From code club to speed networking, NHS Digital hosts highly successful IWD campaign
July 08, 2019
With 1.2m employees, the NHS is by far the biggest employer in England.
According to NHS Digital’s latest workforce statistics, 935,772 of those employees are women, which is a massive 77% of the workforce.
In recent years, there’s been a steady increase in the number of women who are doctors and consultants, but unfortunately one of the areas where women continue to be under-represented is in the health technology sector.
NHS Digital is the national information and technology partner to the health and social care system. It employs more than 2500 staff and recognises the need to encourage and support great women to have great careers in technology.
This year’s International Women's Day (IWD) was an opportunity for women across the organisation to come together to celebrate the successes of women in the organisation and highlight where more can be done.
The Women’s Network organised a number of events in support of its ongoing journey to achieve gender balance. Over a week rather than just one day, IWD was celebrated across sites in Leeds, London and Exeter with a wide range of events provided to ensure there was something for everyone to get involved in.
Improving digital skills through code club
The Women’s Network hosted a full-day code club, which was aimed at employees from a non-technical background who were interested in trying software development in a safe, supportive and fun environment. The key message was that a degree in computer science isn't mandatory for enjoying coding or learning a technical skill.
There was significant uptake from staff, especially from women, and the event was sold out within 48 hours. The event itself was a great success with 40 participants who had limited coding experience, creating a website within only a matter of hours.
The event was supported by members of the NHS Digital Senior Leadership Team who have since requested more sessions be commissioned in the future.
Running tech talk sessions for women
In conjunction with the code club, the Women’s Network also ran a series of lunchtime tech talks, which were delivered by three women; two employees at NHS Digital and another from a private sector technology company.
None of the women came into the sector via traditional technology routes, so their personal stories as to how they retrained and moved into technology roles were particularly interesting – especially their tales of overcoming adversity.
NHS Digital’s Women’s Network has since gone on to organise an ongoing series of “Lunch and Learn” talks from external speakers working in the digital and healthcare sectors.
Fostering confidence in women via speed networking
Networking can be key to professional and personal development, but some people can find it uncomfortable. An IWD speed networking event encouraged people across the organisation to network and ask questions ranging from career advice to book recommendations. The session was fast, loud and fun, with those taking part gaining greater confidence throughout the session. This was the second of such an event powered by the Women’s Network and once again proved to be a popular and engaging event.
Prompting discussions about gender balance in and out of work
As part of NHS Digital's IWD Campaign, the Women’s Network also hosted a Pledge Wall and a number of information stations; offering employees the opportunity to engage with the national #BalanceforBetter campaign. The information stations prompted many interesting discussions about gender balance both in and out of the workplace and the wall was a great opportunity for colleagues to show their support.
Both male and female colleagues accessed the drop-by stations, with several men opting to sign-up to NHS Digital's Women’s Network.
Using social media to provoke discussions about gender equality
Employees made pledges to drive gender balance forward and shared their messages with photos supporting the #BalanceforBetter pose across social media.
The overall aim was to use social media to provoke discussion around the theme of IWD, specifically aimed at encouraging more women into Digital roles.
NHS Digital also invited social media influencers in the Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics (STEM) community to join in and share their views.
The organisation also shared a video of its staff members encouraging more women to get into careers in STEM. Social media played a massive role with NHS Digital supporting the IWD campaign through its Twitter feed.
Raising awareness of menopause symptoms and experiences
One of the highlights of NHS Digital's “powered by” events was the menopause awareness events, which were open to all employees with the aim of raising awareness of menopause symptoms in the workplace. There was an opportunity to speak with a trained counsellor, followed by a lunch-and-learn session where employees were supported to speak openly about their experiences; suggesting ways that the menopause could be more supported within the workplace.