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International Women’s Day: Interview with Sara Jackson

To mark International Women’s Day 2021, SFHA's Director of Operations, Sara Jackson, has shared her thoughts on what the day means to her.

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What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Growing up in South Africa, I have been aware from a really early age of the huge (unfair) advantages that some women get in life. I put myself in that category. I had a good education, grew up with a privileged life, came to the UK and benefited from free health care, excellent, low-cost higher education at university and have worked and progressed through organisations willing to support and trust me to run their operations.

However, I will never forget living next to, and going to school with, many other women who were not so fortunate. To me, International Women’s Day is a chance, personally, to reflect on how much I have to be grateful for, for the opportunities I have, whilst remembering those who haven’t had the same advantage in life. Access to education and healthcare is a luxury that millions of women across the world do not have.

International Women’s day is a time for us who have been fortunate to remember the fight for equality across the world is far from over and to use our privilege, platform and resources to fight for the same rights for all women.

What made you want to work in the housing sector?

For me, it was the role itself at SFHA that caught my attention.Having spent most of my career in the private sector, this was an excellent opportunity to use my skills and experience to support the running of a not-for-profit organisation. A perfect combination of business acumen whilst serving a socially just movement.

However, it didn’t take long to catch the housing bug and become borderline obsessed with the history of social housing in Scotland and immerse myself into the world of our SFHA members. Every day, I am continually surprised and amazed by our members’ work and the power of the sector in Scotland.

What do you think are the key challenges facing women in the workplace?

Unbiased discrimination still exists and is a very real challenge. This perpetuates the self-limiting beliefs that many women experience and stops them from reaching their full potential. We hear so much of strong, competent leaders still experiencing imposter syndrome, and that is fuelled by the societal construct that exists within workplaces.

Women today are still offered fewer roles that allow them to reach the highest levels of leadership. We must make a deliberate investment to help women colleagues, model our culture and behaviours around inclusive leadership and empower our teams to negotiate their roles and future in the workplace.

Who are your female role models?

I’m so fortunate to work with, and for, Sally Thomas, an inspirational leader who reminds us every day of our purpose and why we’re doing what we do.

Sally was a big motivator for me taking the role at SFHA, and it’s been a privilege to serve our members alongside her.

In addition, I’ve been so fortunate to be surrounded by strong, brilliant female leaders on our board of directors. Julia Mulloy, Lynn Wassell and Joyce Orr have been so kind, patient and generous with their time. They inspire me to be better, and it’s a true honour to be following in the footsteps of such strong sector leaders.

What advice would you offer to women looking to pursue a career in the housing sector?

Come on in! It’s a sector that offers an abundance of opportunities, regardless of your skills, experience and qualifications. There is generally a role for everyone. Check out the SFHA Jobs Board or get in touch with your local housing association to see what opportunities might be available.

And keep an eye on SFHA’s Innovation and Future Thinking Programme for our Routes into Housing launch coming soon.

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