Victory Housing Trust provides housing services to Norfolk and employs around 90 people. It has been proactive in encouraging senior women to attend the Women’s Leadership Programme run by Pure Resourcing and People & Performance Ltd. The innovative programme designed to help organisations in the Eastern Region develop their talent pipeline, provides four days development in two leadership modules, two individual coaching sessions, an MBTI assessment, sponsors dinners and a graduation event. Five Victory women have attended five different cohorts of the programme over the last 3 years. They describe their experiences below:
Jo Wicker, Assistant Director of Corporate Support, the first Victory delegate to complete the programme describes it as ‘a leadership programme first and a women’s leadership programme second.’ The programme emphasises authentic leadership and helps build confidence, skills and attitude to support progression into leadership roles.
Since completing the programme, all the Victory delegates have taken on broader roles or additional responsibilities. ‘Christina and Lynn create a very supportive learning environment in which it is safe to admit hopes and fears and share experiences’ explained Jo. ‘I found it a very positive experience and I learnt a huge amount.’
Hayley Winnett, Corporate Support Manager admitted that she was, ‘a bit sceptical at first about a woman-only programme, but I took the plunge and it really opened my eyes. It was a very positive experience for me and I received some fantastic feedback.’
Hayley went on to highlight the wellbeing sessions run by Louise Lloyd as part of the course which ‘were wonderful. Just what I needed and I use the approaches she taught all the time. You have to invest time to look after yourself’. Hayley went on to say, ‘I’ve learned that being outside my comfort zone is ok. In my new role, I recently wrote the annual Health and Safety report and presented it to the Board. I would never have done that before going on the programme.’
The opportunity to meet and establish a network of senior women with similar challenges and aspirations across the East of England is valued by many delegates. As Hayley said, ‘You meet women from different organisations on the course and hear about their experiences, some of which are not great. I feel proud to work for Victory. Gender equality is real at Victory’. She went on to say, ‘I now feel that I am making a difference in the organisation. Doing the WLP was the best move I ever made’. One thing that really resonated for Hayley was, ‘Being authentic, being me. It was a lightbulb moment for me. I didn’t realise I could be me at work.’
Kerri Johnson, HR Manager said ‘I really enjoyed the course. I feel much more confident now to say what I really think.’ She went on to say that she has also ‘learned to take a step back and reflect more.’ To anyone thinking about doing the programme, Kerri’s advice is, ‘Go for it, with an open mind and bags of curiosity. You will learn lots about yourself and pick up loads of tools and tips on how to lead.’
Faith Davies, Development Manager shared that ‘initially, I was quite apprehensive about going on a women only programme. I have no issue with gender imbalance and I feared it would just become a moaning session.’ She went on to say, ‘my experience was very different. I have formed lasting friendships on this programme. I found the group really supportive. We still share challenges and successes two years after completing the programme.’ Faith continued, ‘Since completing the programme, I have been promoted and I now manage a team.’ She also added that, ‘the training materials are excellent. I return to them again and again’.
The Victory delegates and their sponsors
John Archibald, Chief Executive; Jo Wicker, Assistant Director of Corporate Support; Mark Burghall, Assistant Director of Development; Hayley Winnett, Corporate Support Manager; Steven Read, Finance Director and Faith Davies, Development Manager.
Every delegate is encouraged to have a sponsor, ideally from within their organisation. Someone who can guide, advocate and give feedback to the delegate while they are on the programme. The sponsor role is an important element of this programme which contributes to its success. Jo Wicker was sponsored by John Archibald, Chief Executive of Victory. Jo explained that ‘having John as my sponsor was key to the success of the programme for me. It made a big difference to me that John was behind the programme openly supporting me’. Jo went on to explain how the programme had benefited her and ultimately Victory. ‘Personally, I got a huge amount from the programme. I reflect more now before leaping in. I think about my language more and I’m much more confident about how I address things. As a result I feel that I am much more authentically living the values of Victory and as a result I am doing a better job.’
Stephen Read, Finance Director and sponsor to Faith commented that, ‘I first came across the programme at a finance seminar and it really hit a chord that this was something that could make a big difference’. The fact that Victory is investing in women’s leadership sends a very positive message to those women and the whole organisation’. He went on to say that, ‘I have seen the women who have been on this programme become more confident and increase their influence in the organisation. Together they are helping all of us develop a more inclusive culture.’ Stephen added that, ‘There are subtle differences in the organisation; different voices are now being heard and the behaviour in meetings has changed for the better. I am especially pleased to hear people now ask the ‘quieter’ individuals for their views. It’s refreshing and the whole organisation has benefited from this programme.’