Skip to content

IWD2024: An interview with Erika Bannerman

International Women’s Day (8 March) is a global day of celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

Each year International Women’s Day provides an opportunity for reflection, to take stock of how far women’s equality has come and what actions are needed to accelerate this further.

As the home of some truly remarkable women, we caught up with just a handful of those who make The Workforce Development Trust what it is today.

Erika Bannerman is Managing Director at NHS Shared Business Services (SBS) and a Trustee of The Workforce Development Trust.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you? And why do you feel it is important that we celebrate it?

As a mother, daughter, sister, wife and woman in a leadership role, it’s a great opportunity to raise awareness and connect with people committed to gender equality. It’s a day when women are recognised for their achievements and contribution.

I am very lucky to be surrounded by so many inspiring female leaders who are making a difference. It’s an occasion to celebrate the progress that has been made towards achieving gender equality whilst also reflecting on how we can continue to build greater momentum.

IWD has created a change, a movement, and an important legacy for others, there is a sense of belonging and empowerment, which inspires inclusion.

This year’s theme is ‘inspire inclusion’. In your role, tell us a bit about how you support this aim.

Valuing the differences of others is what ultimately brings us all together and can be the secret to a successful, thriving culture and workplace.

I believe my role is to create a sense of belonging and a better understanding of what is possible when we come together. Building awareness and encouraging others to use their voice to create a culture where issues around gender bias can be brought to light.

I personally sponsor our diversity and inclusion networks where we really do gain a better understanding of the barriers faced and the changes needed. It is inspiring to see this change happen and how it brings together a multitude of ideas and perspectives, igniting innovation and creativity.

This week we recognised and celebrated the innovation, creativity, productivity, reputation, engagement and business results contributions from across the organisation with over 230 peer to peer individual and team nominations, all underpinned by our inclusive values.

Do you think there are enough opportunities for women in your sector?

NHS SBS is a digital services organisation serving the National Health Service. Women have always played an essential role in the NHS and from the day it was launched, the NHS has relied on a diverse workforce which today is represented by over 200 nationalities. There have, however, been fewer opportunities for progress in the technology sector with women holding only 11% of the senior leadership roles. It is therefore easy to see why it might be hard to develop a career for women in tech.

Providing women and girls with access to quality education and training is importance, as is our support into leadership, decision making and STEM. A diverse sector is important for creativity and the problem-solving capabilities required to deliver the innovation and productivity improvements needed.

How can we encourage more women to pursue senior leadership roles in their career?

Celebrate your strength and determination, and support each other pursue leadership roles, providing practical support and advocacy. Early on in my career I was very fortunate to have some fantastic female role models and mentors who sponsored me, encouraged me to take on opportunities and take risks, looking back, creating a space to learn, fail, develop, succeed and ultimately test myself.

It is important to be able to ask for help and share vulnerabilities. I was encouraged to pursue my first Board Director appointment at the same time as becoming a mother, and instead of facing the barriers associated with rebalancing how I juggled my work and life challenges of becoming as a new parent, my forward-looking manager gave me an opportunity to role model the importance of women in senior leadership roles at all stages of their personal lives.

What is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?

Have confidence in your unique abilities and potential, stay true to yourself and surround yourself with positive role models and advocates (men and women). It’s ok to be vulnerable and never give up on what you believe in.

As a mother of daughters, the mantra I share with them is to “dream big, follow the energy and then commit to it, it may not always work out but that is ok, you know you tried and will have grown from it”.

It’s important to celebrate women’s accomplishments, history bursts with important events led by wonderful women who have made the world a better place and you can write history too.

Is there a woman who inspired you in your career?

I have been fortunate to have worked with many inspirational women in my career who have believed in me, challenged me and supported me, many of them still do.

My mother, who whilst I was growing up juggled three jobs at one time, she was always conscientious and reliable, giving her best at work and home with the wisdom that comes from empathy and understanding. My mother inspired me to take things on, follow the energy (if it feels right, it often is right) and then commit to it.

Share with us a woman that inspires you most, or quote that inspires you most.

“A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman.” – Melinda French Gates.

“Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be a challenge to others.” – Amelia Earhart

If you could have dinner with three inspirational women, dead or alive, who would they be and why?

Queen Elizabeth II, Amelia Earhart and Sarina Wiegman, the England’s women’s national team manager who all made it look easy.