Jenny Napier

Dr Jenny Napier, Occupational Health Physician

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QWhat advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t spend too long in a role that you do not enjoy! This is your one chance at life, and it is important that you do things that satisfy in a context that supports you whilst making a meaningful contribution to the world.

QIs there anything you wish you’d known – about the workplace, the industry you work in, the types of roles on offer, etc?

I wish I had known about occupational health earlier in my medical career. Occupational health is an area of medicine that is not very prominent at either undergraduate or postgraduate level. Yet occupational health can offer a brilliant blend of clinical, organisational and public health approaches to improving the health of the working age population.

QWhat was the best/most useful thing you did to further your career?

A friend recommended I apply for an academic research post. My supervisor – Professor Trisha Greenhalgh - was great fun, embodying sharp curiosity and a sense that anything is possible. She encouraged me to do a Masters in Consulting and Leading in organisations. This equipped me a systemic understanding of organisations and leadership, as well as practical skills in consulting. This opened up my perspective and possibilities, and ultimately led to me pursuing a career in occupational health.

QThis year’s International Women’s Day theme is ‘Break the bias’, aiming for women’s equality and celebrating inclusivity. However, there don’t seem to be barriers for women entering consulting, ecology and similar roles. Why is this – what is this industry getting right? (And what else could it do?)

Medicine has as many – if not more – females than males practising it. However, as in many professions, the ratio of men to women in leadership positions does not represent the make-up of the workforce. Broad generalisations may be dangerous, but with only recent history challenging a cultural legacy of thousands of years in which men are automatically given more authority, we need to be proactive in questioning our assumptions and practices. Bias training may be one way of redressing the balance, as may proactively seeking out women’s opinions, and encouraging them to develop their leadership skills.