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The G15 Launches Women Mentoring Programme

Industry leaders joined The G15 to launch their Women’s Mentoring Programme, which addresses the gender imbalance in the development sector.
Panel - L to R - Susmita Sen, Croydon; Fiona Fletcher-Smith, L&Q; Angela Wood, Peabody

While women make up roughly half the UK workforce, they are still underrepresented in housing delivery, development and construction, especially when looking at senior or leadership positions.

This was the original motivation behind launching the Women’s mentoring network in 2019 to support women in the early stages of their development careers across the G15 members.

This is now the third mentorship programme and, while the first, launched in 2019, attracted a little over two dozen candidates, this year’s cohort stands firmly at over 100 mentors and mentees across the G15 members.

Female colleagues in the Development Group across all G15 members have been invited to join the programme, either as a mentor or a mentee. Participants are matched with women at Director or Head of Service level across the G15, to provide guidance and career advice to aspiring leaders.

And, in a bid to make the construction and development industry more open and more diverse, this year the programme is partnering with the Makers & Mentors platform, delivered by Mount Anvil and supported by the Mayor of London.

At the launch event, Vicky Savage, Executive Director of Development and Sales at L&Q, and founder of the network said, “The development industry is a fantastic place to work, but when it comes to female representation, we still have a long way to go – from construction sites to executive level in the boardroom.

“It is disappointing that we are still talking about this in 2023, as things are now a long way since I started in the industry. And I wish this programme would become redundant in the near future. But when I walk into meetings where I am the only woman still, it is noticeable. And it’s a lonely place.

“I truly believe that those of us who have climbed up the ladder have a responsibility to also lift and help the next generation. The G15 women’s mentoring network is about just that – women supporting women, providing advice and confidence building to the leaders of tomorrow.”

Vicky then asked this year’s cohort of mentors and mentees to ‘be the change’ and become visible in the sector, to inspire even more women to take up leadership roles, or enter the sector in the first place.

She was joined in her plight by Angela Wood, Deputy Executive Director at Peabody, who spoke about fighting through the feelings of self-doubt and the importance of having a supportive network. Equally, Fiona Fletcher-Smith, CEO of L&Q and Chair of the G15 opened up about attempting to fit in ‘with the lads’ in the early stages of her career, before finding the strength to stand out and go for the roles she truly deserved.

Susmita Sen, Corporate Director for Housing at Croydon Council, suggested that the sector needs more women, but it also needs more women of colour.  “Part of it is about visibility and being that person on the platform for the 20year old who is thinking about her career. If you don’t see it, you can’t be it”, she said.

While colleagues feel that the housing association environment is more female-friendly than the rest of the development and housing world, only four of the G15 members have women CEOs and all bar one Executive Director are men.

The G15 is the group of London’s largest housing associations. Together, our members house around one in ten Londoners and own or manage more than 770,000 homes across the country.

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