic in how they celebrate. Population groups can see through empty marketing campaigns that ‘tick the box’ so it has to come from a genuine place with real intentions for change.”

Nicole: “Yes, I believe celebrating International Women’s Day is important as part of the wider equality agenda and it was great to see the launch last week of the new Women's Network for women who are or who aspire to be leaders in health and wellbeing – in any role, at any level.  Very aligned to the 2024 theme.”

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