Thursday 4th March 2021
by Helen Greig
As new Managing Director of WISH, it seemed prudent in these pandemic-ridden times to write a blog to introduce myself as I can’t get around all the regions and meet everyone. It’s an odd time to start a new job, and like many hundreds of people now, I have been interviewed for, awarded, and started a job whilst never meeting any of my colleagues in the flesh. As a consequence my first sentence tends to start with, ‘I’m 5’6”’ as I think that’s the main thing you can’t fathom over a Zoom call – not sure how helpful that is for anyone, and has left me wondering a few times how much do we actually judge on height anyway?
It would be easy for me to use this blog as a narrative of my LinkedIn profile and just go through my CV with some anecdotes and witty observations thrown in; however, that felt a little dull and if it felt dull to write I can imagine it would be mind-numbingly dull to read. So instead, I wanted to highlight some misconceptions I had about WISH before I started because if I had them, there’s a good chance you have too.
1 – WISH is only for senior women: WRONG. Like all good misconceptions I don’t actually know where this came from. Perhaps an urban myth, perhaps simply a misunderstanding. But a misconception it is. The majority of attendees at WISH events are actually new into the housing sector and / or operate at entry level through to front line management. There are some senior women who are members and come to our events but not enough and certainly not the majority. I know there are more women than men in frontline roles in social housing – I’ve worked in it for 20+ years and know that first-hand. But only 34% of senior roles are held by women so WISH is actually a really important network for women in those roles to learn, share and find a wider peer group. This is something I will be working to develop this year – if you want to know more, please get in touch for a chat.
2 – WISH is only for the women who want to be CEO’s: WRONG. If everyone wanted to be a CEO it would be a very crowded market place. And whilst there are plenty of people out there who do want to be CEO’s, and senior leaders, there are also plenty who don’t, or don’t want to right now, or any more. When I was younger, and was the ambitious 28-year old in management, I couldn’t understand why you wouldn’t want to aim for the top. Then I got there and realised it wasn’t all that. Sure, there’s some nice perks (usually the money) but as someone who constantly battles to find the line between mental wellbeing and achieving at work, I suddenly understood that happiness can be doing a role you love, doing it well, and being still career-wise. Everyone is different, but what is clear from the wonderfully eclectic mix of women I have met so far in my time at WISH, is that most people join WISH because they want to find their group, their champions, their tribe if you will. And most people do, which is why they stay.
3 – WISH is about a glass of wine in a bar: WRONG. And RIGHT! In case you hadn’t noticed, we’ve not been able to do that for a year now and yet – still going strong. If the business model of WISH was about wine in bars we’d have folded in 2020 but – still here. Why? Because networking is so much more than a glass of wine in a bar. Networking is meeting people in your line of work – in our case the housing sector – who you might not meet, or get to chat to, in your usual day to day. The wider your network, the more likely you are to gather a group around you who can lift you up when you’re feeling down, celebrate with you when you’re winning, offer sensible advice when you ask for it, see the opportunities that you’ve missed, and be brutal with you when no-one is telling you the truth. Believe it or not I have met a whole bunch of people during lockdown who fit this bill, people I’ve never met in real-life who are now part of my network to turn to for different things. And that’s what WISH continues to offer, in a virtual setting. I’m not saying we don’t miss the wine – I do! But that’s not the purpose of WISH, it’s an added bonus.
So WISH is here and will continue to be through the rest of this pandemic and beyond. There are some good things planned for this year, so watch this space and our website. We have a whole year of virtual events planned, and all the regions are itching to go with real-life events as soon as we get the green light, and as new MD I’ll be seeking to challenge those misconceptions, bring WISH to loads of new people and make sure we keep being THE network for women in the housing sector.