International Women’s Day is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender equality.
Our Health Board is made up of a whole host of amazing women, from all kinds of backgrounds.
As women all over the world come together to mark International Women’s Day 2022, some of our female members share their thoughts and stories.
Dr Karen Mottart, Ysbyty Gwynedd Medical Director
I’ve been inspired by many women in my life and career, notably both my grandmothers. My paternal grandmother was a woman of huge emotional intelligence and demonstrated the power of love as a key attribute for matriarchs (which she most certainly was!). She was without doubt the most constant and stable figure during my young life. Meanwhile my mother’s mother was highly intelligent. She was a doctor of chemistry and worked in the labs with Watson and Crick, which taught me that it is possible to have a career as a woman.
I chose to attend Royal Free in London for my medical education. This choice was primarily linked to its history as the first all-female medical school. I learnt in an environment where my fellow students were 50:50 women to men, which was rare at the time. It is heartening to see that increasing numbers of women are choosing medicine as a career. My niece is now pursuing a career as a doctor, she is in her fourth year at medical school, and it is awesome to hear her talking about her goals. She certainly has a more positive perspective on women in medicine than I did.
While it is International Women’s Day, I have also been inspired by a handful of men during my career, in particular a Swansea Intensivist during the penultimate year of training. Almost his first words to me were ‘I can’t teach you any more medicine, but I can show you how to be a consultant’. He did teach me a lot of critical care medicine but he was also an inspirational leader and much of my approach today I can track back to him.
I took up my first post as Consultant in Ysbyty Gwynedd in 1997, and in 2016 I became Interim Medical Director before taking up the post full time. The prospect of the medical director role was daunting; I did not think I was good enough. However, with support and some time I have grown into the role. It is a huge privilege to hold this ‘office’ and gives me an opportunity to support all staff, and influence our journey. I thrive by supporting my colleagues to fulfil their potential. It is vital that we are kind to each other, acknowledge and reward colleagues for what they do. It is all too easy to focus on the negative. The last two years have been incredibly challenging and more now than ever do we need that honest and open dialogue.
I am fortunate to have had the support and encouragement from colleagues, friends and family throughout my career. I have never felt disadvantaged as a woman in the medical profession, but I know that is not everyone’s experience. I realise we still have some way to go to have a truly level playing field, as I see the inequality around me.
In my role as Medical Director, I am passionate about encouraging female leadership. I see some great women coming through the ranks who I know could be a real influence in our organisation. I am a strong believer in the inner strength and resilience of women and think we can make a real difference.
Dr Alison Ingham, Consultant in Anaesthesia & Intensive Care and Regional Clinical Lead for Organ Donation North West
I have been an organ donation champion since I became a Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine in 2005. Organ donation is often the only positive thing to come out of a tragic situation and providing that gift of life is life changing to others.
I was lucky to be part of the talks to bring about the change in legislation in Wales in 2015 when we became the first country in the UK to move to a soft opt-out system of consent to organ donation. Following this, I have worked with some incredible members of the Organ Donation team who have helped push the message out around organ donation, not only get people talking about it, but also change the way they think about organ donation which has saved many lives through the donations that have been made.
I work alongside an amazing team of men and women, including the Specialist Nurses in Organ Donation who are inspiring and their work is invaluable. Although there are many women within teams who work for NHSBT (NHS Blood and Transplant) there are still more men on the national committee. This is probably due to the fact there are more men in Consultant roles in Intensive Care Units who then take on the Clinical Lead roles. I think it’s still undeniably harder for women than men in the medical profession. Women are still seen as the main carers and are more likely to have that time off work to care for children. Also there is still the stereotypical view that the senior doctors are men, I have even been mistaken as the junior doctor on my ward round with the patient automatically assuming my male registrar was the Consultant. Unfortunately, this is still there today, but it is changing. I hope for the future we see many more women coming through as Consultants and in senior roles within organisations.
As I always say to both my daughters, don’t let anything stop you achieving what you want in life and that would be my message to all women out there on International Women’s Day.
Charlotte Makanga, Consultant Antimicrobial Pharmacist, Trustee Girl Guiding Cymru & International Commissioner for Girl Guiding UK
I have worked within Pharmacy for around 20 years and in recent years took up the role of Consultant Antimicrobial Pharmacist for the Health Board. I am passionate about educating the public around the use of antibiotics and the damaging effects the overuse of antibiotics can have.
My other passion outside work is the Girl Guides. I joined the Guides at just seven-years-old, they have given me incredible opportunities which have taken me all over the world. Being part of this organisation completely changed my life and gave me the courage and confidence to become who I wanted to be.
I am extremely passionate about making things better for women in life and making sure young women get the opportunities they deserve. It has been a real privilege to be part of Trustee Girl Guiding Cymru and seeing many young women blossom and grow and gaining leadership skills.
Many young girls out there struggle with body image and part of my role is to support them and encourage them to be happy with themselves and feel empowered to become whoever they want to be. It is very difficult for young women these days, especially with social media, with a lot of pressure to look or behave in a certain way so there needs to be real support and encouragement for them out there.
My message on International Women’s Day is to don’t ever think you are not good enough and don’t ever be scared to pursue what you want in life – just go for it.
Dr Jennifer Kent, Junior Doctor
I’ve only been a doctor for eight months and I’ve had a good flavour of working within surgery, medicine and general practice. In general, I’ve had a wonderful experience so far of being a doctor but I have come across a few challenges working as a woman in the medical field. In particular, the general assumption on a daily basis that I’m not a doctor and mistaken for another allied health professional. This sometimes makes me feel the need to show I have the knowledge and skills of a doctor so the patients trust me in the same way as they would my male counterparts.
Even though we have great support from our male senior doctors I have missed having more female representation in senior roles, such as registrars and consultant positions. This is definitely more noticeable within surgery and it is important to see more women in those roles that I can look up to.
What I would love to see in the future is more women representation in those senior roles, and it would be great to have more mentorship offered to young female junior doctors like myself. It would be great to see more female senior physicians as mentors who can act as a sounding board to bounce ideas off and provide nuanced career advice with the understanding of what it is like to be a woman in the medical field. This is something I hope we can all work on for the future.
Professor Tracey Williamson, Consultant Dementia Nurse
As a Nurse Consultant for Dementia my role is about identifying existing good practice and sharing it across our Health Board. As a registered General Nurse my focus is initially with our general and community hospital sites to drive up standards of patient experience. I also have a particular interest in family carer’s experience and want to ensure their needs and views are responded to. It is a privilege to work with a range of partners in my work and I am honoured to have been appointed as an Honorary Professor at the University of Worcester focused on patient and family engagement. I am hoping to use my engagement skills to help us engage even better across the Health Board, especially within the Mental Health and Learning Disability Division where I see lots of opportunity and enthusiasm. As a single mum it has been hard to get my career to this point but my drive is to make every dementia patient’s experience the best it can be, as if they were my own family member. My job roles help me to do this as they give me increased opportunities to work with others and get things done, moving from talk to action.
Amy Kerti, Consultant Dementia Nurse
I am a Consultant Nurse for Dementia at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB). As a Registered Mental Health Nurse (RMN), I have specialised in dementia in various roles and services for around 20 years. I tailored my career and academia solely towards improving the care of people living with dementia and their families. I have developed dementia services in private care, social care and the NHS, including a National service for young people living with dementia and their families. I believe that people living with dementia should have access to the best support to remain at home with loved ones. My career has been a privilege throughout, having worked with extraordinary people at the most difficult time in their lives. In return, they have taught me so much about life and human values. I firmly advocate evidence-based practice, continuity and compassion in care. I believe the workforce must feel empowered, knowledgeable and clinically skilled to practice in an exemplary manner. As an honorary Senior lecturer at University of Bangor, I believe that education in dementia care will motivate healthcare professionals of the future to pursue rewarding careers with people living with dementia. To drive up new standards and develop novel ways of working.