International Women’s Day is a chance for all of us to reflect and celebrate the women who have had an impact on us, both personally and professionally.
I am grateful to the strong women in my family who have inspired me. It is hard to choose one woman amongst the many who have made a deep impression on me and helped to shape my values.
While it may seem obvious to mention Florence Nightingale, her determination to speak up about the dreadful conditions in the Crimea shows the power of speaking up and how it can effect change. Patients still benefit today from the change of mindset she helped to instil through her championing of cleanliness, nutrition and using data and statistics to understand and improve health.
There is some controversy over Florence Nightingale’s legacy. Perhaps even now, she, like many people who speak up, is a victim of detriment; personal attacks because people either did not like the idea of change, or maybe that it was a woman who was saying it.
It can take courage to speak up. As Malala Yousafzai said, “We realise the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.” And we can be silenced in many ways, either because we fear for our own friendships, reputation, job or because we believe that nothing will be done, that our voices will not be heard.
When she was 15-years-old, Malala stood up against the Taliban in Pakistan, demanding that girls be allowed to receive an education. On her way home after taking an exam, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman because she had spoken up. She survived and went on to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her work against the suppression of young people and for the right of all children to education.
She later said: “If people were silent nothing would change.”
This is why I champion workers to speak up. If we keep speaking up, if we keep sharing our concerns, issues, ideas for improvement, only then can change happen.
It may take courage, but your Freedom to Speak Up Guardian is here for you so that you feel less alone. They are one of the routes you can use to speak up within your organisation. You can find your Freedom to Speak Up Guardian here.
Speaking up on its own cannot lead to improvement and change without the voice of change being listened to and action taken. That is why, on this International Women’s Day, I am also celebrating a female leader who listened to me and taught me the importance of listening and taking action.
My clinical tutor in my nurse training always encouraged me to be the best I could be. She showed me the positive power of being an advocate for those in my care and the importance of speaking up on their behalf.
I am grateful for all those inspiring women who have influenced me. This International Women’s Day, I hope you will take a moment to reflect on those women whose voices have had an impact on you.