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Earl Howe calls for more women on CCG boards

A health minister has admitted that women are underrepresented on CCG boards and said there was a problem with the career progression of female doctors.

Earl Howe told a House of Lords debate this month that women were in a ‘significant minority’ in senior leadership roles, which was a ‘loss all round’.

Answering a question posed by BMA president Baroness Hollins about how to support women working in the NHS, Earl Howe said: ‘I think this is less of a problem with retention of female doctors than a problem with the career progression of female doctors, which is a serious and significant issue.’

Baroness Cumberlege suggested the NHS Commissioning Board examined this issue before authorising CCGs. Earl Howe said the NHS Leadership Academy had established development opportunities but added that ‘more work was needed’ to ‘aid progress in this area’.   

Dr Fiona Cornish, president of the Medical Women’s Federation said she was ‘impressed’ that Earl Howe was taking the issue seriously.

She added that fewer females on CCG boards weaken its clout: ‘The dangers of a lack of women on CCG boards will be that decision-making won’t be effective. I’m not arguing for an all-female board, a balance is effective. You can’t make effective decisions when drawing from only half of the talent pool.’

Women entering leadership positions on CCG boards or royal colleges feel they are in a minority, she said.

She added: ‘This is a generalisation, but women don’t have the self confidence that men do, or the inclination to take risks. There’s also the triple burden of having a day job, and then being mainly responsible for the domestic duties. So leadership is a third to add on to this, meaning it often falls by the wayside.

‘Some don’t want to do it, and we must acknowledge that, but we have to be creating the right environment so that those who do, can,’ she said.