Andrea Kelleher, Senior Account Director & Client Services Manager, Smooth Digital
In the current climate, the value of female leadership in social care cannot be underestimated.
Although it may seem like a thing of the past, the Covid pandemic is still very much affecting the care sector today. It has had a lingering effect on people’s willingness to view care homes, and many people are still feeling apprehensive about the risk of Covid being present in homes, – whether they are worried for themselves or a loved one.
This, along with the cost of living crisis, is resulting in an incredibly challenging time for the social care sector. The increased outgoings and more hesitant acquisition of income has a serious knock-on effect to all areas of a care business, including staff retention due to lack of funding for raises in line with inflation, struggles with energy bills, and inability to properly invest in home maintenance. All these factors combined can really affect the standard of care a provider can give.
In such challenging times, it is crucial to innovate and think outside the box to find solutions. For this, you need insight. And who knows better than your own workforce on the front line?
As is said time and time again, women make up around 85% of the care workforce. Given their unique perspective as a result of this, female leaders are well positioned to lead this effort, and therefore it’s essential to empower them to do so. As they deal with these issues, practising and refining what works every day, women can leverage their understanding to drive innovation and improve the quality of care provided.
Moreover, we can’t forget that the care industry does exactly what is said on the tin: it cares. This means that a majority of the time, problems in the sector require an empathetic approach when finding a solution, with the care of individuals kept at the forefront of our minds. Women have a natural ability to approach problems with empathy, on average scoring slightly to significantly higher than men in cognitive empathy in every single country tested around the world. Therefore, I believe it’s essential for women to be included in leadership roles, in order to maintain a balance of the business aspects in the sector, while ensuring that the care of individuals is always the priority.
Recently I was on a call with a director, it was the first time I’d spoken to her one on one, and it was so inspiring to chat with her, I left feeling excited about the possibility of where I could be in the coming years. She struck me as confident and poised, she was straight to the point with excellent communication skills, and she was comfortable in her knowledge, capabilities, and place as a leader.
It got me thinking about my own team, and why representation of leaders who are just like you, really matters. Seeing people that you can relate to achieve success, in any sense of the word, is so inspiring. I think that inspiration is integral in growing the number of women in care leadership positions. We need to show them that it is their space too.
In my role in marketing, it’s essential to create campaigns based on an understanding of how people work. Going back to my previous point about empathy, I think being able to direct campaigns with an empathetic understanding of what people are thinking and feeling is crucial.
I also believe it’s critical that when we want the best outcomes for our clients, that we have the optimal team set up to make that work. Gender-diverse teams are proven to work better and produce better results.
Working with women in the sector, I have dedicated myself to tackling one of the toughest problems in the industry right now: recruitment. I have spearheaded innovative campaigns, thinking out of the box to create quirky strategies showcasing the sector in a positive light, with amazing results. I utilise relevant new platforms to target people outside of the sector and educate them about the opportunities within the sector. This has resulted in a fantastic 2,875 leads in the past year.
My approach is well rounded, considering all angles of what people would want to see, for example, filming staff testimonials using the type of person the company wants to hire. I put myself in their shoes to think about what I’d like in a role that would genuinely excite and benefit me.
Working with the women in my team, my approach is focused on empowering them to support themselves rather than showing them how to do everything, to helping them be leaders in their own right. I make a conscious effort to give them their own space to establish themselves with clients. Although I am their manager, I make sure to keep a safe space for them to voice their opinions, and implement active measures based on their suggestions.
Decisions based on empathy are, especially coming from women, often subjected to questioning and doubt, but we can’t progress and build the care sector we want to see without making changes and keeping its people in mind. Women are at the forefront of innovating compassionately, we just need to clear the way and let them at it.