Women in Social Housing is coming to Scotland
By Nicola Dibb and Debra Constance, co-founders of WISH.
Women in Social Housing (WISH) is the only membership-based network for women working across every discipline of the UK housing sector. We have created a vibrant community for women working in the private or public housing sectors, supporting gender equality where everyone can flourish.
We are set up to give women the opportunities that come from networking in the way that men have benefitted traditionally for many years. For some women, networking can be a worrying prospect, going along to an event where there are lots of people they don’t know, in order to make new business connections. But networking is so much more than that, with many more wide-ranging benefits – and can be much less scary than it sounds.
Our founder, Nicola Dibb, started attending networking events over 20 years ago as a way of meeting useful contacts and with the aim of developing her career in the housing and construction sectors. However, these events inevitably consisted of 95–99% men – where were all the women? Any women present tended to naturally drift towards each other and, after noticing this a few times, Nicola encouraged a separate meeting of those women to discuss shared experiences of working in a male-dominated sector – and WISH was born!
The meetings grew in popularity as the women enjoyed meeting in a safe environment to exchange views and develop new business contacts. Soon, the events evolved to include speakers, so attendees could gain some professional development knowledge and had a topic to coalesce around, and this format remains to this day. The original informal group developed into a membership-based organisation, with the unique mix of women from the private and public sectors, at all levels and stages of their careers, creating an unrivalled vibrancy to events.
Over the last 23 years, based on demand, WISH has grown, and we now have a WISH presence across every region in England and North Wales. Following our invitation to speak at SHARE’s Women in Housing Scotland conference for International Women’s Day last year, we have also been talking to several women about developing a WISH region in Scotland.
But what do we mean when we talk about networking? There are many benefits, professional and personal, that women enjoy from coming to our friendly and relaxed and events. These include:
- expanding their local network and creating new business relationships
- keeping up to date with industry news and hot topics
- enjoying regular email access to housing jobs via our jobs board
- becoming inspired and motivated in an inclusive, supportive environment
- boosting their confidence and learning new skills
- developing their approach to successful networking
- understanding the benefits of diverse leadership and be able to share this knowledge with their teams back in the office
- enjoying personal development sessions as well as those around the built environment and housing
- receiving discounted rates for WISH training courses such as public speaking and authentic leadership programmes.
Women that have been part of the WISH community always enjoy developing a new support network and often make friends that they keep for life. We are so proud of this legacy and know that women in Scotland would benefit from also joining our network.
Every WISH region is run by a board of volunteers which is led by a chair. It is these passionate, local groups which, with a cross-section of experience, sector and skills, ensure the smooth running and delivery of events each year.
Our offer now extends to online, of course, with a national online webinar most months, and each region hosting at least three of its own events every year (in real-life when we can!).
Regional membership is made up of individuals as well as corporate members and sponsors. Member organisations include housing associations, local authorities, contractors, solicitors, architects – basically anyone who works in the housing sector in one way or the other.
Regional boards receive support from our central team in identifying and approaching women who may be interested in joining their local region, and then, without exception, the word soon spreads and the group will grow.
Watch out for more information about #WISHScotland and how you can get involved, including opportunities to sit on the board. In the meantime, take a look at our website to get more information about us.