Thursday 5th March 2020
This International Women’s Day Nicola Dibb, co-founder and executive director of Women in Social Housing (WISH), explains why a more inclusive sector is vital for attracting young people into housing.
Attracting women into the housing sector and motivating them to stay has always been at the very heart of WISH and reaching out to the next generation of women is a key area of focus for us in 2020.
The journey so far
I formed WISH in 1998, joined shortly afterwards by co-founder Debra Constance, as an informal group where women from the sector could share their experiences of working in a male-dominated environment.
The organisation has evolved greatly since then to become the only membership-based network for women working across every discipline of the UK housing sector, with 10 regions covering England and Wales.
As the number of members has increased WISH has continued to evolve in order to deliver on its mission to create opportunity, impact change and build a unique network.
What needs to happen now
We want to attract the brightest and best young women into the sector.
To do that, we need to truly address the gender imbalance, particularly at management level, and change the sector’s mindset to become much more inclusive.
We need to think carefully about the language that we use when recruiting for new roles and do more to showcase the wide-ranging career options that are available within housing.
Organisations need to consider how they are presenting themselves on their websites and in social media so that young women will be more likely to say ‘I can see people who work there that look like me. That looks like a great place to work!’
The younger generation are looking for careers that offer supportive, flexible working and a healthy work-life balance and we need to deliver on that.
Social value or ‘giving something back’ is also an important driver to the Generation Z as well as being able to use technology to communicate and feel like they are part of a team.
Housing can meet lots of these aspirations but careers in the sector are just not being promoted enough in schools and colleges.
Supporting young people once they are in the sector is vital. WISH will champion this through our events, initiatives and activities, covering all roles or experience.
We have an important role to play in supporting these young women to stay and in motivating our future leaders to climb the career ladder.
How WISH is helping
WISH enables women to make new contacts and feel supported by colleagues in a safe and open environment. We introduce our younger members to the concept of networking in a professional setting and how important building an ecosystem of connections is for future personal and career growth.
Our regional events provide opportunities to benefit from career progression through personal development; building confidence from peer-group support; encouraging success from motivating thought-leaders.
Most of all we want our members to gaining courage to challenge stereotypes and barriers.
We kick-started the debate around how best to encourage more young people into housing careers with a roundtable discussion during our Christmas Celebration in December and it will continue to be a focus during events this year.
We want to build on our existing programmes which are designed to develop future talent, and to break down the barriers that are excluding women from following housing careers.
I look forward to hearing from our members, sponsors and partners about their ideas for reaching out to Generation Z and helping to build a strong and inclusive housing sector for the future.
Last year, we completed the process of becoming a community interest company (CIC) and with our new structure in place, we are looking to the future of WISH and how we can build on our history to create a lasting legacy that we can all be proud of.
More information on upcoming events can be found by clicking here.