Monday 13th August 2018

WISH North West - Women at the Top

In June we held our annual Women at the Top event at Grant Thornton in Liverpool. We had 3 key speakers who spoke about how they progressed in their career to get where they are now. The event was inspiring and thought proving for those who attended and spoke.

In June we held our annual Women at the Top event at Grant Thornton in Liverpool. We had 3 key speakers who spoke about how they progressed in their career to get where they are now. The event was inspiring and thought proving for those who attended and spoke.


First up we had Collette King, Chief Executive of Equity Housing Group. She opened by saying that she still didn’t feel like she was a woman at top as she still had lots to learn, develop and grow. Collette was the oldest of 3, her mum was a nurse and she lost her dad at a young age. Although she was not academic, she possessed leadership qualities. At 17 she wanted to join the police but during the recruitment process was told that she didn’t have enough life experience. This led her to leave her home town in Liverpool to become a nanny in London at 21 she moved to Canada for 4 and a half years to carry on nanny work.


Upon moving back to Liverpool at the age 27 she did a leisure and tourism degree and joined the Royal Navy in Liverpool, this taught her teamwork, endurance and leadership, her hard work was rewarded when she was awarded the Most Outstanding Recruit. Her next role was at Matalan where she was in charge of HR, People, Change and Transformation. This is where he passion for people started. Having moved around the retail industry she still felt she hadn’t been true to herself. In 2009 she had a big year, coming out to her mum, starting her new role at Knowsley Housing Trust and meeting her wife. Flossy, the golden doddle, was also a new addition to the family.


After 7 years a KTH moving her way up through 3 different roles she became Chief Executive of Equity Housing. Collette has been a breath of fresh air for the organisation, with her background in people she wants everyone to love where they work. Communication is key at Equity and that is reciprocated by all. She often feels like she has imposter syndrome wondering how she is doing it. But with the support of her family, colleagues and friends around her we can see she is doing a brilliant job. She is a strong supporter of leading females and is in the process of identify the next generation of female leaders. Finally, Collette gave us the advice to be ourselves, listen and take feedback. She also said to surround ourselves with like-minded people to bounce ideas off one and other.


Next up was Cym D’Souza, Chief Executive of Arawak Walton Housing Association, she was originally born in India, however moved to the UK at 6 months old. She was taught to believe everything a boy could do, she could do, she was also told to achieve and be visibly successful.


Upon finishing school, she decided that law was what she wanted to do, however she was told to go to the local college and become an accountant. When completing her poly, there were only 9 girls out of 111 pupils. Upon completion she got a job as an accountant. This however was short lived, in her own words she confessed to going off the rails. After a while a good group of friends were able to save her from herself. She was eventually able to find another accountancy job, but after a while was made redundant. Cym then moved to auditing and gave birth to her son, this was the making of her, so much so that she became an adult and took out life insurance.


Since 1987 housing has been her career where she became a finance director. Whilst in housing she learnt that she could make a difference to residents and employee lives. As a woman of colour, she faced a lot of discrimination, whilst at school she was the only person of a different race, she also felt discrimination in housing up until the BME act which came into force in 1992. In 1998 she became Chief Executive of Arawak Walton Housing Association where she is continuing her journey.


She is currently Chair of BME National which is the umbrella forum for over 35 BME housing associations which aims to promote equality and diversity in the provision of housing and support serves.


Cym’s takeaway for us from the event was “give people enough manoeuvre and they will grow and flower,” and that housing is a wonderful sector with lots of people who are here to help.


Finally, we heard from Laura Boldison, she was amazing and so inspiring at such an early start in her career. At age 18 Laura is in the process of completing 2 years at Grant Thornton, she started her A levels and began working at Grant Thornton instead of going to University. She is in the process of completing her AAT qualification, and will then train to become a chartered accountant in 2 years.


Throughout her short time at Grant Thornton, she is looking to take on more responsibility whilst working in audit and reporting directly to senior managers. Her ambition came from the Career Ready Now Programme which her school was running. As part of the programme she was partnered with WISH North West very own Tricia, Tricia was her mentor and helped he with her CV and interview technique. The two have remained great friends and Laura often calls upon Tricia for advice and guidance.


The programme at Grant Thornton which she joined was highly competitive, of the 6 who secured a place Laura was the only female and had the least experience, although this has not stopped her! Within the next 2 years she is on target for a promotion, hoping to reach managerial level, director and eventually partner.


She says her whole experience has been really positives and thanks those who have supported her to get where she is and urges everyone to unlock the potential of those who work for them. I am sure in a few years we will be hearing from Laura again!


After three fantastic and inspirational talks, we would like to thank all of our speakers and Grant Thornton for kindly hosting the event.

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