WREN Stories: Reflections on who are the women that make up our Trust

This month's WREN (Workforce Race Equality Network) Stories blog comes from Wendy Tangen, Clinical Services Inclusion Lead and Chair of WREN

Maya Angelou once said: “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, the encountering may be the very experience which creates the vitality and the power to endure.” I am sure these words resonate with many as they do with me.

In recent weeks we have been hearing the sad news of violence against women. The Reclaim the Night Movement started back in the 1977 during the Yorkshire Ripper murders where women were encouraged to stay indoors. 40 years plus and women are still being asked to change their behaviours as a result of violent crimes perpetrated by some men against them. What are the messages we would like to leave for our next generations, how are we as women within our intersectionalities become role models that challenge today’s society and not take the easy option of conforming as we are often expected to and how do we move forward with the utmost respect and dignity for ourselves and each other, knowing this is not always easy. Questions I often ask myself again and again but I did not have to look very far for the answers, they were staring me right in the face, as I reflected on the strong women that surrounded me every day.

In celebration of International Women’s Day earlier this month I want to take the opportunity to share my reflections over the past year on what it means to me to celebrate and be amongst great women at Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (LYPFT). The theme of IWD this year is ‘Choose To Challenge’ and as the Chair of our Workforce Race Equality Network (WREN) my admiration for the women, my sisters in our network for their leadership and lived experiences to ‘challenge’ is astounding….. words escape me.

As a network in the last year we decided we needed to come together to offer comfort to each other through what was and still is one of the most trying times in all of our lives. The pandemic has ripped through our hearts in the most horrendous way, leaving our vulnerabilities exposed as we were forced to be disconnected from our families, our communities and our loved ones. Our intentions were to just sit in each other’s company and be there for each other, but what unfolded as the year progressed was so beautiful, for me it was like looking at a flower blossom and then being filled with the joy and happiness it brought. Women in our network regardless of backgrounds, status or profession, began to reach out to each other sharing their personal experiences of pain and grief and in so doing began to mend.

The solidarity formed created a strong bond which then saw some of the biggest hurdles being shifted. Topics of identities became the forefront of our conversations, holding open, honest, complex discussions particularly around discriminations, inequalities and valuing each other allowing for transparency and trust, creating a psychologically safe space for everyone to ask uncensored questions, support new learning and nurture compassion. This journey was not easy and often I heard apologies and permission indirectly being sought before attempting down a controversial lane, but what was amazing was our sisters immediately picking up on this and giving feedback to empower each other to be their authentic selves. We are not there yet. But our journey together has begun, there is much work to do to grant women the equality, to value their many roles, appreciate their wisdom and embrace them for the amazing human beings that they are.

There will be times when we may need to stop and take a breath, but knowing we have each other will make the long road ahead less arduous. The role modelling and bravery displayed by these women despite their grief of losing family and community members, their moments of loneliness, isolation and fear of the unknown, to still give of themselves selflessly, to elevate each other, to challenge the status quo and to take action continued beyond network meetings and will be the catalyst that embraces and build positive cultures.

So I ask myself what is it like to be a woman in my organisation, how we support others to be their best selves and what have I learnt from the women in our network. Well, being a woman in leadership in LYPFT has become easier over the past years, sitting around the table and having a voice, but most importantly believing in my voice is one of my greatest achievements. But this came from the different layers of women leaders at LYPFT and our network, not forgetting male allies who also believe in us. I am bursting with pride to be amongst these strong, beautiful WOMEN and to be able to call them my sisters and to know we are always standing shoulder to shoulder shining brightly together.


Author Wendy Tangen has been nominated for the Most Inspiring Individual of the Year Award at the 2021 FREDIE Awards run by the National Centre for Diversity.

Wendy, is the Trust’s Clinical Services Inclusion Lead and Chair of our Workforce Race Equality Network (WREN), and has received her nomination for going above and beyond for the causes of fairness, respect, equality, diversity, inclusion or engagement in the workplace.