Sunday 8 March marks International Women’s Day – a celebration of the achievements of women around the world. To commemorate, we spoke to three female employees who make a difference here at The Gateshead Housing Company.
Marie John, Head of Business and Development
‘What are your key responsibilities?’
As part of the Executive Management Team, I am responsible for capturing how we deliver our Corporate Plan and support Gateshead Council’s Thrive agenda.
I am responsible for corporate service teams, including: Communications, Involvement and Performance Management, ICT Support, Development and Delivery, Leasehold Services, Rent Accounting and Quality and Business Improvement.
I lead on Property and Assets Service Improvement Programme (C Change) and assist with developing documentation to support training and delivery for all areas of compliance.
‘Who is your favourite successful woman?’
Those who know me well know that I have a keen interest in forensic science, so I would say Rosalind Franklin, a British scientist. She is best known for her contributions to the discovery of the molecular structure of DNA; her work on X-ray diffraction images of DNA led to the discovery of the DNA double helix.
‘What advice can you give to women looking for a career in management?’
Go for it! Lead by example, be collaborative, empathetic and passionate about what you do. Always support your employees and be open to new ideas, new ways of working and self-improvement.
Deborah Ewart, Head of Housing Support
‘What’s your job role?’
I’m Head of Housing Support, which covers all services that support people to access and sustain accommodation. This includes Neighbourhood Relations, which deals with anti-social behaviour, and the Housing Options team, who tackle homelessness and rough sleeping. I also manage Housing Support, Armed Forces Outreach Scheme and the Refugee Resettlement programme.
On top of this, I take a lead role in the housing company for safeguarding, and chair the Safeguarding Adults Practice Delivery group in Gateshead.
‘How did your journey into management start?’
I started working for Gateshead Council’s housing department in 1989, as a temporary receptionist at Low Fell housing office. I then secured a permanent position, as a clerical assistant, and had the opportunity to study part-time for a housing qualification. I went to Northumbria University after this, and gained a degree in Housing Management.
‘Who inspires you?’
I have two – my nana Eliza, and Octavia Hill.
My nana Eliza was born in 1923, the eldest of 13 children and a mother of nine. She survived the Second World War and was known for her direct speaking and candid approach! A tough, hard-working woman, she taught me that in life, you get out what you put in and effort is always rewarded. She also taught me many practical things, like cooking and baking, and the importance of family.
Another of my inspirations is Octavia Hill. A founder of the National Trust, she was a pioneering thinker and social reformer, who worked hard to improve urban housing and protect green spaces. She started working at age 14 and set about improving living conditions for the working class. To do so, she let properties, charging less rent than other landlords yet still ensuring they were in good repair. By 1874, Octavia managed over 3,000 tenancies in London. Her properties were not just homes, but hubs of activity, creativity, music and culture. She was firm but compassionate, taking an interest in the lives of her tenants and fostering mutual respect. Because of this, she became known as ‘the friendly face of landlordism’. Although this was 19th century England, social landlords still face similar challenges to Octavia, in welfare reform, poverty, social isolation and homelessness.
‘What would you say to a woman who’d like to go into management?’
Set goals, and have faith and confidence in yourself and your ability – it’s all about your mindset. As a woman, mother and manager, I’ve learnt the importance of being organised if you want to achieve things. Don’t worry about making mistakes – it doesn’t mean you aren’t capable, just that you’re human. How you deal with mistakes is what really counts. I’d advise anyone looking to develop their career to talk to others in managerial positions; consider a mentor or coach, and learn from their experience.
Natalie Scott, Quantity Surveyor
‘What do you do at The Gateshead Housing Company?’
I’m a Quantity Surveyor in the Repairs and Maintenance team. In this role, I’m responsible for monitoring the income and expenditure of the £6 million repairs and maintenance budget. This covers the whole of Gateshead and varies from minor repairs, such as door handle replacements, to large major works.
My job involves working collaboratively with other teams to improve our housing stock. I prepare budget estimates, process payments and ensure they’re paid on time. I also assess subcontractor valuations to make sure we’re getting best value for money.
‘Which woman do you admire?’
The Queen, an incredibly hardworking lady.
‘Would you recommend a career in construction to women?’
Yes, it’s an incredibly diverse industry that evolves regularly and has various multidisciplinary roles. There’s lots of opportunity to develop existing skills and learn something new. My advice would be: just go for it – you can really make a positive difference.