Raising your voice: Why the RCM Board elections matter

By Giuseppe Labriola, Chair RCM Board on 22 May 2023 RCM Board Elections Maternity Services RCM UK Midwives Midwifery Workforce Midwifery Equality and Diversity

As ballot papers for the RCM Board elections begin to land on doormats, Giuseppe Labriola reflects on his time as Chair – and issues a call to action to all RCM members.

This week, the RCM opens the election for its Board. For me, it is a poignant time, as it’s official confirmation that my time on the Board is fast coming to an end. After two terms – the maximum allowed – I will be handing back my RCM Board badge, with a little melancholy, but also a lot of pride.

Being on the RCM Board, particularly as its Chair for the past four years, has been an enormous privilege. In this role, and chosen by our members, I have helped shape and guide the College through some challenging times: a global pandemic, the impact of chronic underfunding of services, strike ballots and, of course, a number of tragic reports on maternity safety. It’s not a job I’ve taken lightly and, as you receive your ballot papers, the choice of your new Board isn’t something you should take lightly either.

Because being on the RCM Board isn’t about bolstering your CV or positioning yourself for your next promotion:  it’s a huge responsibility. The people you elect to the Board will need to be able to hold the RCM Executive team to account, but also support them in their work. They will need to be able to have their discussions – even sometimes heated ones – in private, but hold the agreed position in public. They will need to act on behalf of all members, not merely a subsection.

And that’s why our process is so robust. Being a candidate isn’t just deciding one day to announce your candidacy. The candidates in the booklet you’ve been sent have already been through a panel interview and you’ll see that their performance has been scored from A to C. This is to help guide you when you make your decision, alongside the candidates’ personal statements.

I am proud of our College’s dual function as both a professional association and a trade union. The RCM shapes and guides policy-making across the UK, both locally and nationally, and we work to ensure members are valued and treated fairly in the workplace. Because these two aspects are intertwined, they make us stronger.

I’ve been really proud of the diversity of thought around the RCM Board table. We have midwives working clinically, a maternity support worker, midwifery leaders and midwifery educators. None represents a particular branch of maternity, but they do bring different perspectives to our discussions and decision-making. These help us challenge the RCM’s Executive team and ‘stress test’ the proposals that come to us. I know from talking to the RCM Chief Executive, Gill Walton, that this is incredibly helpful, not only as it helps the team see issues from different angles, but it’s also great preparation for addressing those issues when the policy or piece of work goes live.

Being on the Board, including my experience as Chair, has undoubtedly made me a better midwife, and I know many of my Board colleagues would say the same. It requires different ways of thinking, of assessing and of decision-making. As a Board member, you need to be open to other people’s perspectives and to take those into account when reaching conclusions. Working in maternity services has always required a collaborative approach, but I genuinely believe that being on the RCM Board has enhanced this.

First and foremost, the RCM is a membership organisation. Everything we do is with and for our members, which is why it’s so important that you participate in these Board elections. The decisions we make are taken with you and your best interests in mind, and this is your chance to shape that direction.

I will undoubtedly miss being on the RCM Board: the camaraderie, the friendship and, yes, even the responsibility. Its future direction is now in your hands.