Tuesday 6 February marked the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage, when some women first gained the right to vote in Britain.
To mark this, we have spoken to some of the women within Selwood Housing Group about their occupations.
Can you share a little bit about your roles and what you do?
Margaret: Currently I am vice chair of Selwood Housing Group board having been a board director for 4 years. The board's role is to provide leadership, set policy and strategic aims, monitor performance and management of risk, while upholding Selwood Housing Group values, and I know this role can bring opportunities for women to bring their experience to help mould the future of social housing.
Fee: I am the group head of health, safety and facilities, ensuring we protect everyone from coming to harm from what we do or anything we may fail to do (and this includes our employees, customers and anyone else affected). We ensure that our employees have a clean, safe and comfortable working environment, with everything they need to do their job safely.
Stef: I'm a data services analyst, like my job title implies I handle Selwood Housing Group data across lots of different databases. One of my many duties (and the most popular) is to provide reporting services and solutions, in other words I produce reports using our data to support operations and business-decisions within the organisation.
Did you always know that this was the type of role you wanted to be in and how did you join?
Margaret: I joined the board following a recruitment process, having worked on focus groups, undertaken two annual reviews of Selwood's performance and been a neighbourhood champion, but I wanted to have more direct impact at strategic level.
Fee: No! I was operational and customer facing for 23 years before I got into health and safety. I was unhappy in a former role as I was spending a lot of time away from home. They said they wanted me to stay and would like me take on health and safety for the company. I had to get qualified at the same time ... so I did!
Stef: Yes and no. I always knew I wanted to work with databases since I completed my diploma in computer studies, but I didn't pursue this career after college. Due to a busy family life I ended up working in customer services whilst my son was still very young. Eventually when my son was older and attending school, I got a job with Selwood Housing as a customer support adviser, and eventually progressed into the role I am in now.
What are the challenges and opportunities you’ve found in your roles?
Margaret: As a woman who has been out of the workplace for many years, working with board colleagues and the management team has helped me to regain my confidence so I can positively use my past professional knowledge and work experience and add to discussions and decision making.
Fee: Originally, being taken seriously was an issue, but that was probably as much about confidence and knowledge. Opportunities are obvious when you look at the role that I perform now, I've been very lucky. It has just been a case of working very hard and being very logical in life.
Stef: When I first moved to ICT, I was the only woman in the team of ten, which was quite daunting in itself. My worries soon came to nothing, as the team are very welcoming. My personality worked well with them and it felt I had been a part of the team forever. I was also made to feel comfortable to share ideas, opinions and concerns intended to help the team from very early on in my new role.
Are you noticing a general increase in women within your profession?
Margaret: For years I and many women worked alongside men and did not get equal pay or promotion, despite having the same qualifications and work experience, but times are changing. Women in all walks of life have more opportunities to advance themselves and their careers to reach their full potential.
Fee: Yes, and in fact the balance has recently probably been more even. In my network I have equal numbers of male colleagues to female.
Stef: Yes, I think so. Last October I participated in a SQL conference in Bristol. Although women are still a minority in IT, there were still more women attendees than I had expected and some women were speakers at the event. It was interesting to find out women starting their IT career even at more mature age.
What advice would you give to other women wanting to work in a similar profession or sector?
Margaret: I believe we must be prepared to study and work without expecting more favourable treatment because we are female. That is the challenge for the future to become truly equal to men.
Fee: Just go for it! If you have the will and determination you can achieve anything you want to.
Stef: Do it! If you are passionate about a certain profession and have a vision, do whatever it takes to make it your career. There will be difficulties along the road and it will not be easy, so work hard to achieve your dreams and expand your knowledge at every opportunity. It is never too late to be what you might have been, so dream big, believe in yourself and take action!
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