Danielle, Chair of whg
As chair of leading housing and health organisations in the West Midlands, Danielle has worked hard to achieve her success. However, like many other women, she has had barriers to overcome and believes International Women’s Day is a chance to acknowledge achievements.
“International Women’s Day is a day to reflect upon the ongoing gender inequalities globally, nationally and those within our own sphere of influence. It is also an opportunity to celebrate the triumphs and achievements of women who have been unacknowledged or who may have contributed to the advancement of ideas or actions that have benefited women.
“The biggest barriers to success in my career have been the limited expectations of others about my worth, particularly as a Black woman. Like many other women, I have overcome this by working harder and by operating at several grades above that of my paid role.
“As chair of both whg and Walsall Healthcare, I’m particularly proud of bringing housing and health together so that, through collaboration, we can do more to support the communities of Walsall.
“The advice I would give to my younger self and any other young women who wants to achieve success is ‘be disciplined, focused and strategic about you career, i.e. know what you want and go for it, but maintain integrity and treat people fairly.’”
Sharon, Recognising Our Customers and Communities (ROCCs) 2019 Award Winner
Sharon is a whg customer who scooped the Overcoming Adversity Award at last year’s Recognising Our Customers and Communities Awards ceremony, but that’s not the only thing she’s proud of. Read her story here:
“I graduated from the University of Wolverhampton, with a BA in Fine Art in 2018 and that has got to be my biggest achievement. It was one of my proudest moments. Self-pride is such an overwhelming feeling, but to add to this, I’m also proud of my daughter, who graduated on the same day, with a BA in Religious Studies and Sociology.
“For me, it was a journey of 33 years, from the age of 14, when I had decided I wanted to get my degree. I have never faced any barriers within the art field due to being a woman but had always struggle with education, due to being Dyslexic.
“International Women’s Day is a celebration of all that women have achieved throughout history and what we can further accomplish in present day. One piece of advice I would give to my younger self would be, to trust in myself more and to believe that there is no limit to what I can achieve. Hard work always pays and education is never wasted it’s always in the bank, ready to withdrawn when required.”
Karen, Corporate Director of Governance and Compliance
Being the first girl in her family to go to university was an achievement for Karen, here she tells her story:
"International Women’s Day is a celebration which is gaining recognition and building a profile as a time to pause and think about women across the world. It's an opportunity to remind ourselves to value the opportunities we have.
“I was the first girl in my family to go to university and my dad didn’t understand my choice, he didn’t think it was important as I would probably get married and have children one day. However, with persuasion, he began to understand. When my dad was dying, he told me he was proud of me. He’d never said that to me before so it was a special moment and a big achievement.
“I studied for an Institute of Trading Standards Qualification and I gained top marks, this was also great achievement for me as I’d never come top in anything before. Growing up, it was always my brother who achieved better marks than me in education. Gaining my qualification gave me the confidence and assured me that I can be as good as I want to be and I’ve believed this throughout my career.
“I saw the barriers I faced as barriers anyone, male or female, could face and overcame them by being clear about what it was I wanted to achieve and doing my best. Don't underestimate yourself.”
Theresa, Corporate Director of People and Learning
Theresa, whg’s Corporate Director of People and Learning, has never felt that her gender has held her back but recognises that’s not always the case for other women. She says:
“We are fortunate to live in a society which has made great strides in relation to gender equality, and whilst being a woman in Britain is not without its challenges, it is far tougher in some countries. International Women’s Day is about pausing and thinking about women all over the world who are in far less fortunate situations, and to make a commitment to advancing opportunities for all women and girls.
“When it comes to my career, the most important driver for me was to be financially independent and I’ve worked hard to achieve this. Being a woman has never held me back and I have been fortunate to work in roles that I enjoy and in a sector that is really worthwhile. Men and women often bring different perspectives and I’ve never felt that, in order to progress, I have to had to behave like a man. I have just concentrated on being good at my job and being an authentic leader.
As a working mother, climbing the career ladder with caring responsibilities was challenging, but I was lucky to have a good network of support around me. I am proud that I have managed to combine a fulfilling career with helping to raise three young adults who are kind and caring; I consider this as a big achievement.
“I would encourage women to not be so hard on themselves; we are often our own worst critics. I used to give myself a hard time about pretty much everything but realised that if you spend your life beating yourself up, it’s no fun! Be as kind to yourself as you are to the people closest to you.”
Hyacinth, Equality and Diversity Manager
International Women’s Day grows in importance each year for Hyacinth, whg’s Equality and Diversity Manager. Here she explains why:
“I became aware of the injustices women suffer early on in my life and International Women’s Day is an important day, not to just think about women in this country, but to acknowledge women in other countries who struggle for basic needs and human rights. We need to be appreciative of what we have and use our position to raise our voice to benefit others.
“As Equality and Diversity Manager, I work in the community and I still see the barriers and difficulties women face. It’s important to recognise the brilliant examples of womanhood, past and present, that help us and provide inspiration to overcome barriers and move ourselves forward.
"I get inspiration from a range of women in small ways and in large ways, from famous women – musicians and writers, to the wonderful women in my everyday. Women are a major forces in my life and International Women’s Day is an opportunity to say thanks and show appreciation.”
Connie, Head of Health and Wellbeing
Head of Health and Wellbeing, Connie, sees the celebration of International Women’s Day as a perfect chance to recognise whg’s Women of Walsall (WOW) group. Here she explains more about how the group helps others:
“Women of Walsall (WOW) brings together women to provide support and share individual experiences. The group allows women to have a platform and a voice on things such as health, work, education and family.
“The purpose of the group is to bring women together to ask them what matters to them and what role whg can take to ensure their lives are the best they can be. WOW welcomes women of all ages and backgrounds and recognises the unique skills each of them will bring to WOW.
“Every woman has something ‘wow’ about them, whether that’s bringing up children, caring for others, being a role model or helping in the community; women have an important part to play. They are the centre of a family and the centre of community and this group really celebrates them.”
If you want to meet other women and learn from each other, then join WOW. Joining is free with childcare provided and sessions will be offered in local communities. To find out more contact Lisa Sylvester, Health and Wellbeing Team firstname.lastname@example.org
Amanda, Apprentice Carpenter
Amanda is a graduate of whg’s Uplift programme, our construction apprenticeship scheme for women. Now a Carpentry Apprentice, she has worked hard to get where she is today and is pleased to be celebrating International Women’s Day.
“International Women's Day means a lot to me. It's a day to celebrate women and where we are today.
“I’ve been through a lot in my life – over the years, life got really hard. I suffered domestic abuse for seven years in my first relationship, which broke me and my confidence completely. I got sick with epiglottitis and ended up in critical care and I watched my mom go through so much and give up to alcohol, as wasn’t strong enough. I lost her in 2005.
“I have faced different barriers to success over the years like control by my partner, so I wasn’t able to go anywhere or get a career, and my youngest son having ADHD and ODD means I haven't been able to work.
“I've fought so hard, with help of some amazing people to be where I am today – a strong independent woman with amazing children working in the construction industry which was a man’s world and so loving life!
“I'm proud of my achievements, my children are one – they are amazing and I'm proud of them all so much. Another is getting my independence and life back, gaining all the qualifications I have to lead me to my carpentry apprenticeship with whg. From where I was to where I am now is amazing.
“If I could give any advice to my younger self now, it would be to be strong, stick up for what you believe, learn how to fight failure, love yourself and gain happiness in life and employment.”
Shafeen, Community Champion
Shafeen, is a whg customer who found employment with us as a community champion. She believes International Women’s Day means celebrating the success of women and supporting each other. She says:
“I am really proud of getting a job with whg as a community champion, building customer confidence, self esteem and reliance. Myself and my colleague Zoe set up the Women of Walsall Pinfold Group which won an award at the ROCCs last year.
“This was a group of stay-at-home mums who have been looking after their children and families. We supported them into English classes and helped register them on to the whg portal, increasing their confidence and improving their IT skills. These women have come a long way and some have gone into volunteering and work.
“The barriers for me achieving success were childcare and balancing work and home life. I’m always planning and thinking ahead so my children do not feel neglected. I have less time for myself but my advice to others who may be in the same situation is: Believe in yourself and go for it. If you want it, go and get it. Anything is possible.
Fay, Corporate Director of Operations
Support has been a key factor in the success that Fay, whg’s Corporate Director of Operations, has experienced and she encourages women to help each other to be the best that they can be.
“International Women’s Day is an opportunity to highlight the struggles that women experience, but also the achievements they accomplish. It’s an essential day to celebrate what we all could and should be. I appreciate that I live in a country and in an age where I have been able to reach my potential in my career. I have been lucky to have had some great bosses in my time, both men and women, who have encouraged and challenged me, but it’s not the same everywhere. Women and girls can be held back and prevented by fulfilling their hopes and dreams.
“It will probably come as a surprise to those who do not know me well to learn that at school I wasn’t predicted to do very well. My career advisor thought that I wouldn’t amount to much more than a shelf stacker in the local supermarket (on reflection this might say more about the quality of careers advice than my ability, but at the time I was devastated). It’s fair to say that school didn’t inspire me and I couldn’t wait to leave.
"However, I soon realised that if I wanted to make a difference, I needed to go back to college and start again. It was at college that I met an amazing tutor, Collette, who is probably the reason why I am in housing today. She was an inspiration to me and she saw something in me that I hadn’t seen myself. It was through her encouragement that I saw I could aim higher and be more ambitious.
"After college, I went to University and from there, I didn’t look back. I am proud of what I’ve achieved, but the story could have been very different. It’s amazing the difference one person can make to someone else’s life’.
“I haven’t experienced the kind of barriers that many women experience in their careers, but when I was younger I did feel I had to work harder in order to be taken seriously, particularly when I first became a manager. I looked quite young for my age and when I attended partnership meetings, people seemed surprised that I was in my role. I felt, as a younger woman in a position of authority, that I had to prove myself and demonstrate that I was up for the job. Having had this experience, I always try and help support young women in their careers and make sure that they know there’s support available if they need it.
“For me, I enjoy building capability and confidence in others. Seeing others flourish is what inspires me in return. If by sharing my knowledge and experience I can help others, then I’m happy. If I could give my younger self a piece of advice I’d say don’t be too hard on yourself. Be the best you can be and that will be enough. Stop stressing and slow down.”
Ranjit, Assistant Manager of Neighourhood Services
Home and work life demands can often be challenging for Ranjit, Assistant Manager of whg’s Neighbourhood Services, and she feels that many women often slip into different roles to accommodate their responsibilities. She says:
“International Women’s Day is about promoting women in all walks of life. There is so much that we can do, we can be quite undervalued. Many of us hold down full-time jobs, a home and take care of children. The role of a woman is vast throughout the world. We are like superwomen!
“As an Asian person, it’s been particularly harder as I have to balance my work life with my home life expectations. The demands can be challenging. I have to take a step back to reflect, focus on and prioritise the needs of my extended family. I have to slip into two roles – my role at work and my role with my family.
“I’m proud of my achievements. In my career, I was seconded to an area manager role with Walsall Council. This demonstrated my capability of working at a higher level and was a massive opportunity to develop my confidence and gain skills. As well as progressing in my career, I have supported my three children with their success in further education and they now have careers in dentistry and accountancy.
“If you want a successful career, I would urge you to be focused on your future goals and be prepared to travel outside of your comfort zone to achieve your ambitions.”
Throughout the week, we'll be sharing more #IWD2020 stories.