Opinion: Redressing the balance – getting women into the sector
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities
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By Ann Rivera, chair of WISH Midlands
While many housing providers are re-engaging with their past to realise their social purpose, women are struggling to combat gender power imbalances in an unequal world. The glass ceiling is still a considerable barrier that prevents many talented women rising as high as men of equal ability.
A hundred years ago on 4 June 1913, Emily Wilding Davison ran in front of the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby; she died four days later of her injuries. At the time, it was widely reported as extremist behaviour, disrespectful to the monarchy and little more than a media grabbing stunt. Of the thousands of suffragettes, Emily was amongst the most militant fighting for rights for women.
Since parliament granted universal suffrage, much has been achieved by women via the feminist movement and organisations such as Emily’s List and the Fawcett Society. But gender inequality is still quite rampant in this country, despite some high profile women, only one in five MPs are women.
Closer to home there are some disparities. Just 22 of the 100 biggest housing organisations by stock are run by women, who, on average, were paid nearly £10,000 less than their male counterparts in 2012/13.
Meanwhile, the Fabian Women’s Network has been concentrating its efforts on how women can grow the economy and grow in the economy, including entrepreneurship, promoting more diversity in company boardrooms and encouraging more women to pursue technical vocations.
Much remains to be done. But for the women in housing and construction, this is where Women in Social Housing (WISH) comes in.
Realising the Potential
As the new chair of WISH Midlands, I am keen to develop the profile of women working in the affordable housing sector and the role of WISH. Most organisations invest in their staff, but we need to support and inspire women in housing and construction to enable them to realise their full potential.
WISH is a unique interest group set up by women working in social housing with four regional groups in London, the South West, the North West and the Midlands. The main focus of WISH is to encourage women to consider housing as a career choice and to support them throughout their careers.
The two main aims of WISH are to:
- Encourage more women to choose careers in housing and construction when they leave school, college or further education.
- Aid career progression for women already in these sectors, challenging stereotypes and barriers and encouraging successful behaviour.
WISH provides a stronger voice for women of all ages and ability. There is no restriction on the seniority of nominees, as senior women serve as effective role models for junior members. WISH has designed effective mentoring programmes and provides guidance on how to believe, achieve and succeed.
Currently, we are developing a careers advice programme for young women preparing to leave school and college designed to inform them of exciting job opportunities within housing and construction.
WISH membership offers substantive benefits and our programme of activities for the forthcoming year is full of interesting opportunities for women to develop their networks and skills in a variety of different settings. This includes seminars where successful role models including MPs and business leaders, will be sharing their knowledge and expertise, as well as providing tips on how best to promote themselves, their organisation and the industry.
Dreams – they can come true…
It is my aim as the Midlands’ chair to address gender equality issues and ensure that we galvanise the support of the sector to ensure that the important role women play in our industry is recognised. I believe that women must come together and organise themselves to deliver effective campaigns that bring about change and that is why WISH Midlands is calling upon all women in our sector to stand up and be counted.
WISH can’t make all your dreams come true, but it will help women to access new networks, recognise their ability, develop their skills and achieve their goals by moving and shaking in all the right places. www.wishgb.co.uk 0121 633 4633.