Happy International Women’s Day 2024 | News

Happy International Women’s Day 2024

On International Women’s Day 2024, Trent & Dove are proud to celebrate female inclusion across our organisation.

Our Chief Executive, Chair of the Board, Customer Committee Chair, and a senior leader share what it means to be a female leader in the housing sector and what advice they have for other women who are keen to follow in their footsteps.

They each focused on how we can better support women in social housing, why this year’s campaign is so important and shared some of their own standout career moments.

Here’s what they had to say.

Ursula Bennion, CEO

Why do you want to support this year’s campaign to inspire inclusion?

Claire said: “I have always supported International Women’s Day and this year is no different. It’s great that there is a day where we focus on women, women’s achievements, and this year on women’s inclusion.

So much progress for women’s inclusion has been achieved over the years but there is still some way to go. International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to celebrate and reflect.

Ursula added: “Women have struggled over the centuries to get equality and it is only 100 years ago that the Suffragettes fought for the right for women to vote. There are still many women in areas across the globe that are not treated with the level of dignity, respect and equality they deserve. The fight won't be won until this is achieved worldwide.”

Emma said: “I have been so lucky in my career to have been inspired and supported by some amazing female leaders who have invested their time and belief in my development. It’s up to all of us to challenge discriminatory behaviours and gender bias in the workplace that still exists for women, to create opportunities and to mentor, support and empower women to be the best they can in, and outside of, the workplace.”

Kim concluded: “I want to support this year’s campaign, because I feel that we should celebrate the achievements of women from all different walks of life and cultures, and that women are more independent than they have ever been.”

Kim Smith, Customer Committee Chair

Thinking more about the sector, what advice would you give to women considering a career in housing?

Emma said: “I’d encourage any woman to consider a career in the housing sector. The roles are so diverse from more stereotypical housing officer roles to support workers and specialist roles such as mental health and domestic abuse experts, through to our infrastructure roles in HR, ICT and finance, there are so many routes for progression and professional development. Everyone plays a vital role in providing exceptional housing and support services to our tenants. If you want a role where every day is different, challenging and endlessly rewarding, housing is for you!”

Claire commented: “I’d say go for it! I’ve been involved with housing and housing support for most of my working life and I have loved every minute. It was never a conscious choice for me, I ‘fell out’ of my chosen career of care and support/social work. I could see how crucial a safe home is for people to begin to even think about their support needs and living a good life. I ended up working for a housing association and never looked back.

“There are so many opportunities in housing for everyone. I started on the housing support side of work but had a go and developed skills in rent collection, managing housing maintenance services, and even a spot of development/service design. I’m not saying that everything is perfect but you do see women doing all sorts of jobs and at all different levels. It’s great that at Trent & Dove we have so many women in senior leadership roles!”


Thinking about your career highlights. Can you tell us some of your biggest achievements to help inspire anyone reading this to unlock their potential?

Kim said: “My biggest achievement in my career is to work within the community I grew up in and to be awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the King’s honours list for my community work during COVID-19.

“This in turn can show it doesn’t matter what your background or gender is you too are equal to everyone else!”

Ursula added: “I guess getting the Chief Executive job at Trent & Dove at my first attempt. My former CEO told me that you virtually never get the first one you go for! The greatest part of getting the job though was that I made my mum really proud.”

Emma shared: “I’ve got two! Professionally, launching and growing a one-stop-shop support service for women in Stoke-on-Trent and embedding that service as an alternative to a custodial sentence via the court system. That service grew over the years meaning that hundreds of women were provided holistic rehabilitative support with housing, health, financial, addiction, family, and education services in the community.

“And personally, becoming a head of department when I had a young baby. Only possible because of a workplace culture that encouraged female leadership development and flexible working.”

Emma Robinson, Head of Supported Housing

So, what is the most useful action for people reading this if they want to support inclusion for women?

Emma said: “[We should] create roles, where possible, that are flexible. I’ve been at my best where I’ve been able to work flexibly whether that’s working hours, patterns or locations.  “Hybrid working, agile working and flexi-time arrangements mean that women with disabilities, children or other care commitments can continue to thrive in work and at home.

“To move away from gender stereotypes that shape ideas and behaviour. Try not to think about ‘men’s roles’ and ‘women’s roles’ – let’s just think about opportunities for people to reach their full potential and do what they enjoy doing and are good at.”

Claire added: “It’s also important to think about our own underlying bias. Think about how we can be open to change and put ourselves in places to learn from new perspectives and ideas. When we see great inclusive practice we should share it around and when we see great role models point them out to other people too. I am a great believer in what the great tennis player Billie Jean King once said. ‘You have to see it, to be it!’

“At Trent & Dove there are so many great women role models across the organisation, it sends a message that this really is a positive place for women to achieve and grow.”

Claire Winfield, Chair

And finally. How do you believe we can safely challenge behaviour that doesn’t support inclusion?

Claire said: “It’s often much easier to ‘call out’ overt acts of sexism. It is however I think, underlying bias that is still prevalent and chips away and undermines women’s equal place in society.

“Sometimes in meetings I can say something and make a point which seems to go unheard. Then a man will say a broadly similar thing and this gets picked up as ‘a good point’. It’s a little thing to act as a reminder that when men talk, it’s seen as more important… I don’t think it’s a conscious thing when it happens but it still sometimes does.

“My biggest concern for future generations is that whilst laws to combat sexism are there, without challenge to the underlying bias that continues, women still won’t be considered on a level playing field. No one would be stupid enough to say that a woman didn’t get a job because of her sex but she may not get a job because she was ‘pipped to the post’ by a man who shared a football joke with the boss before the interview.”

Ursula added: “Women should feel valued and that they have an equal right and equal opportunity to succeed. I think Trent & Dove hold these values close to our heart. We have a senior management team packed with talented women (and we have a female CEO and Chair of the Board).”

Emma concluded: “Call it out. The only way we will make dramatic changes is by men and women, challenging those behaviours when we see them and creating a safe environment in our organisations for other women to do so too.”


Did you know?

Trent & Dove’s executive management team is made up of over 60% women and we have significant representation in our senior management team, specifically within the neighbourhoods department where our Head of Housing and Head of Supported Housing are both women. 

Women in Social Housing (WISH) is a networking community of encouragement and support for every woman, championing positive and beneficial outcomes for all, regardless of role or experience within the UK housing sector.


Happy International Women’s Day 2024.

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