A networking organisation for women working in the housing and construction sectors has marked its 20th anniversary by strengthening its regional presence.
Women in Social Housing (WISH) has taken the opportunity the occasion presents to rebrand, giving the organisation a new look, and in the process give its regional branches a stronger individual identity.
The organisation was set up by Nicola Dibb and Debra Constance in 1998 as an informal group where women could meet and network in an inclusive and supportive environment. WISH embraced the different way that women communicate, creating safe spaces for making connections, exploration, personal development and learning.
Since then, it is said to have grown organically and now has eight regions, 500 members and up to 3,000 other women and men who support the network and attend events, with networking and building connections remaining at the heart of what it does.
“The sector’s gender complexion now is very different to 20 years ago, and WISH is proud to be part of that legacy of change but there is still work to be done if we are to truly combat inequality and break down the barriers that are holding women back,” said Dibb, executive director.
“As we enter our 20th year, we continue to support women working within the sector with a focus on addressing career progression, challenging stereotypes and barriers and encouraging successful behaviour. We are also working to raise the profile of the housing and construction sectors as a career choice to the next generation of women, when they leave school, college or further education.”
The new branding was unveiled at a drinks reception held at the Manchester Hilton’s Cloud 23 cocktail and champagne bar.
The event, which was sponsored by Kier, Hough Bellis Communications, ConnectIn, JLL, Pellings and Trowers & Hamlins, was attended by around 100 people.
Constance opened the event, talking about the origins of WISH before handing over to guest speaker, Helen Evens, chief executive of Network Homes, who recalled her experiences starting out in the sector.
Dibb outlined WISH’s work over the past 20 years and the important role that it plays in supporting women within the sector, before Joel Sampson, sales manager at Resource, the company behind the new look, talked guests through the rebrand process.
Dibb added: “It is all about confidence, which is an issue that we tackle again and again at our events. We want to help women to find their voice, realise the transferable skills that they possess and the tangible benefits they bring to organisations by thinking and communicating differently. It’s not who you know its who knows you and we look forward to the next 20 years of supporting women to make those connections.”
Meanwhile, in an separate announcement, WISH said its website is fast becoming the go to place for housing providers to advertise non-executive director positions. Consequently, the organisation has an important role to play in promoting these opportunities to its membership of housing professionals, as well as to the wider sector.
“This gender imbalance at the top of organisations can affect the whole culture and diverse boards are essential to creating forward-thinking and successful organisations and to driving better policy and decision making and service delivery,” Dibb said.
“WISH plays a vital role in not only publicising leading positions for women within the sector but in also addressing career progression, challenging stereotypes, breaking down barriers and encouraging successful behaviour through helping women to find their voice.
“While we have come a long way in terms of gender parity in recent years, an imbalance still remains, particularly in the top positions, which all too often remain pale, male and stale.
“At WISH we believe that top down, cultural change is necessary to address gender imbalance, especially at senior level. 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 bringing ambitious young people into the sector.”