G15 mentoring network celebrates International Women’s Day

G15 mentoring network celebrates International Women’s Day

  • 20 March 2020

“You can’t be what you can’t see”

Marian Wright Edelman

To mark international women’s day, female staff working in Development from across the G15 gathered on 9 March to hear from two of the most senior figures in the housing sector.

Helen Evans, CEO of Network Homes and Chair of the G15, and Geeta Nanda OBE, CEO of Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing Association and Vice-Chair of the G15, shared stories about their personal experiences as women working in the sector.

Just four of the 12 CEOs within the G15 are women.

Helen and Geeta spoke about their careers - from how they entered the housing industry, career decisions and attitudes when becoming mothers and the lessons learnt along the way.

Helen said: “To start at the beginning, I studied philosophy and politics at university. I was a very poor student, my specialist suit was hedonism over the years and I hated philosophy because it was dry and theoretical and didn’t speak to the heart or at least I felt at the time.

“I loved politics because I was a bit of a youthful idealist and I wanted to change the world and I thought I might know how to do that.

“A lifetime later, that affinity has completely reversed. I now feel the philosophy or some of the philosophical principles I’ve worked to have been extremely important to me and one of those is the ability to think. The other is to have enduring values and be able to apply them and to be able to hold on to something in a world that’s constantly changing.”

Geeta spoke about the impact her mother has had on her career.

“My story, like everyone’s, started with my mum,” she said.

“She’s 86 and she does yoga every morning. My mum was involved in the partition between India and Pakistan so she had to walk miles and miles from what is now Pakistan into India.”

She further went on to share her experiences being encouraged by senior women who believed in her abilities.

She highlighted the value in having mentors.

Although approximately half of G15 staff are women, there are still improvements to be made – including the need for more women to fill senior management roles.

In December, the G15 formed its inaugural Development Directors Women’s Mentoring Network, linking up female directors and heads of service at the top of their respective organisations with women starting their careers.

The network provides mentees with an opportunity to gain career advice and guidance from some of the leading female voices in the housing sector today. Ultimately, this aims to break the glass ceiling and overcome traditional barriers that are holding back some of the best and brightest in the industry.

Vicky Savage, London Managing Director at L&Q and Chair of the G15 Development Directors Group said: “The aim really is, ‘if I can see it, I can be it.’

“We’re teaming up with young women at the start of their career with women who are more established in their careers, so that people can see how those women have achieved it and share experiences and gain confidence.

“If you can see that there is another woman up there who has made it in the development field, well you can do it too.

“The idea is people must connect together. We’ve done all the paperwork, it’s a bit like an introduction agency, and then it’s up to the mentor and mentee to meet and establish how they want it to work for them.

“What I would like to see is our mentees gain promotions, to develop, to flourish in their careers, and for them to say ‘a little part of my success was down to that brilliant initiative of the mentor scheme.”

Helen Evans said: “I think having connections and a range of businesses in which women can work is very important.”

Geeta Nanda OBE said: “I think mentoring is great because it allows people to really ask questions of somebody with more experience and navigate through some of the problems people are experiencing and have a really good idea about what the potential solutions are.

“Not having to do that in the workplace but having someone outside the workplace can really give you that experience and knowledge.”