Women in Housing Conference 2015

I am back today after attending my first Women in Housing Conference, feeling refreshed and inspired by all the fabulous women that I met. Although I knew that Carol Matthews and Barbara Houghton would be attending from Riverside I didn’t know anyone else, but was so much looking forward to the opportunity to meet other women from housing. Coincidentally I walked into the room and struck up a conversation with two lovely ladies who turned out to work for Riverside too, Jenny and Jenny from Care & Support at Plymouth Grove.

The first guest speaker of the day was our very own Chief Executive Carol Matthews. What an inspiring lady Carol is. Although Carol touched on the tough challenges ahead of us in the housing sector, she talked about the values that were set out back in 1928 “Are these charitable objectives for history or today?” Words such as community, help, poor and relief”. Of course, these words are still true today for Riverside.

Carol Matthews Women In Housing Conference

Talking about her early career in housing as a rent collector Carol shared stories with us about making mistakes and this having the potential to take over your life. Carol’s advice “Don’t bury bad news, ‘fess up”. It’s not worth carrying around worries and mistakes and letting it get you down, you’ll feel much better telling someone!

Carol also talked about inspirational leaders, one being Abraham Lincoln and although Abe created a cabinet of Republicans who hated him at first, by the end they all respected him as an amazing leader, sometimes taking the bullet for the team, but indeed creating a great team.

Someone once said “A chief executive looks in the mirror in the morning and sees the best thing they will see all day”! Carol’s advice is not to lose yourself, aspire to look in the mirror every day and be true to yourself. It’s important to strive to give 100% every day but that it’s also ok if some days you can’t. 80% is ok too if it is the best you can give for that day. Use every network and every opportunity to talk to other women. Every conversation and every meeting is an opportunity.

My first workshop was called “Brand New Brand New”. Here we started off with a quote from Marianne Williamson: “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be”? We talked about stepping out of our comfort zones and stepping nearer to your brilliance. Too often than not women “play small” but learning that when you shine, you unconsciously give others the ability to shine. I teamed up with a lady called Leigh Hawkins, a social housing lawyer from Ward Hadaway and apart from sharing our love of dogs, music and exercise, we shared our greatest qualities, attributes and values. Who knew that I was a Communications Jedi, wouldn’t this just look great on my business card!!

Following our lovely networking lunch where I managed to get a free pedometer which I will use while walking at lunch times with colleagues, our next guest speaker was Baroness Warsi, a British-Pakistani lawyer, politician and conservative parliamentarian, who co-chaired the Conservative Party, serving in David Cameron’s Cabinet.

She talked about the barriers she faced growing up as a Pakistani woman in Dewsbury and being voted the “sexiest member of the House of Lords”. When asked what her advice would be to young women, Baroness Warsi said “hold back a little”, all too often women give too much information away. Not advising women to be deceptive but sometimes compared to men, women are too forthcoming with information about themselves which is often used against them later down the line.

My next workshop was all about building resilience. I felt like a lot of this discussion was very similar to our Riverside Service Style (RSS) training, it was much like the “circles of choice” discussed in RSS, knowing how to handle a situation effectively and believing in your own ability. One word that stood out for me when asked to share our resilience stories on how we reacted differently to situations was “control”, or lack of it at times. Sometimes you don’t have control over a situation but what you do have control over is how to act in that situation.

So now I’m off to have a lovely weekend with family and friends, feeling fabulous, refreshed and more resilient, inspired by all the fantastic women I met and as my Geordie doppelganger Cheryl Cole would say “Because I’m worth it!”