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Leaders at LTHTR - Celebrating International Women’s Day at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust


Today we are celebrating International Women’s Day across the Trust, a day to mark women’s achievements, raise awareness of discrimination, take action to drive gender parity and embrace equality across the globe.

As part of our celebrations, we’ll be chatting to various directors and divisional directors across our organisation as part of our new ‘Leaders at LTHTR’ feature. Here, you’ll be able to find out more about leaders across our Trust and the topics that matter to them.

Below we talk to Sarah Cullen, Chief Nursing Officer at the Trust, about the importance of women in leadership and her advice to women wanting to get into senior roles.

Hi Sarah. Firstly, tell us a bit about your role at LTHTR and what it entails…

I am the Chief Nurse for the organisation. This means two things, firstly, I hold a professional portfolio of responsibility, meaning I represent Nursing, Midwifery, AHP’s and support staff at Board, whilst leading governance, health and safety and charities for the organisation. I am the Executive lead for children, maternity and safeguarding and aim to ensure we deliver really good care to the people who live in our communities. Secondly, I am a member of the unitary Board and have responsibility for ensuring the business of the organisation is undertaken in line with the requirements of NHS Boards.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

International Women’s Day is an opportunity to remind us that women are not and have not always been treated as equals. It’s an opportunity to remind one another of the injustice that exists in some parts of the world and in our society and the progress that has been made for many and the progress that is yet to be made for many more.

Tell us about your experience into leadership. Have you found that opportunities and career progression has been harder for females than their counterparts?

I have been lucky to work alongside women and men who have helped me progress into leadership roles. I constantly seek new opportunities and am committed to education as this has really helped me to develop my skill set. I’ve had encouraging and challenging mentors along my leadership journey, those willing to say difficult things at times, but always willing to listen and encourage and I feel so grateful to those past and present that do that for me. I have been inspired by women who are able to channel their energy in ways that really influence change in positive ways, whilst being a bit of a rebel at heart, I am most happy when others around me are happy and think that there is great intelligence in being able to motivate change whilst maintaining good relationships with people and I really value that and the fun you often get along the way.

Why do we need more women in leadership?

The importance of difference cannot be underestimated. I believe balance is important and too much of the same is rarely productive. Seeking out different experience, views and lived experiences is critical if we are to properly understand what our communities need to thrive. We are fortunate to work in a system where the balance of men and women is proportionate in the main, however, diversity in female leaders from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds is not where it needs to be. Without this, we can’t progress and this is an important area of focus for our Trust.

What progress have you seen on gender equality in your life and work?

I have seen a notable shift in recent years. I hadn’t until recent years experienced so many more females in senior positions. This is encouraging and motivating. I think it’s important that we can see role models and imagine ourselves in these positions and to do that you often need to see you in the role you are looking at. I have two children who are almost adults and spend time talking to them about equity and why this is important and in doing this have reflected on the people who did this for me whilst I was growing up and the impact this has had on me and my outlook. I hope that my boys will think of our conversations and this will help them make good choices and support others in their lives.

What are the most effective ways to counteract the negative stereotypes of feminism, especially in the workplace?

The most frustrating part of some female stereotypes is when emotion is used as a negative trait of being a woman. I have found this challenging to overcome over the years. I feel passionately about the work that I lead, and this can be misinterpreted as being emotional or less controlled than those that do not communicate their thoughts on topics. I have overcome this by learning to be balanced in my approach, finding ways that allow me to bring my whole self to work and express my feelings in ways that still enables me to influence and achieve the best things for patients and colleagues. It hasn’t always been easy and at times I haven’t always felt authentic because of displaying this level of control, I hope I have found a better balance as a senior leader, bringing humour, kindness and compassion to the way I work, whilst performing effectively alongside male leaders.

What advice will you give to your younger self or women wanting to get into leadership roles in the NHS?

Experience as much as you can. Do not be put off or be told ‘no’. Help others progress at every opportunity, it’s a great feeling and costs nothing. Do not be caught up in competition, just focus on thriving. Go watch, get involved, give your time to learn and experience, but be patient with yourself and invest heavily in your development and your lifelong education. It’s a gift not all women have and its one to treasure.

Get in touch

Chorley and South Ribble Hospital

Preston Road



01257 261222

Royal Preston Hospital

Sharoe Green Lane




01772 716565

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