International Women's Day: An interview with Dr Samantha Deacon, Consultant Paediatric Radiologist
1. Can you name one woman who has inspired you?
Geraldine O’Sullivan was an anaesthetic consultant at St Thomas’ Hospital and my tutor. I met her twice - once when I introduced myself and once when I failed an exam. She was kind, honest, straight talking and no nonsense. She wasn’t too fussed about me, as long as I was working hard, which I told her I was doing. She was calm and rather more sophisticated than most of the male consultants - and she was fun!
Also, Tracey Edwards who captained the first all-girls ship to circumnavigate the world. She was told it couldn’t be done. Well, they won the southern leg but came in 3rd or 4th on the next leg. Their answer to not winning was to put on swimming costumes and dark glasses when they arrived at Fort Lauderdale. No one cared about the winners after that!
They were both so alive and refused to give in, but were fair and honest with it. Why should someone (anyone) tell you what you can and can’t do?
2. What are your top tips for other women to succeed?
If you want to do something badly enough, you will do it. Just keep going. Don’t rely on your sex and the need for gender balance in the work place - you need to know your subject.
3. How do you celebrate successes, your own and those of others?
I bounce around, tell anyone that will listen and forget about it in 2 weeks
4. What do you do, in your organisation or outside, to inspire the next generation of female talent?
I don’t treat them differently. I believe in a meritocracy and I don’t mind where someone comes from or what sex they are, as long as they are engaged in their job and work hard.
5. What wisdom would you have told your younger self, if you had the chance.
Be kind to yourself. Every time you make a mistake you learn something new - just don’t make the same mistake twice and ask for help when necessary.
6. Are women-led events and discussion panels useful?
Occasionally. They’re interesting up to a point but why exclude half the population?
7. What is your advice to others to achieve a work / life balance?
Decide what it is you want to do. I wanted a well-paid, part time job! I wanted to be able to look after my children. Having a job at a teaching hospital was amazing, but the NHS saps every ounce of strength if you let it and I didn’t have much left for my family. Ultimately, it was down to me to decide what it was I really wanted - so I left.
8. How can an organisation encourage gender equality, inclusion and diversity?
Strong, honest leadership with a clear message of what the organisation wants to do and how they intend to achieve it. Where new ideas are encouraged, and people feel valued and heard; everyone has a name, everyone has a voice.
In my experience women will work incredibly hard and tend to be more accommodating, perhaps over-stretching themselves in the process, so it’s really important to ensure that capacity and demand is balanced.
It is important not to build up a narrative about someone before you meet them and look for individuals who are truly enthusiastic and engaged in their job - so a fully validated CV. Obviously good HR is fundamental including clear guidelines of what is expected.
10. What can we as individuals do to create a future of gender balance?
Good communication. Be honest and encouraging.