Wednesday 22nd November 2023

My WISH Reflection

Last week was my last Women In Social Housing event as Co-Chair of the London region. It made me want to reflect on my time at WISH and the lessons learned.

My WISH Reflection...

By Kathryn Grundy, Design Associate, WWA Studios

Last week was my last Women In Social Housing event as Co-Chair of the London region. It made me want to reflect on my time at WISH and the lessons learned. Women in Social Housing is a networking organisation initiated to create opportunity, impact change and build a unique network. WISH’s motivation is to create a lasting legacy we can all be proud of within the UK housing sector: by challenging gender inequality and the gender pay gap, by encouraging new and existing female talent to remain in the sector, and by boosting one another through our career successes.

I joined the WISH board after only attending a couple of networking sessions. I had been welcomed by WISH board members but felt like an outsider. I realise now this was my perception and nervousness. But as I voiced these feelings, I was met with opposing views some agreeing that networking is hard and others not understanding my feelings.

I joined the board but felt like I had little to offer as it was a role I had never done. I was fortunate that I was surrounded by friendly people who showed me the ropes. Tracey McEachran made me feel a part of a team and through her eyes, I could see myself as a stronger more confident individual.

One of the first events I ran was with Hony Premlal and Jacqueline Adusei who were welcoming and honest. We formed a dream team and later rose to the positions of vice chair and co-chair of the board.

No harm in trying

I wanted to put on events that I would want to attend and proposed a How-To Network online event. It was amazingly popular and gave me hope that I was not alone in my fear of networking. There are certain things we are not taught which are life skills we need. Being able to meet people and be genuinely myself is a lesson that I will never forget. I carried on trying to make networking more inclusive through the introduction of structured networking which we have now run twice with amazingly positive feedback.

Be your genuine self - Titles don't matter

I was fortunate enough to get the most amazing speakers who inspired me. Through these speakers, I learned to articulate who I am, what I want, and what my purpose is. I became energized through these interactions. People often asked how I made connections and normally it was a phone call or an email that sparked a conversation. When I was at WISH events, position and title didn’t matter, I could speak to anyone and they were my colleagues, my equals. It was welcoming and these open-minded interactions were freeing.

Focus on your why

It has not always been easy. I faced criticism and learned you can’t please everyone. There were days I didn’t feel like the effort was worth it, especially when faced with negative feedback. But the board supported me and told me to listen to my own voice and through it, I learned as a leader not to lose sight of my core objectives. To be genuine and confident in my judgments. Now reflecting back on these moments, I would deal with them very differently... But to do something wrong is sometimes more valuable than getting it right the first time. It’s okay to make a mistake, as you will learn more from that.

So, what did I get from being a Co-Chair at WISH:

  • Be authentic- even if that is sometimes awkward. Not everyone will like you, but that is ok. Who am I? Wife, daughter, friend, architect, writer, and artist.
  • Motivation – Asking myself what is my why? What gets me out of bed in the morning? Why am I here? To create a positive change.
  • Make Room – for people who haven’t been given a chance to speak yet. Try to get speakers with new perspectives and different points of view. Try to get board members who have varied backgrounds and life experiences.
  • Balance – practice what you preach when you talk about life balance and priorities. When they are wrong, reappraise and reshuffle. It is OK to do what’s right for you: give time for your passion.

I stepped down as Co-Chair because now it’s someone else's turn. It is time for someone who is shy, who wants board experience and wants more understanding of themselves to give being on the board a go regardless of age, position, or experience- say yes, try, and don’t be afraid to fail.

Being on the board gave me an “excuse” to speak to people but it didn’t change me, it was the confidence I needed when I didn’t have any.

I am proud of who I am, I am proud of what I have accomplished but mostly I am proud of what I have learned and how I have developed from my failures. A bad presentation, an awkward conversation, an unpopular event…

Thanks for reading. Please come and say “Hi” at the next event. 


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