During Black History Month, we have been lucky enough to hear many stories from our inspirational female staff members from black heritage backgrounds.
Black History Month is a momentous occasion to recognise and celebrate the invaluable contributions of black people to British society. The NHS is the fifth largest employer in the world, with one in five workers of BAME heritage.
Sharing stories allows us to reflect on the contributions that black people make to the NHS and society every day. It reminds us that we should be learning every day about the lived realities of people from black communities to better understand how we can change the culture, reduce inequalities and stop the ongoing effects of racism.
During a session titled, ‘saluting our sisters’, we were lucky enough to hear Margaret Adeyinka Michael’s story.
Margaret started the session by sharing her story which began with her childhood in Nigeria. Margaret was influenced and supported by her mother to study in the UK. One of her mother’s quotes which Margaret often remembers and revisits is “if you have knowledge and education, you will be able to stand tall and make a difference.”
Margaret moved to the UK in the late 1980s and began her working career in London working as an office cleaner. Margaret remembers the weather and the variance in accents taking her by surprise and having to learn to adjust but the UK soon felt like home.
After initially beginning to train as a company secretary, Margaret’s career took a different direction when she began to start her family. With encouragement from her husband, Margaret began to study to become an occupational therapist, all whilst growing her family by four children. Studying and working full time with four children under seven years old wasn’t easy but is testament to Margaret’s determination and hard work.
After qualifying and working in London for several years, Margaret and her family moved to Lancashire and made the North West their permeant home in 2005 and has worked for LSCft for over 15 years. Starting as an Occupational Therapist and progressing to her current position of Associate Director for Allied Health Professionals and co-chair for the race equality staff network.
Her long and varied NHS career hasn’t been without hurdles as Margaret explains:
“Everyone who works in the NHS does so because they want to make a difference and I’m no different, I’ve always been driven by a passion for helping people and I feel blessed that I have the opportunity to have an impact on other people’s lives.
I have found that working as a women from a black heritage background has presented me with extra challenges, I have often had to prove my skills and knowledge more than my colleagues may have had too. I’ve been verbally abused and had patients express their want for different members of staff above myself. You learn to naturally have a thick skin but having a supportive work place and support system around you is vital when faced with these challenges and ultimately it shouldn’t be happening ever.”
Sharing stories like Margaret’s serves as an opportunity to inspire and empower future generations.
“I feel humbled to be seen as a leader and a success story, but this is an ongoing journey and we all have stories to tell. I’m now using my own experiences to help others through my work with the race equality staff network as I want to show others they can also become leaders. To make a difference you need to accept yourself for who you are. Have resilience, believe in yourself and don’t live with any doubt.”