Can you tell us about your role at Nuffield Health?
I am the Emotional Wellbeing Enhancement and Prevention Lead at Nuffield Health. In my role I lead the Nuffield Health services which enhance mental fitness and prevent mental ill health. I have over 25 years of experience of working in mental health, as psychotherapist, as a researcher, author and educator leading psychotherapy training programmes within UK universities.
In my current role I bring my clinical and educational experience together. I work in a fantastic team. We are all passionate about emotional wellbeing, committed to promoting mental health, and supporting people to thrive and reach their full potential. We design and deliver innovative training, services, and resources, internally and to our corporate clients. We support the development of our flagship programmes, research projects, and most importantly our own employee Healthy Work and Supporting our People initiative. As you might imagine, demand for our services has been unprecedented during the past year. Work is so busy but also incredibly rewarding. I love my role within Nuffield Health. It’s dynamic and varied, and more importantly I know we make a real difference to people’s lives.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
For me International Women's Day acts as both a celebration and reminder of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of ALL women. But it is more than just a day – The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge – a call to action that we choose to place a spotlight on, and celebrate women’s achievements whenever we see them and we all make a commitment to highlight gender bias and inequality wherever it occurs.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for women today and what has been your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge for women today is sadly ongoing gender inequality. Clearly much has changed since the first International Women’s day in 1911 but for me this change is painfully slow and there is still such a long way to go.
The Women’s suffrage movement initially campaigned for ‘Bread and Roses’. A slogan to represent the appeal for fair wages and conditions for everyone (at a time when this wasn’t the case for the majority of women). In the context of a global pandemic that has amplified inequality, making a deliberate choice to call out gender bias and inequality – ensuring bread and roses for all – has never been so important. Women bear the brunt of poverty and women’s empowerment is a central precondition for its elimination.
Gender inequality continues to have far reaching consequences, including perpetuating a culture of violence towards women. Take for example the extent of violence, harassment and abuse towards women on social media, or female politicians, especially those who speak up in relation to equality and justice.
#ChooseToChallenge is therefore such an important call to action in the mission to create a gender equal world.
My biggest challenge is probably my own unconscious gender bias - the extent to which I have unknowingly experienced and perpetuated negative and self-defeating beliefs, which have influenced my decisions, actions and potential for growth.
There have been so many times in my life where looking back I recognise a conflict between the pressure to meet expectations of gender conformity, and the desire to completely break free from it. I grew up in Leeds, during the 1970’s/1980’s within a very traditional Catholic culture. I was raised with some pretty negative and restrictive messages about what it meant to be a woman, messages which sadly, mostly came from other women. Thankfully, I had my own ideas but there are still times when I recognise the influence of the powerful, pervasive and deep-rooted instructions about ‘how to act and behave as a woman’.
Which woman has inspired you and why?
This is such a difficult question to answer as so many women have inspired me for different reasons throughout the years. Growing up I was inspired by Helen Keller for her indomitable courage, optimism, brilliance, and advocacy for disability rights. Maya Angelou inspired me with her relentless determination and civil rights activism, but also with her incredible writing and erudite words of wisdom.
Reflecting on this question, I realise I draw most inspiration from truly courageous women, often labelled as ‘rebellious’ in their time, women who refuse to comply with predetermined roles or expectations. Those who are not afraid to stand up or speak up for what they believe in, regardless of the consequences. Today, it is the new generation of women who move and inspire me deeply. Malala Yousafzai who fearlessly speaks up for the right to an education for so many girls. And Greta Thunburg for her fierce determination and campaigning for urgent climate action. As young women both have faced the most appalling threats, harassment and abuse and yet seem unshakable in their mission to make the world a better place.
I wish I had their courage. This International Women’s Day I #ChooseToChallenge myself to be inspired by their courage and to speak up with less fear for what I truly believe in.
Last updated Tuesday 2 March 2021
First published on Tuesday 2 March 2021