Jenny Turk, Business Support Manager, has been an integral part of the ambulance service for 25 years and throughout her time, has bore witness to varying behaviours and attitudes towards women from her fellow colleagues.
Jenny joined the service straight out of school as an apprentice administrator. She told us, “When I joined, I was 18 years old. The ambulance service was very male-dominated and I worked with people a lot older than me. I was often berated by my female line manager for showing initiative in my role which really knocked my confidence. Looking back, I believe she felt threatened because I had been recruited to take over her role when she retired, which wasn’t for another seven years. The role I had for a number of years was a very ‘typical’ old-fashioned secretarial role. Women were expected to take minutes, none of the men in the room would be asked as they were the decision makers. I was expected to make copious amounts of coffee in between managing a busy work schedule. The boss would never make his own or offer to make me one but would tap his cup on the table to remind me it was coffee time again!”
Jenny recalls that one of the barriers she has faced within the service developed when she had children. She said, “When I had my first child, my line manager at the time forbid anyone at work from contacting me without asking her first. I wasn’t aware of this at the time and just thought my colleagues had forgotten about me. This had a negative effect on me and my colleagues. When I was on maternity leave in 2006 with my second child, the ambulance services merged and my work role changed. The executive team disbanded in Cumbria and a new team was formed, based at the HQ in Bolton. As part of my re-deployment, I was expected to work from HQ but as a mum to two young children this wasn’t an option for me and my post remained in Cumbria, albeit on my own. There was no option of remote or agile working arrangements in those days.”
Jenny believes that her own self-belief and the lack of support have been her biggest barriers. She explained, “The biggest barrier I have is my lack of confidence and self-belief. Being in Cumbria, I was often left to ‘get on with the job’ and whilst people told me I was doing a great job and that I was well respected within the trust because of my work ethic, there was never any suggestion of development opportunities or career progression for me. I was stuck in a rut. However, in the last five years, my line manager and other senior managers have been incredibly supportive. My manager is very keen to see me develop and move out of my comfort zone. I now put myself forward for things I previously would have shied away from.”
Jenny tells us that NWAS has become a more inclusive employer over recent years saying, “There are many more women in senior roles and there is more investment in staff. Health and wellbeing and staff support is high on the trust’s agenda. But there’s still more to be done, especially for our frontline workers. We need a process so that pregnant ladies in operational roles, who can no longer be patient facing have meaningful roles to support the wider trust and utilise their skills throughout their pregnancy.”