At Riverside, we believe it’s important that our colleagues reflect the communities we work in and that everyone has equal opportunities to succeed within their career.
Workforces in the trade and operational industries have historically been male dominated. For International Women’s Day, we’re sharing experiences of female colleagues working in operational management and leadership roles which have traditionally been filled by males.
Helen Reddington joined Riverside 18 months ago as Head of Sales but last week, she stepped up as our new Director of Home Ownership, responsible for new sales, sales processing and housing management, and a portfolio of around 6,000 customers, which is expected to increase by 200-250 new customers each year.
As we wish Helen the best of luck in her new role, we hope her insight encourages you to consider career opportunities you could excel in, no matter your gender.
Hi Helen, how did you get into working in this field?
I’m actually someone who chose housing as a career, starting as a graduate trainee within a local authority housing service where I gained a CIH professional qualification and I’m proud to say I’m now a CIH Fellow! I then moved to a traditional housing association, here I learnt the difference that good quality homes make in creating life chances for people and worked with inspirational tenants.
After gaining professional management qualifications, I worked in a range of housing and neighbourhood leadership roles for the first 12 years of my career and then started to get involved in regeneration and development too until 2008 when I took a role in a development team in a stock transfer housing association. This was a varied role and where I found my passion and started to develop an expertise around affordable home ownership products. I’m still as passionate today about the role shared ownership (and more recently Rent to Buy) plays in giving people choices about where they live and how they can access good quality homes.
I progressed to Head of Sales and held this role in two other housing associations before joining Riverside during the first lockdown in 2020; I was delighted to be given the opportunity to progress further when I was offered the Director of Home Ownership role in December (best Christmas present ever) and am really looking forward to building on the good work in Riverside Home Ownership to modernise and improve customer satisfaction with our services.
I love my job and appreciate all the people that have helped me along the way.
Would you encourage other women to work in housing, operational and construction roles?
Absolutely, it’s an amazing sector with so much choice and variety now and if you find a passion, like I have, you really can shape your own career path, especially in a large housing association like Riverside which has so many different business streams. There are new areas of specialism developing all the time and, at the moment, areas like customer insight, compliance and building safety are interesting areas to consider (as well as home ownership obviously).
It’s also a sector that embraces flexible working, so it is possible to progress and have a family if that’s what you choose. Again, this was important to me, and I have been able to have children, continue to study and move my career on. It hasn’t always been easy but working in inclusive organisations with family friendly policies, supportive leadership teams and great role models like Riverside has really helped.
Do you feel Riverside is a good place to work for women?
Yes, as there are lots of women in high profile and senior roles; in other organisations I’ve worked in there has always been a high proportion of female employees, particularly in housing services roles but this hasn’t always been evident in senior roles. It’s visible here and sends the message that there are opportunities for women to progress their career. Our hybrid model of working also creates more opportunities for women, especially those with caring obligations and our commitment to health and wellbeing is also key in supporting women, particularly in relation to mental health and menopause.
Do you feel you are surrounded by inspirational female leaders at Riverside?
Every day! Just look at our Executive Team with Carol as our role model and Board with Terrie (who I know from my role a CIH North West Board member) and Pauline Davis who I remember from my days working on Housing Market Renewal projects, both fantastic ambassadors for Riverside and our sector. And now I’ve joined the Customer Services leadership team with an amazing group of women who I look forward to working with and learning from.
Have you ever faced any challenges in the workplace while in a “traditionally male role” because of your gender?
I think most women my age have to be honest and I’ve had some uncomfortable experiences. But it is changing, and my hope is that women coming into the sector don’t face these challenges now. Certainly, going on building sites is much more pleasant than it was when I first started. My role as Head of Sales in other organisations has sat within a Development or Assets environment and it can be hard when you are the lone female voice in a meeting, or your technical skills and abilities aren’t recognised within a project team. My approach has always been to be professional, add value and be heard and I do think I have been able to change some perceptions.
Do you think it’s important that gender stereotypes are broken when it comes to career roles?
Yes, because it opens up so many different opportunities for women (and men who don’t always consider roles that may traditionally be seen more as women’s roles such as primary school teaching). We all bring something different to a role and team and this is really important in delivering the best products and services and representing our customer base. So, for me, breaking down stereotypes is about attracting people that display behaviours aligned to our business and that complement our existing teams rather than defining roles by gender. Personally, I’m fascinated by plumbing and had that opportunity been available to me I might well have had a different career path!