Naval Servicewomen’s Network ‘Your Network is your Net–Worth’

Naval Servicewomen’s Network ‘Your Network is your Net–Worth’

08 Mar 24
Posted by: Lt Cdr Francesca Crowsley–Allen RN
Message from the Editor

For our second article to celebrate International Women’s Day we celebrate the Naval Servicewomen’s Network (NSN). The eagle eyed among you will note that over the last six weeks 33% of the 21 articles we have published on the NR website have been written by women. Thank you Ladies, the door remains open to write for us as and when you desire.

  • Founded in 2013 by Cdre Ellie Ablett, the NSN aims to increase links between Naval Servicewomen in a bid to improve levels of recruitment and retention and make the most of the equality of opportunity already enjoyed in the Service. The Naval Servicewomen’s Network (NSN) is a powerful professional networking tool which exists to support and improve the lived experience of its members and reinforces the combat effectiveness of Royal Navy.

All Naval Servicepersons from the RN, RM and RFA, including veterans and reservists, are encouraged to be members of the NSN and to participate in all applicable NSN activities. This includes all ranks and rates serving across the globe, and we benefit hugely from the continued support of our NSN Allies. The Network is open to all, including Civilians working in the Maritime within the whole force concept of the Royal Navy.

Led by two Co-Chairs (one officer and one rating), the NSN Committee consists of volunteers who meet bi-weekly to progress NSN activities and we hold Committee Meetings once a term. We are as much in existence to support service personnel as we are to support the chain of command, divisional officers and ship command teams in their maintenance of operational advantage.

A key force enabler, there are project leads for geographic, unit/establishments, as well as leads for RN specific professions and disciplines all of which are supported by rank and rate representatives: this breadth or networking is essential in ensuring that voices are heard.

The 2024 NSN Strategy Planning Day was held in January this year and it remains clear that there is a continued demand for the work which the NSN instigates, including, but not limited to:

  • Acting as a formal feedback mechanism to inform policy. For example, parenting policy, breastfeeding policy, Dual Serving Couples, provision of sports bras, a working group to address poorly fitting kit for female aircrew, PPE.
  • Offering formal feedback on the Unacceptable Sexual Behaviours Policy from canvased audiences.
  • Maintaining strong partnerships with all other internal RN, and wider-Defence Networks, and where appropriate, external Networks. This work recognises that Servicepeople should be supported if they identify with elements of more than one Network
  • Delivering mid-career workshops for both Officers and Ratings and locations around the UK and on ships.
  • Providing Mentoring Scheme role models, including reverse mentoring for RN SLT.
  • Participating in and supporting the delivery of the RN Inclusivity Conferences and Awards ceremonies.
  • Active involvement in SHIFT 1 & 2 (Servicewomen’s Health Improvement Focus Team). Addressing issues such as sanitary provision, menopause healthcare and contraception/menstrual control.

The NSN works jointly with a number of other Networks across the Royal Navy, such as the RN LGBTQ+ Network, where we have established monthly meetings to share best practice and support each other in our current work strands and future strategies. We also regularly collaborate more widely with our Army and RAF Gender Network counterparts. Most recently, this has included advising the Chiefs and Min DPV directly on the formal recommendations following the House of Commons Defence Committee Inquiry on Women in the Armed Forces that was presented to SofS in Nov 2021. More recently however, we have started working with Networks in Navies from Partner Nations, and within industry, such as WISTA (Women International Shipping and Trading Organisation) to allow growth of new and trusted partnerships learning from each other’s best practices and shared lived experience. The Network is hugely proud of its record in championing change for the benefit of not just Servicewomen but the whole force spectrum.

From a Royal Navy perspective, at the NSN 10-year Anniversary Gala Dinner in Autumn 2023, Director P&T and NAVSEC Rear Admiral Jude Terry OBE said, “We need to continue to build a culture of care and compassion in our organisation, where everyone feels supported and valued. This is what will deliver operational success, across all five environments, and make us better than our adversaries.”

Even though there is still much work to be done, the NSN will continue utilising the shared lived experiences of all, inspiring and empowering our people wherever possible, to enable the Royal Navy’s drive towards the betterment of our brilliant people, now and in the future.