Marking International Women's Day - guest blog by Chloe Christian
Sunday 8 March is International Women’s Day and in the run up to this, members of our executive team are sharing their thoughts on issues affecting women in the social housing sector.
Today Chloe Christian, Executive Director of Corporate Services, shares her thoughts on the positive things that the social housing sector is doing to promote inclusivity for women working in it. She also reflects on what needs to change to ensure women in our industry have the best chance to succeed.
"I moved from the private sector to social housing 18 years ago, and have spent the last nine and a half years at First Choice Homes. Among the things that attracted me to the industry was the flexibility it offers employees as their priorities change moving through life, for example having children or taking on other caring responsibilities.
"Rather than forcing colleagues to choose work or responsibility, I think our sector is good at giving them the room to manage both, with many organisations including our own offering flexible working arrangements which colleagues welcome."
Women in seats at the top table
"Also positive is that females are becoming better represented on executive teams in registered providers of social housing like us, and more women feel supported to embark on senior leadership career pathways. Indeed I am proud to be part of a 75% female leadership team here in our organisation and I’m passionate about supporting women to be the best they can be to progress in their careers. As part of this we are currently rolling out a leadership development programme designed to support and motivate our future leaders, and equip them with the tools to achieve their goals."
Closing the gender pay gap
"While it’s important for us to celebrate how our industry supports women, there are areas where there is room for improvement.
"Closing the gender pay gap is one. In the UK the pay gap has reduced by 0.6% in the last 12 months; it was 17.9% in 2018/19 and has gone to 17.3% in 2019/20.
"In our sector the picture is slightly better. Last year Inside Housing sampled 50 housing associations and the gender pay gap in 2018/19 was 8.1% in favour of men, up 3% from 2017/18. Although lower than the national average, this gap is still disappointing and there is clearly work to be done to create more of a level playing field for men and women. I’m always surprised that more is not made about the disparity between the pay of men and women and if the roles were reversed, I’m sure there would be outrage.
"I’m pleased to say that our organisation is bucking the trend. At the moment the pay gap is slightly in favour of women due to the number of women we have in senior leadership roles, but I think it’s important to strive for the same pay, whatever your gender."
Change perceptions of career breaks
"Also, I think more needs to be done to attract women back into social housing after they have had a career break. Women who have had time off, perhaps to raise a family or to perform other caring roles, should not be put off from wanting to come back to the workplace at the same level at which they left. These women have often taken a break while they are in their prime career-wise, and they have a strong, desirable skillset and expertise from juggling a busy family life, which can certainly be used to good effect.
"In the private sector, the likes of Barclays and large audit firms are setting an example for other organisations by targeting women who have had taken career breaks and offering them refresher courses to help them get back to where they want to be. I’d like to see this replicated across other sectors, including social housing, to attract women back to work after they have taken time out. It would give them the confidence and motivation that they can succeed, and helping us to retain and develop their talent.
"Although our sector has some way to go to reset the gender balance in terms of pay and opportunity for females in social housing, I’m proud of the headway it is making and to be on the leadership team of an organisation working hard to make a positive difference to females in its workforce."