An organisation established to support women working in a male-dominated social world has now established itself as a community interest community (CIC).
Women in Social Housing (WISH) completed the process earlier this year, and formally launched the CIC at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s conference in Manchester last month.
A CIC is a type of limited company that exists to benefit the community rather than private shareholders.
WISH was established in London in 1998 as an informal group where women from across the social housing could support each other and share their experiences of working in a male-dominated environment.
Since then, it has evolved greatly, supporting women across every discipline of UK in both the public and private sectors while promoting gender equality.
It now has nine regions with a tenth set to launch later this year and as the number of regions and members has increased, the organisation said it has had to continue to evolve in order to deliver on its mission.
“Over the years WISH has grown from a small networking group for women working in housing to a large national organisation helping to attract young women into the sector, supporting women with career progression and working towards supporting gender equality in the UK Housing Sector as a whole and reducing the gender pay gap,” said Debra Constance, co-founder and chair of WISH.
“In discussion with our regions, we felt that it was necessary for our structure to evolve, as our remit has, to ensure that WISH continues to deliver for its members.”
As a CIC, if the company makes any surplus it will be reinvested into increasing activity to benefit women working in the UK housing sector. The Women in Social Housing (WISH) CIC has been listed at Companies House as a Community Interest Company Limited by Guarantee.
“This legal structure protects all our volunteers in terms of their personal liability involved in running WISH,” said Nicola Dibb, co-founder and executive director of WISH CIC. “It has given us an excellent opportunity to consider a more efficient financial model, as well as bringing in governance guidelines to underpin more formally what WISH does and how it does it. A new board of directors will support myself and Debra in making decisions as to the future direction of the organisation and how our funds are reinvested to support our vision.”
WISH says its annual membership programme provides women in in the UK housing sector with an opportunity to make new contacts and feel supported by colleagues in a safe and open environment.
Members can access networking-based regional events, which provide opportunities to benefit from career progression through personal development; building confidence from peer-group support; encouraging success from motivating thought-leaders and gaining courage to challenge stereotypes and barriers.
These activities are also aimed at attracting women to the sector and motivating them to stay and WISH continues to promote the housing sector as a career opportunity for women, attending careers fairs, giving talks at schools and creating promotional materials.
“We run specific programmes designed to develop future talent and break down barriers that can exclude women from the UK housing sector,” Dibb added. “This approach addresses the gender imbalance in this traditionally male-dominated sector by showcasing the skills required, opening up career opportunities for women and encouraging more women to choose careers in the UK housing sector when they leave school, college or further education.”
WISH also continues to campaign for equality and is committed to working towards reducing the gender pay gap across the sector and supporting diversity.