Skip to content

YOUR COOKIE SETTINGS

We’re using cookies as specified in our cookies policy to give you the best experience on our website.You can find out more about which cookies we are using or switch them off by clicking Manage settings

Accept and continueManage settings

Contact us Customer portal

View navigation

YOUR COOKIE SETTINGS

We’re using cookies as specified in our cookies policy to give you the best experience on our website.You can find out more about which cookies we are using or switch them off by clicking Manage settings

Accept and continueManage settings

News

Back to all news

International Women's Day 2022

8th March 2022

Today is International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. This year’s theme is #BreakTheBias, which is being used to raise awareness of bias, and to spark conversations around how we can create a world that is free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.

To mark this important milestone in the calendar, we caught up with a few of our System C colleagues, who very generously shared what their career journeys have looked like so far, their proudest moments and their thoughts on diversity in the health tech industry.


Liz Slynn, Commercial Director

Liz SlynnCan you tell us a bit about your personal story and how you have got to where you are today?

I ‘fell’ into the healthcare market when I left college. I started off working on a help desk, taking, and logging incidents from the NHS and Irish Healthcare organisations. I have always been very ambitious and having two children at a young age did not deter me. I have always worked full time and I have worked hard in my career to be a success. Having been in this industry for over 30 years, I am still as passionate today about working for an organisation which strives to improve patient care.

What has been your proudest career moment to date?

Coming to work for System C. I have known Markus Bolton (founder and joint CEO) for many years and nearly joined System C about 15 years ago. I love working for a company that puts its people first. I was warmly welcomed into the System C senior management team and have really enjoyed the last three years here. Ian (Denley - Joint CEO) and Markus lead with an ‘open door’ approach which means they are very approachable and always contactable. They value their employees, which is a breath of fresh air compared to other organisations.

Opportunities in the health tech sector are growing, due in part to the acceleration of digital transformation amongst Trusts etc. over the past two years. Do you think this is helping gender diversity in the sector?

I think it is now generally accepted that diverse teams are more creative and better at problem-solving. That’s simply because different types of people bring different perspectives and life experiences to the table. Like-minded people often have very similar ideas. By recruiting, retaining, and promoting more women at all levels of a company, you help your workforce better understand the concerns, stressors, and motivators of the total population your company serves. Without diverse talent, it makes it harder for your company to keep up with the increasingly diverse customer base that exists today.

Why do you think gender diversity is so important in the tech industry – and what can be done to help improve it?

It’s still fairly common to see fewer women than men in C-level positions, or on work teams that have traditionally been male-dominated, such as construction or tech IT. Likewise, it’s equally uncommon to find men in traditionally female jobs, such as elementary education and nursing.

Gender diversity doesn’t mean your company needs a 50/50 mix of males and females in every job in the company. It does mean, however, that all roles – at every level in the company – should have a fair representation of both sexes. I believe that at System C we have that in our senior leadership team. Promotion is achieved by ambition and success in your role, not because of your gender.

What would be your main piece of advice for women wanting to start a career in health tech?

Studies show that business teams with an equal gender mix perform significantly better than male-dominated teams when it comes to both sales and profits. Despite this fact, many organizations fail to devote time and attention to creating a more balanced workforce, particularly for higher-level positions. But do not be put off. Not all roles in the healthcare IT market are ‘technical roles’.

You can see from my story that I started my career on a help desk and have successfully been working as a director for the last eight years. If you have ambition and drive and are passionate about what you do, you can succeed, whatever your gender.

Jen Bell, Head of Communications

Jen Bell IWDCan you tell us a bit about your personal story and how you have got to where you are today?

I originally wanted to be a journalist but after a couple of work experience stints in public relations agencies, I decided to follow that path instead. My dad was also an inspiration. He has specialised in healthcare PR for many years – I grew up hearing about the fantastic global and UK PR work that has was doing for Pfizer, Novartis, Eli Lily, GlaxoSmithKline, and the Mental Health Foundation, amongst many others.

I worked in consultancies for the first few years, which I would recommend to anyone as it exposes you to such a broad range of businesses, media, PR tactics, and scenarios. I then took up a senior comms position at New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, the country’s government export agency, where I managed the health tech, marine and America’s Cup customer portfolios. In 2012, I decided to set up my own PR consultancy (inspired by the many businesses that I worked with at NZTE!) and ended up working for myself for the remaining years that my husband, two little boys and I were in New Zealand. I looked after more than 100 clients during that time, including Marriott International, Kidney Kids, Dole, Beyond Meat, Nairn’s Oatcakes, and others.

We moved back to the UK at the end of 2020 (awesome timing) and I was delighted to take up the position at System C the next year – the only job that I applied for.

What has been your proudest career moment to date?

I’m happy to say that there have been a few. Establishing and running my own agency for almost a decade is a definite highlight. It gave me a boost of confidence in my own abilities, and provided me with endless valuable experiences that I’ve been able to bring into my role at System C.

It’s difficult to pick one moment from my career, but I would probably go with the work that I did for Active+, New Zealand’s largest rehabilitation company. They had never done any PR before, so I was delighted to be able to get them on national TV (many times!), radio and in multiple glossy magazines and newspapers during the years that we worked together. Organising a Guinness World Record attempt for UNICEF (the world’s largest water pistol fight) also stands out, as it received blanket media coverage, and raised thousands of dollars for the charity.

Another fantastic moment was organising an event attended by Prince William - he helped us raise the profile of water polo during one of his visits to New Zealand!

More recently, getting the position at System C has been an incredibly proud moment. To be given the responsibility of protecting and developing the Care Alliance’s profile and reputation…it’s a real privilege and means a lot to me.

Opportunities in the health tech sector are growing, due in part to the acceleration of digital transformation amongst Trusts etc. over the past two years. Do you think this is helping gender diversity in the sector?

I am definitely seeing more diversity in general in the health tech industry – and it’s interesting that this was the case in New Zealand as well. I’m seeing very similar trends since I’ve been back in the UK. I think gender stereotypes are gradually being broken down across the board, not just in our sector. For example, I know that there are now more female pharmacists than male, something that would have been unthinkable years ago. The number of female engineers has also increased recently. Hopefully, this is a sign that we are moving into an era where it is entirely about the skills, knowledge, and passion that you can bring to an industry and individual roles – rather than it being anything to do with your gender. I know that this is the case at System C, which is one of the reasons the business appealed to me.

Why do you think gender diversity is so important in the tech industry – and what can be done to help improve it?

It’s vital that we have diversity – not just related to gender but different races, ages, religious beliefs, socio-economic backgrounds, political views, and sexual orientation as well. Innovation and creativity thrives when people with a wide range of life experiences and perspectives come together. Diversity and inclusion benefits everyone: the employee, the business, the customer and (in our case), the individuals that they are caring for. There is still work to be done, particularly at the more senior and board level. Though progress has been made, most board level positions in the UK are still held by men – it would be great to get a little closer to 50/50. I think the key is to remain open minded as a company, ensure that opportunities are available to everyone – regardless of gender, and to recognise the importance of having a variety of perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences at every level of the business.

What would be your main piece of advice for women wanting to start a career in health tech?

I’m a huge fan of work experience and graduate schemes (if you’re coming from university) as it allows you to get a feel for the industry, and where the ideal place might be for your interests and skills. Don’t feel like you can’t apply for a job or enter a particular industry because of your gender – I would like to think that those days are behind us, though websites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn are useful for career research. You can quickly work out which businesses have a happy workforce, and you can check out the level of diversity by seeing how many people from different backgrounds/gender etc. are employed throughout the company.

A career in health tech is rewarding and ever-changing, with a broad range of roles (it’s not all coding!) If it’s something that you have been thinking about, just go for it. If you’re interested in PR specifically, absorb as much information as you can. There are loads of books and free webinars on the subject. It is also worth signing up to the PRWeek UK weekly bulletins to keep up with the latest industry trends and news (they have a healthcare one and others, so you can tailor depending on your interests).

Sarah da Silva, Information Governance Director

Sarah da Silva IWDCan you tell us a bit about your personal story and how you have got to where you are today?

I left school at 17, I didn’t go to university and went straight into work. At 19, I started working within the NHS, initially as bank staff and my second placement was in the information governance (IG) team. Almost 16 years later, I am still in the same area of work. I never imagined that this would be the work I would do, but I am so grateful it is. I have had the pleasure of working in acute and mental health hospitals, in a local authority and in private healthcare, focussing mainly on children’s services. It taught me so much and gave me so much relevant knowledge to bring to a health tech company. Most importantly, it taught me so much about the practical and pragmatic impact IG should have. I am now soaking in the knowledge from my technical peers on delivering the best system possible and service to our NHS and Local Authority partners.

What has been your proudest career moment to date?

I think it is about to happen! On the 12th May, Graphnet will be hosting “A Celebration of IG” for our customers. I can’t believe I get to help organise a whole day dedicated to the work I do! I have worked with so many wonderful IG colleagues over the years and to have them in attendance or speaking at the event makes me feel incredibly proud. I always feel a bit sorry for IG. It gets a bad rap, but it is an amazingly rich and critical area of work. The privacy and security sphere is critical in all aspects of our lives, and I hope that the day can be a time for IG colleagues to also feel proud of what they do.

Opportunities in the health tech sector are growing, due in part to the acceleration of digital transformation amongst Trusts etc. over the past two years. Do you think this is helping gender diversity in the sector?

I believe that the majority of staff working in the NHS are female. These women are the carers, the social workers, the administrators, the executives, and the doctors. The digital transformation agenda has shown these women that there are tools available to them that they may have never previously realised. We do not have to look far across the alliance to see wonderful colleagues join us from the varied roles within the NHS. Each of these individuals have realised that the digital services are just as important in the transformation of healthcare as it is working in the community and as such coupled with their knowledge of the area has led to massive advancements in the health care sector.

Why do you think gender diversity is so important in the tech industry – and what can be done to help improve it?

In my experience I haven’t found gender diversity to be an issue. My role is certainly less of a technical role; however, I have always worked surrounded by incredible women who have, I hope, always been considered equal in their work. One thing I love about working at the Alliance is the diversity and teamwork. I have some amazing women working around me, who really are inspirational and ultimately the least exciting thing about them is their gender. It is important to say that I work with some amazing men too, who are respectful of the work and role I have, and I am very grateful to have that experience.

What would be your main piece of advice for women wanting to start a career in health tech?

There is this odd stigma that women are always competing against each other or needing to be tough, loud, and over-assertive to get to a position of seniority, but that is absolutely not the case. Gaining knowledge and experience from those around you, working hard and doing it with appreciation, optimism and enthusiasm is important. How you treat others around you and how you approach your work will help you in the long run. Treat all colleagues with respect and kindness. Be helpful and approachable. Keep your head down and keep working and I believe the world will be your oyster.

Sarah Peart-Bentham, Customer Director

Sarah PB IWDCan you tell us a bit about your personal story and how you have got to where you are today?

I started my career in Local Government, realising very quickly that project management was my strength. This led to working with a Primary Care Trust for a short period and then into a position at an Acute Trust. Very quickly from there I landed my first role at System C as a business change manager working specifically on the Isle of Man Government. I then moved on to managing PAS projects as a projectmanager, working my way up to programme manager. Later, I was appointed director of deployment and shortly afterwards this evolved, to include delivery and support. A company change in approach then led me to take up a customer director role. All up, I’ve been with System C for almost 17 years.

What has been your proudest career moment to date?

This is a difficult one to answer. My immediate response is that I don't have one. Not because I don't think I have a successful career - because I know I do - I just look forward to the next opportunity, not back.

Opportunities in the health tech sector are growing, due in part to the acceleration of digital transformation amongst Trusts etc. over the past two years. Do you think this is helping gender diversity in the sector?

Unfortunately, it feels like IT and development is still very much seen as a male role, the marketing of PC's in the 80's which pushed the narrative 'computers are for boys' is still having an impact today, there are not enough women entering the industry directly from school.

Why do you think gender diversity is so important in the tech industry – and what can be done to help improve it?

It is important for women to have the same opportunities as men. In addition, the pool of qualified good people we have to choose from is small. This could be mitigated if we encouraged and supported more women in applying.

What would be your main piece of advice for women wanting to start a career in health tech?

If you see an opportunity, just go for it, don't always question whether you are good enough, everybody has a learning curve when they start a new job (particularly if you’re switching industries). Have confidence in yourself and don’t talk yourself out of roles before you have even applied.

Jody Smith, Project Manager, Graphnet (formerly at System C)

Jody SmithCan you tell us a bit about your personal story and how you have got to where you are today?

I would describe my career as having a shaky start. After leaving sixth form with a couple of A Levels and a GNVQ, I spent one term at Canterbury Christchurch University College studying Psychology and Religion, with the thought of becoming a Religious Studies teacher. I think that was largely due to my secondary school Religious Studies teacher who was an inspirational woman and an amazing teacher. Anyway, after a term of driving to and from uni and being fed up with never having any spare cash, I decided to embark on a different journey. I remember feeling very disappointed following a visit to the Careers Advice office in the local town centre, where it was stated to me that I’d failed at uni, given up on my education and my options were limited. I didn’t see it that way, maybe naively at the time, I saw it as a conscious decision to take a different path to start my career.

I tried a few different jobs; washing cars, working in a pub, I even tried working for a charity for a bit as an administrative assistant. I joined System C in 2004 on a temporary basis as a receptionist. System C really gave me the confidence and opportunities to start my career in healthcare technology. I find myself downplaying my role in my own career when sharing my story with friends and family, fearful that I’ll sound like I’m blowing my own trumpet. I often find that I say things like, ‘I was lucky’, ‘I was in the right place at the right time’. Whilst both of those things may be true, I still put in a lot of effort and hard work to learn and gain experience and as my knowledge and experience grows, I feel less embarrassed to say, ‘I’m proud of what I’ve done and how far I’ve come’. System C took a risk and invested in me, they saw how keen I was and full of enthusiasm they taught me about healthcare and healthcare technologies, which gave me a great foundation on which to build. I’m still working in healthcare technology 18 years later and am continuing my career journey with the System C and Graphnet Alliance, currently as a Programme Manager.

What has been your proudest career moment to date?

When I look back, there are lots of moments that I feel proud of. I would say that the proudest moment so far was the go-live of a Shared Care Record in the South East of England, which I’d worked on from the beginning as the supplier side Project Manager. As with pretty much all projects, it had its challenges and delays, one of these challenges was the Coronavirus pandemic. Having been in Live use for a number of months now, uptake of the Shared Care Record is still increasing as healthcare and social care professionals start to realise the benefits of joined up healthcare technologies, the ability to share citizen and patient data safely and to give citizens in the area the best health and social care experiences and outcomes.

Opportunities in the health tech sector are growing, due in part to the acceleration of digital transformation amongst Trusts etc. over the past two years. Do you think this is helping gender diversity in the sector?

It’s really difficult to try and pinpoint one or two things that are helping with gender diversity in healthcare technology, as I personally think there are many contributing factors. There are still hints of ‘the boys club’ in technology, but these are very few and far between. During my years in the industry, I have seen the change happening, although I may not have been aware of it at the time. It wouldn’t be unusual say 10 years ago, to be the only woman in a work meeting, whereas that’s very rare now. I definitely think that the digital transformation agendas being set for health and social care are creating more opportunities and these are being filled by people of all genders, as men and women often approach problems differently, this can create a more creative working environment. More importantly, I think advances in technology in general are making a huge difference to gender diversity in the workplace as those with family commitments are often able to be more flexible with their working hours and locations. With remote working being forced on many during the pandemic, it has shown employers that they don’t need bums on seats in an office environment, to be productive and get the best from your teams.

Why do you think gender diversity is so important in the tech industry – and what can be done to help improve it?

The way that men and women approach projects and problems can vary, and it is good to have that diversity in thinking, so that we can challenge each other to be better and not always take the well-trodden path to a resolution. The culture of a company plays an important role here, as you could have a gender diverse team, but if staff don’t feel confident and are not encouraged to speak up with new ideas, then it matters less about the gender and more about the leadership and role models within that company. During my time with the Graphnet side of the Alliance, I’ve seen a huge shift in gender diversity, with more women now in senior roles. The culture of Graphnet is that staff are encouraged to come forward with new ideas and suggestions. With more and more women being appointed in leadership roles, I believe that this will help to bring more women into the industry and breakdown ‘the boys club’ stereotypes that technology has had.

What would be your main piece of advice for women wanting to start a career in health tech?

My advice to women starting out in healthcare technology is the same for people of any gender, be yourself and don’t be afraid to ask the ‘stupid questions’, but don’t ask the same question more than twice to the same person. We all learn and take information on board in different ways, so asking the same question twice is acceptable in my book. If you ask a third time, then you’re either asking the wrong question, asking the wrong person, or you need to do a bit more of your own homework. Healthcare is also one of the worst industries for abbreviations and it’s ok not to know them all! Some people sadly still try and make themselves feel more important and clever by using lots of abbreviations, if you don’t know, then ask. I always try not to use abbreviations if I don’t know what they stand for, I expect the same of others, so they shouldn’t mind you asking for clarification!

International womens day logo