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International Women's Day: Rebecca's blog

International Women's Day: Rebecca's blog

As we embark on the 108th International Women’s Day (yes, it shocked me too to find that that the movement started in 1911!), its safe to say that women in business have come a long way, yet there is still more to be achieved.

In 2019, we celebrate the theme of #BalanceforBetter, calling for a more gender balanced world, not just in business but in society as a whole.

I’m lucky enough to work for Incommunities, one of West Yorkshire’s biggest housing providers, an organisation with noticeable gender balanced leadership – our executive team is made up of three women and our board is chaired by yet another leading female figure. Diverse leadership from the top sends a positive message rippling through the organisation, and promotes an inclusive culture where women are supported with equal opportunities to develop and thrive in the workplace.

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This inspired me to search for a board position myself, to develop the skills and business acumen needed to be an effective and influential leader. Now, as well as being a woman, I’m also rather young to be searching for a board position at 26, which has proved to be another hurdle.

I applied for a couple of board member positions and whilst managing to get to interview stage, my level of board expertise was where I lacked experience. I was a little stumped as to how I get board expertise without being exposed to the boardroom. If that’s what I needed, how could I get there? That’s when I saw Together Housing in partnership with the Housing Diversity Network were recruiting for the next generation of board and committee members through the Achieving and Harnessing Board Diversity programme.

Together Housing has recognised boards that include talent from all walks of life can benefit greatly from the insight and creativity generated by that diversity as well as improving business performance. Having a wide range of perspectives represented in the boardroom is critical to effective governance, drawing on a diverse set of skills and knowledge to address the complex issues housing organisations face in an ever-changing climate.

I was successful in gaining a position on the programme along with five other candidates. Together has really kept to its word in wanting to develop a diverse pool of future board members with four of us being female, three from BME backgrounds and all representing different age groups and communities. Our range of backgrounds brings different experiences and views, generating lively discussion! Just in the first few weeks we already challenge one another and have learnt more from each other than I could have imagined.

Over the coming months we will learn in more detail the role of a board member, how to effectively challenge and build our confidence while developing the practical knowledge needed to contribute in the boardroom. This innovative new programme is something I believe the sector should watch with interest. You can barely go to a conference or event without the issue of diversity being mentioned – it’s nothing new. So now it’s time for us to act, learn from each other and really focus on creating a balanced boardroom, with diversity at its core.

Rebecca Simpson

Policy Officer, Incommunities

Together Housing candidate on the Achieving and Harnessing Board Diversity pilot in partnership with Progress Housing Group and Housing Diversity Network

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