08 March 2022

International Women's Day 2022: Break the Bias

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #breakthebias - and we’re asked to imagine a gender equal world, one which is free from bias, stereotypes and discrimination. We believe this is the perfect time to reflect on Transform Hospital Group’s efforts to provide an inclusive workplace with accessible opportunity for all.

We caught up with Vicki Milton, our Finance Director and member of our Senior Management Team, to find out more about her career journey to senior management and the changing workplace gender dynamics she’s experienced in that time. We also asked Tony Veverka, our CEO, to comment on the importance of equality in the workforce.

Vicki’s story

“Numbers were always what I was good at, and so when I left school, I studied for a maths degree. That led me to move to London to pursue a role as an accountant. I think I was fortunate in that there was a noticeable shift in gender balance within that particular field around the time I was undergoing my initial training at an accountancy firm.

Although all of the partners within the practice were male, and despite a career in accountancy having been traditionally viewed as a ‘male’ role, the trainees were an even balance of the sexes. And that gender balance continued to evolve as I worked towards qualifying as an accountant and training as an auditor - I noticed the shift grew to such an extent that women began to make up the majority of the trainees in each cohort. Now it’s much more common to find women in accountancy roles.

After five years, I took up a position as an accountant for a leading hearing aid retail firm. I chose to move from professional practice because I wanted to be able to put change into action. When you train in accountancy, particularly as an auditor, you’re responsible for identifying issues and making recommendations to resolve them. Once I made the move from professional practice to industry and worked within a company, I enjoyed being able to take action myself and be the one to instigate the change. From there, I progressed to the role of financial controller, before becoming the finance director for the company.

I’ve worked in diverse teams where I didn’t feel that gender was a defining factor, and enjoy the challenge of continuously pushing myself within my role. Although I recognise that gender is a barrier for many women in the workplace, I’ve been incredibly fortunate throughout my career in that I’ve never seen it as a direct obstacle for me. During my time with the accountancy practice I received guidance from a mentor from another country, as we were a large national group. That made a big impact on me, especially as at one point I was the only female director in the entire group. As far as I was aware, all my predecessors in this role had been male. However, that’s not to say that women didn’t have opportunities within the business – at one point, our executive team was 80% female, but equally, at other times it was 20% female.

Although I’ve never mentored in an official capacity, when I’m in any role I like to make a conscious effort to develop those around me, regardless of their gender. While I feel I’ve been quite lucky not to be discriminated against because of my gender, there was a noticeable element of a ‘boys club’ environment in the industry in the early years of my career. As I progressed I was incredibly fortunate to be surrounded and influenced by a balance of men and women, thanks to the shift in gender dynamics. There was a sense of comradery amongst us because, even if there was a disparity at a higher level, my peers and I felt we were part of a move towards positive change.

I’ve been with Transform Hospital Group for about a year now. I joined as Finance Director, following on from my previous post at the same level. This company has had a period of transformation over the last few years and I was eager to be involved at such an exciting time. I’m delighted that I’m with a business which champions inclusivity and diversity in all its forms and encourages an environment of support and further progression for all employees.”

Tony Veverka, CEO, Transform Hospital Group

“Transform Hospital Group is committed to continuous improvement in all areas of equality, diversity and inclusion.

As a healthcare and wellbeing organisation, 81% of our workforce identifies as female. Of course, gender equality works both ways – many roles may have been viewed as ‘for females’ in years gone by, but increasingly men are filling them, too.

Two of the five members of our Senior Management Team are women. While that statistic may not seem ‘bad’, we know that there is much, much more work to be carried out before we can say that we’re proud of our achievements in this area.

We’ve grown pretty quickly during the past few years, and that’s prompted us to become increasingly aware that we need a robust strategy for all kinds of equality, diversity and inclusion – one that’s truly embedded within our organisation. While we’ve always considered ourselves an inclusive company, we know that unconscious bias could influence what we do.

We understand that we need to think proactively in order to keep on improving. And we’ve started to put considerable time, energy and creativity into what we’ve termed IDEA – Inclusivity, Diversity and Equality Action. An all-colleague, anonymous IDEA survey in December 2021 helped us understand our current position and set a benchmark. Now we’re working on a strategy which will help us achieve, initially, our basic objectives, before rolling out enhanced activity which, we hope, will see us become a diversity leader in the UK healthcare industry.

Many organisations embrace equality, diversity and inclusion because it can be good for business. Here at Transform Hospital Group, we don’t want to just talk the talk, we want to walk the walk, too. And we want to take strides, rather than steps – because a diverse workforce, led by a diverse senior team, is not just something to do to improve our company’s bottom line. It is, quite simply, the right thing to do.