North Star welcomes residents of Darlington Housing Association - Find out more
We are known for doing things a little differently, our people-centric approach and culture of shared leadership sets us apart from the rest. But that’s not the only thing that makes us unique; heading up the business is an all female Executive Team including our Chief Executive.
Looking across the housing association sector it remains predominantly led by men; 85% of housing associations have male chief executives and 80% have male chairs. So here at North Star we really are challenging stereotypes, from changing the face of social housing to bucking the trend on women in leadership roles within the housing sector.
Spotlight on women in leadership at North Star…
Our Chief Executive, Angela Lockwood, is currently an ambassador for a North East campaign – This Northern Girl Can – promoting gender equality.
You can see her interview below.
I am Chief Executive of North Star Housing Group. North Star is a group of not for profit housing associations that provide high quality affordable housing for rent across the region. This includes housing for families, older and single people as well as for those with support needs such as women’s’ refuges, schemes for people with learning disabilities, homeless, young people etc.
What did I love about growing up in the North?
I am from a mining community in East Durham (Billy Elliot territory), and I loved the sense of community spirit, freedom and safety I experienced when growing up. I am sure the summers were very long and always sunny, the winters snowy and the village seemed like a huge country that needed investigating very thoroughly. I was allowed to roam, explore, and to ride my rusty bike from dawn to dusk – or so it seemed. We were outside playing all of the time, squabbling, learning and getting ready for life. Plain speaking neighbours would clip you round the ear if you had been cheeky and would also give you a cuddle if you scraped your knee. Doors were left open, humour was constant, and women were at the heart of these communities. I had a real sense of belonging.
Did you have any challenges growing up in the North?
Because I lived in a tight knit community where people said what they thought, it was a shock to find that the rest of the world wasn’t so plain speaking. I used to wonder why people just didn’t say what they meant and instead danced around the subject and used an unnecessary amount of words, often long ones that I didn’t understand. Unsurprisingly I was seen as too direct, and straight to the point. I had to learn to be more careful and patient with others. It’s a life long learning project!!!!
Have you or do you face any challenges being a woman?
My career journey has had its share of ups and downs, and I have been challenged to find my way in a very masculine world. I exhibit very typical feminine traits; I work too hard, can overly perform, talk myself down, focus on competence above confidence, and overly self analyse and question. I have experienced negative gender issues; however every encounter has improved my learning and understanding and has enabled me to grow in strength and knowledge. For me this isn’t a woman and man issue, its one of masculinity and femininity. Many of my male friends and family have fabulous feminine qualities.
Who or what inspired your journey to where you are now?
As a child I was a great observer of people, and at an early age I was surrounded by strong and resilient women. Yes these women had traditional family roles and managed the home whilst the men worked, but they held everything together. This was supported by research done when the miners were striking and the role that women played. It is widely believed that the strike in 1984/85 went as long as it did because of the support network run by women in mining communities. No surprise to me, I was lucky to be raised amongst them.
What advice would you give to girls growing up in the North?
Not sure I am too qualified to give advice, however if I was talking to my twenty year old self, I would say take advantage of those very successful women in the North, who have a lot of knowledge and experience. Ask if they are prepared to coach or mentor me and certainly look to them as great role models.
How do you think we can encourage more young people about the importance of gender equality?
The more people hear and understand the better the outcome and we all have a responsibility in this respect. It’s good to share and encourage, as we all flourish in that environment.
Tell us some of your favourite Northern places
I love Beamish Museum which is very unique; it captures a moment in time and charters the wonderful North East working class history. I also adore our coastline, from the isolated and wind swept beaches in Northumberland to the Durham heritage coast with all its limestone and grasslands to the Tees Valley sweeping lines and wide beaches. It may often be cold and windy and arguably not as pretty as some other coasts, but its earthiness and honesty does it for me!!
Who are your favourite Northern people?
Those people who are proud of their heritage and talk it up which is probably most famous Northerners and too many to mention!!
Explain your love of the North in one sentence
A region of great diversity, honesty, resilience and beauty!
We also interviewed our Director of People and Culture, Carole Richardson to learn more about her career journey.
What was your first job?
I was a “ Saturday Girl” in Dorothy Perkins. I LOVED it. I got a staff discount, got to work the till and got paid!! I also realised that I liked working in a job where I met people and I loved delivering great customer service.
How did you get into housing?
By mistake ! I was working for the Department of Social Security and saw these roles advertised at Middlesbrough Council. They were very generic ( I now understand why) and I went through the whole recruitment process not really knowing what I’d applied for. I got the job and on the first day realised I was going to be working within the Poll Tax department. As I’d been on several anti poll tax demonstrations, to say I was horrified was an understatement !! Luckily an Estates Officer job came up quickly and I got it. To be honest Id have taken anything at that stage. Once I started work as an Estates Officer ( The 80s version of a housing officer) I absolutely loved it. I just loved working hard to deliver good performance and make a real difference to peoples lives. My first patch was in Thorntree and it was tough. However, no two days were the same and I realised that I had to be in a job that gave massive variety and an ongoing challenge.
Have you ever felt your gender has held you back or you have been treated differently because of it?
I don’t think its held me back but I have been treated differently because of it. I once worked in a furniture shop and was the only woman. I was always expected to make the tea. It drove me mad and I left the job as soon as I could. I was too young to take them all on…
What would your advice be to your younger self?
Take the help offered by the mentors who have an interest in your career (luckily I did do this). Keep focused on why you do what you do, keep seeking variety and new experiences, keep volunteering for extra responsibilities. It will pay off in the end.
What is the single most important thing facing women today?
Sadly it is still the issue of gender equality. Women are still routinely paid less money than men for the same work.
Which woman do you admire and why?
Emmeline Pankhurst and the suffragettes. Women died to ensure that women had the right to vote…It was a long , hard fought battle but they got there