Empowering women in work

A roundtable held by the Conservative Friends of NHS at 10 Downing Street explored suggestions and challenges for women at work


Empowering women in the workplace was the focus of a roundtable discussion hosted by the Conservative Friends of NHS at 10 Downing Street in June.

Optometrist, Kiran Pannu-Dhillon, told OT about what she has taken away from the experience.

“Through my association with the Conservative Friends of NHS I was offered the opportunity to go to 10 Downing Street to have a discussion on the topics of women from ethnic minorities, women at work, and empowering women at work,” Pannu-Dhillon explained. “I felt privileged to be given the opportunity.”

The roundtable explored suggestions and possible issues for women at work.

“We had an open discussion,” Pannu-Dhillon said. “The conversations were based on our own experiences. I’m a mother of two kids, an eight-year-old boy and a seven-year-old girl, and I spoke about my personal journey in my career as a working mother, striving to better myself in my profession.”

Describing her career journey so far, Pannu-Dhillon, who works as a locum in Chiswick and is completing an independent prescribing course at City, University of London, told OT: “I grew up wanting to help and serve my local community with a passion to make a positive difference to people.”

Pannu-Dhillon has an ambition to complete a Master’s in clinical optometry within the next two years.

“As a locum optometrist, I have a profession where I can largely juggle a balance between work and spending time with my children,” Pannu-Dhillon explained. “Many women I know are in careers without this option.”

The optometrist raised the need for an improved allowance for childcare.

“Paying for childcare is costly and can differ based on where you live in the UK, what type of service you need and how many hours per week you need someone to look after your child,” she explained. “Holiday childcare is a solution for many parents working outside of term-time, when many early years settings are closed.”

Sharing her view on the importance of empowering women in optometry, Pannu-Dhillon said: “I strive to create a work environment that is positive and encouraging.”

In particular, she emphasised the importance of all staff members being able to ask questions. She said: “When we feel comfortable to ask any question – big or small – it promotes learning.”

Other suggestions raised included an entrepreneur scheme that would help fund mothers aiming to establish a business. Discussions covered funding currently available for entrepreneurs, such as the New Enterprise Allowance and Start-Up Loan.

Another topic of discussion also touched on apprenticeship schemes, from school leavers to people wishing to upskill or change careers.

Reflecting on the visit to 10 Downing Street, Pannu-Dhillon told OT: “From the experience, I took away the importance of voicing our opinions and raising issues, and if possible, being the voice for someone else and supporting each other.”

If she was to repeat the experience, Pannu-Dhillon said she would want to discuss the need for myopia management to be made available on the NHS.

“All children should have access to all the options for myopia control,” she emphasised, highlighting the “urgent need” for the NHS to recognise myopia as a disease and allow all children “much needed access” to management options.