Equality versus Equity:

What’s the difference as we #EmbraceEquity for IWD 2023 and beyond?

‘Last year my inspirational colleague, Zoe Pietrzak penned the guest blog for IWD. In it she stated that, ‘although the significant majority of our NHS finance community are women the proportion at Director of Finance or Chief Finance Officer level doesn’t reflect this and it also doesn’t reflect the diversity we see in the population we serve as an NHS’. One year on, this remains the case. Over 50% of the London population is female, and only a quarter of our CFOs are female. This matters. It matters because a diverse range of voices in decision making supports more informed decisions, leading to better care for the populations we serve. It also matters because seeing leaders who you can connect to, who represent your vision of how you imagine you would lead, are the most powerful role models.

The statistics above make it clear that equal opportunities are no longer enough. This year’s focus on equity recognises that each person has different circumstances, and that we need to allocate and match our resources and opportunities to individuals to reach an equal outcome. Feedback from women in finance in London has identified three areas which hold women back from applying for board level roles: mindset and culture (individual and organisational); support for lifestyle choices; and support into the role. Women in finance tell us that they don’t feel that they have the skills to meet the ‘traditional’ perception of a CFO, that they aren’t loud enough or aggressive enough, that the interview process doesn’t allow them to shine, and that they are put off by seeing female leaders talked over in meetings. They tell us we don’t support flexible working in a way that works for their personal circumstances, and that we don’t provide tailored support to ensure they are empowered to realise their potential.

It is our collective responsibility to fix this, to ensure that we are creating and developing a pipeline of leaders that represents the population we serve. We need to reset the outdated vision of what makes a great CFO and tailor our development of staff to ensure we are creating more inclusive cultures. We have brilliant female CFOs and many wonderful allies who support our vision, but more is needed.

This International Women’s Day, embrace equity to achieve equality.’

Hannah Witty,
Regional Director of Finance NHS London,
NHS England