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Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities visits Network Homes’ women’s development programme

Dawn Butler, MP for Brent Central and Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, visited Network Homes’ Aspire Programme to talk to them about leadership and her career.

The Aspire programme is Network Homes’ first women’s development programme. It is designed for female staff in non-managerial positions who want to build their confidence in a safe environment.

The programme runs for a year and aims to enhance the members’ influencing skills while building their assertiveness and a positive image. Women on the programme are given the opportunity to attend conferences and quarterly networking sessions with aspirational speakers.

The Aspire programme was launched in September 2018 in response to Network Homes’ 2017/18 Gender Pay Gap Report. The report stated there was a mean gender pay gap of 19.2% and a median pay gap of 17%. While not an equal pay issue, the report highlighted the lack of female representation at senior levels – mostly in technical, property development and IT roles. Encouragingly, for 2018/19, the gap has decreased slightly to a mean gender pay gap 17.8% and a median pay gap of 14.2%.

During the networking session with the Aspire members, Dawn Butler shared the challenges she has faced in her career as a woman and how she has tackled them. She shared her views on leadership and gave advice on how to be an effective leader. She also spoke about inequality and what everyone can do to break down structural barriers.

Dawn Butler serves as the Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities and is MP for Brent Central, the local MP to Network Homes’ Wembley office. She was named the “most promising feminist under 35” by New Statesman magazine and has been named ‘MP of the Year’ at the Women in Public Life Awards. 

Her successful career as a politician and commitment to addressing inequality made her an ideal candidate to network with the Aspire members. Network Homes has previously welcomed Dawn to a celebration of Black History in 2017, where she spoke about the importance of diversity in the workplace.

Shauna Hutchinson, Resident Engagement Officer at Network Homes and Top 5 finalist for 24housing’s Young Leader’s Awards said of Dawn’s visit: “It is great Dawn took the time to come and speak to us Aspire members. She is inspiring and authentic. I learned you shouldn’t worry about whether or not you win the race as being present is an accomplishment in itself. As Dawn said, you will either win or you will learn.

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There is a saying ‘aspire to inspire’ and the Aspire Programme encapsulates that. It is so important to build pipelines because sometimes women can become invisible in the workplace. Having a spotlight on issues affecting women helps employers and managers to focus and tackle them in the workplace.

Dawn Butler, MP for Brent Central and Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities

Network Homes is committed to equality and diversity. They have implemented the Rooney Rule to ensure qualified BME and female candidates get an interview at senior management level, and roles where it’s been determined there is a need. For International Women’s Day this year, Network hosted a panel discussion with four housing professionals, focusing on the impact Universal Credit has on single mothers and the challenges that working mothers face. The business is also delivering workplace training around coping with menopause, to support staff experiencing symptoms and their line managers/colleagues.  

Helen Evans, Chief Executive of Network Homes and first female Chair of the G15: “As the first female chair of G15, it is really important to me that women are represented and empowered in the workplace on all levels. I am proud of our Aspire Programme and the work Network is doing to tackle gender inequality. Having Dawn Butler speak with our Aspire members is a great opportunity for them to hear from someone who has worked hard to campaign for equality.”