Thursday 7th March 2019

Women in Social Housing (WISH) welcomes new South East region

Women in Social Housing (WISH), the only membership-based network for women working across the affordable housing and construction sectors, has extended its reach to the South East.

The organisation, which has grown organically since it was set up in 1998, now has nine regional boards across the UK and over 500 members, while up to 3,000 other women and men support it and attend events.

Melissa Woodall, Chair of the WISH South East board was a member of the WISH London region for four years and said that during that time she had expanded her network and developed confidence.

“When I went to my first event I was so impressed at how open and inclusive it was,” she explained. “It was such a breath of fresh air to be in a room with more women than men.”

But living and working in the South East, an hour and a half away from London, she felt that there was a geographical gap to plug and worked alongside Shirley Heapy, associate director, at GL Hearn, part of Capita Real Estate and Infrastructure, and vice-chair of the South East board, to set up the new region, which covers Kent and Sussex.

The region was officially launched with an event at Ebbsfleet United football club which was attended by over 100 guests.

“Our launch event was all about setting the direction of travel and attendees were asked about what they want to get out of their membership and what they want to learn themselves,” said Melissa, who is head of new business at housing refurbishment specialists PiLON. “We want to make sure that it is a member-driven region.”

Guest speakers Chyrel Brown, director of resident services at Hyde Group, Theresa Mohammed, events manager for WISH’s London region and Deborah McLaughlin, managing director of GL Hearn and former executive director for the North West at the Homes and Communities Agency, talked about their experiences working within the sector.

The event was a huge success, said Melissa, with a great deal of interest from attendees in signing up to the new region.

Angela Lemon, partner at calfordseaden said: “calfordseaden, as long-time sponsors of WISH and all that it stands for, were delighted to be amongst so many current and previous clients, colleagues and like-minded professionals at the launch event for the South East region. The speakers were very entertaining, at the same time as passing on useful tips, and delivering inspiring messages.

“We look forward to future events and the additional networking opportunities this new region will bring. All in all, a very successful and enjoyable event.”

‘What a great event,” said Jess Haines, head of commercial business at Lewes & Eastbourne councils. “The launch of WISH South East gives women working in social housing in the region a fantastic opportunity to collaborate and to access meaningful debate and engagement with fellow professionals through events and networking.

“It will enable women to come together and tackle the key issues for our sector, as well as having the chance to hear from inspiring female leaders. 

“I also welcome the positive impact WISH will have to encourage others from the South East region into our sector with the knowledge that strong support networks are available to support career development.”

The cornerstones of the WISH vision are to encourage more women to choose careers in housing and construction and to address career progression for women within the sectors, challenging stereotypes and barriers and encouraging successful behaviour.

WISH’s executive director and co-founder Nicola Dibb welcomed the addition of a ninth region. She added: “The industry’s gender complexion now is very different to when WISH was set up just over 20 years ago and it is proud to be part of that legacy of change but there is still work to be done if we are to truly combat inequality and break down the barriers that are holding women back. The addition of a new network will help us to reach out to more women working within housing and construction and to make changes from within the sectors.”


Anyone interested in joining the South East branch of WISH should contact Melissa at [email protected]

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