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International Women’s Day: Inspiring Inclusion at our College 

08 Mar 2024

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2024, our female Fellows and Members share inspiring stories of leadership across different countries, specialties, and career stages. 

This year, the theme of International Women’s Day is Inspire Inclusion. Although progress has been made, there is still work to be done to improve gender equality in the healthcare profession. This starts with ensuring women are supported in clinical leadership, research, and education, both in the NHS and internationally. 

Our College is committed to ensuring the healthcare profession has equality, diversity, and inclusion at its heart.   

Three of our clinical leaders; Morven McElroy, Honorary Secretary; Professor Dr Saira Saleem, International Council Member and Emily Turner, Trainee Committee Co-Chair, have shared their journey to, and experience of, leadership in the workplace and wider medical community.  

Emily Turner (pictured above), Trainees’ Committee Co-Chair and Respiratory Registrar at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Paisley 

“I joined the Trainees’ Committee because I’m passionate about improving the training environment for my peers. 

“I believe a strong trainee voice is crucial for shaping our experience and, through the committee, our diverse team has been able to represent all trainees to advocate for changes that benefit both doctors in training and our patients.”  

Our Trainees’ Committee is active in undertaking a variety of research projects to improve the experiences of doctors in training in the UK and Internationally. This includes looking at fostering an inclusive working environment, as Emily notes: “I am proud that the Trainees’ Committee is actively advocating and working on a wide range of issues, which includes those which disproportionally affect women, such as Less Than Full Time Training and we are currently developing projects that will support trainees during pregnancy and paternity leave.” 

She adds “As a woman in medicine, I’ve personally experienced the challenges of navigating a traditionally male-dominated field. 

“Through the College, I have been lucky to meet and be mentored by strong female role models, and their support has been incredibly valuable to me during both my medical training and clinical leadership journey.” 

When asked what advice she would give to aspiring female leaders, Emily says: “I believe the key is not to underestimate yourself, to step into your voice as a leader, and always act in a way that is true to your values. It is important that we all inspire and empower the next generation of female clinical leaders.” 

Professor Dr Saria Saleem, International Council Member and HOD Breast Surgeon at Madina Teaching Hospital, Pakistan 

When asked what motivated her to join our College council as the first international councillor, Professor Saleem said: “I had a desire to contribute to the College’s international initiatives and have a passion for fostering global collaboration in education and skills. College values of equality, diversity and inclusivity propelled me to attempt Royal College election into a leadership position. 

“My mother is always my first teacher, motivation and inspiration to face all the challenges in my professional life. Jackie Taylor, the first female president of Royal College Glasgow is another inspiration for me.” 

Reflecting on the importance of female perspectives in shaping our College’s global mission, she said: “I believe women in leadership roles positively influence the institutional growth and longevity. Women bring diverse perspectives and skills to the table, promoting inclusivity and equality and enriching the college’s global mission. 

“Gender diversity is very important in decision-making for a holistic and well-rounded approach.”  

Professor Saleem was the first female and youngest surgeon in her home city of Faisalabad; breaking against gender biases, she reflects on the difficulty of being accepted. I faced a lot of challenges like acceptance of a female as a surgeon in the community, at institutional level, getting the job, and an executive position despite top merit. It was very painful and discouraging.”  

“We should overcome barriers for women to access to professional development by providing equal opportunities, educational initiatives, and initiatives to address gender bias in the medical field globally. 

“Women in leadership positions act as role models and can support aspiring female professionals in medicine. Overcoming the barriers will empower women to work to their full potential which will positively impact society.”  

Morven McElroy, College Honorary Secretary and Consultant Geriatrician at Glasgow Royal Infirmary 

“I have always been interested in health policy and education. As a trainee we underwent several changes in how our training was undertaken. I became involved via the trainees’ committee, and this was a really good way to feel you were getting your voice heard in how training was delivered, and I felt we made a real difference to training and education. 

“Having good role models and mentors, formal or informal, really helps. I have found throughout my journey that people in the College are really helpful and encouraging. 

“We need doctors and leaders from all walks of life. This brings a richness to our profession. In reality, female role models are still in the minority in most specialties, in particular the surgical specialties, but they will continue to grow as we champion inclusivity. Personally, having strong female role models inspired me to do the specialty I now do as I saw in them that it was possible to it.” 

Category: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

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