Friday 9th November 2018

Getting on Board with a Diverse Leadership

Executive director and founder of WISH, Nicola Dibb, talks about how it is helping to improve diversity at the top of the sector through the promotion of leadership roles.

The housing and construction sectors have come a long way in terms of gender parity in recent years but while the number of women working within the industry continues to rise, the figures drop dramatically when it comes to the top positions.

Recent research from recruitment consultancy EMA, showed that just 32% of board chairs are women and just 20% of audit committee chairs, while a survey commissioned by RICS last year revealed that almost a third of women are afraid of sexism holding them back from pursuing senior roles in construction.

Encouraging women to climb the career ladder and supporting them into leadership positions is at the core of the WISH vision and we have an important role to play in promoting opportunities to our membership of housing professionals, as well as to the wider sector.

WISH is fast becoming the go-to place for housing providers to advertise non-executive director positions through our website and associated social media channels.

We believe that diverse boards, within the housing sector and the private sector, are essential to driving better policy and decision making and service delivery. Supporting more women into non-executive roles can help to influence the ethos of a company and drive cultural change. A diverse leadership is also more likely to attract a diverse workforce, creating forward-thinking and successful organisations.  A company that ‘looks diverse’ to the outside world (through their website and general branding for example) is also more likely to appeal to younger women considering a job with that organisation.

WISH plays a vital role in not only publicising leadership positions for women within the sector, but also in addressing career progression, challenging stereotypes, breaking down barriers and encouraging successful behaviour through helping women to find their voice.

Recently at a WISH London event, we heard from some female CEOs - Helen Evans, chief executive of Network, Ria Bailes, group director of One Housing, Kate Davies, chief executive of Notting Hill Genesis, Elaine Bailey, chief executive of the Hyde Group, Ruth Cooke, group chief executive of Clarion Housing and Kate Henderson, CEO, of the National Housing Federation, – who were so inspirational as they shared their stories of their journey to the top. 

Although all different, some common themes to come out were how important it was to find a mentor – male or female – to give support and an alternative perspective, how you need to speak up, show commitment and make yourself visible so others believe you are a real contender for the top jobs – maybe not now but definitely in the future.  And above all else – take opportunities when they present themselves as you will learn so much – even if you have to ‘wing it’ for a while!

At WISH we believe that top down, cultural change is necessary to address gender imbalance, especially at senior level, which remains largely pale, male and stale.

Change can only be driven from within and empowering and inspiring more women into the top board positions is vital not only to the success of housing and construction but to attracting ambitious young people into a vibrant sector where they feel confident that they can progress.

Only through encouraging more women into the top positions can we help to smash through that glass ceiling.

To find out more about available non-executive director positions and other roles within the housing and construction sectors, visit –

All positions are also listed on our LinkedIn page -  and on our Facebook page 

Contact WISH finance and memberships manager, Katie McDonald at to find out more about how to advertise your executive and non-executive director positions through WISH. A discounted rate is available for WISH members.

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