One year ago, the first network for black and minority ethnic women in digital health roles was launched. As the Shuri Network turns one we look at its achievements and its plans for the future.
The Shuri Network was officially launched at Digital Health Summer Schools in 2019 as a platform to help increase visibility of black and minority ethnic (BME) women in NHS technology roles.
At the time of its launch the network had about 60 members but word quickly spread and the network has grown to about 650 members today, with nurses forming the largest group.
Co-founder Dr Shera Chok launched the network after realising there were very few BME women in the audience at events like Summer Schools.
Looking back on its achievements over the past year she told Digital Health News the network had given women of colour a platform to speak about their contribution to digital innovation and their experiences.
“For the first time we are hearing their voices and their powerful stories,” she said.
“This will inspire others to succeed and have acted as a catalyst for change, mobilising our allies from across the country to offer their support.”
But the Shuri Network isn’t stopping there, it has recently launched the Shuri Fellowship which will provide future leaders training opportunities to boost their career. The Network has also teamed up with the Faculty of Informatics (FCI) to deliver Shuri FCI bursaries for 15 members to cover the cost of their FCI membership.
“The last year has been full of extraordinary highs and lows – I have personally learnt so much from our Network members’ career journeys and how they have successfully navigated their way past huge barriers and challenges,” Dr Chok said.
“We are so excited about developing the Shuri Fellowship to provide more support for women of colour including bursaries for professional development and shadowing opportunities later in the year.”
But along with the highs were also some lows. The Covid-19 pandemic has further highlighted the need to close the gap for BME staff and patients.
The NHS and Public Health England have been widely criticised for failing to collect and analyse Covid-19 data on race and ethnicity.
Statistics clearly highlighted that BME people were at greater risk of death from Covid-19. Patient groups, the British Medical Association and other independent bodies all called on the government to properly collect data and adequately protect BME staff.
The Network has warned data on ethnicity cannot become a “hot potato too difficult to confront” and called for “stronger focus” from healthcare leaders to address inequalities highlighted in the data.
“On the low side was the Covid crisis, experiencing extreme discrimination myself and seeing senior colleagues colluding with this,” Dr Chok said.
“It is during these times that we need our support systems, our own ‘personal board members’ who will lift and help you through, and the people I’ve met through Shuri Network certainly have.
“To our allies – thank you for your help and support. Please use your influence to champion and create a more diverse and equal digital leadership community.”
For more information on the Shuri Network, membership and the work its doing visit shurinetwork.com.
The Shuri Network will be celebrating its first birthday and providing an update on its work at Digital Health Virtual Summer Schools on 23 July.
It will include a panel discussion from members and a Q&A with members of the audience. The discussion will also be published as our next Digital Health Unplugged podcast on 28 July.
For more information visit digitalhealthsummerschools.com