International Women's Day
This International Women's Day, Chief Executive Carol Carter reflects on her journey to becoming the leader of our organisation.
I am always saying, and it’s true, that it's a fantastic privilege to lead Origin - an established, respected and successful organisation in a part of the world which feels like home to me. My background is very relevant to how I got here. I was born and brought up in Hackney and in my early years my parents, sister and I lived in a private rented house in the Clapton area shared with my aunt, uncle and cousins, without central heating or a bathroom. We had a tin bath which Mum filled with water heated in the twin tub washing machine. It sounds like the 19th century, but it wasn’t quite! The council rehoused us as part of local area regeneration and (after my Mum and Dad steadfastly refusing a number of pretty grim offers I recall) we moved to Dalston in Hackney to a new council maisonette with all mod cons (!) and also, still a very mixed community at that time.
These early experiences left me with an abiding sense that a safe, secure, affordable home and a strong, diverse local community provides people with a vital launch pad for making the most of life's opportunities. And I'm also convinced that making sure that people have a roof over their head and providing support for those who are vulnerable, is essential to the health of the economy and society as a whole.
I started work in the housing sector in local government in my early 20’s. It was important to me that my job was about doing something important for society – and that still motivates me today. In my first housing job in the council’s Lettings Team it was hard to explain to people how long they might have to wait in temporary accommodation, but really rewarding to see the smile on people’s faces as they finally signed up to a tenancy of a home they could call their own. The opportunity given to me to study for the Professional Qualification of the Institute of Housing cemented what became a lifelong enthusiasm. The history of social housing and the interplay of politics, the economy and social change is fascinating.
From then on I moved between roles and organisations gaining experience and thriving on the challenges. It was never my specific ambition to be Chief Executive. Instead I worked hard and looked for opportunities to learn and to positively influence and improve the outcomes for my organisation and the people we are here to help.
I know that gender, ethnicity and disability can all play a part in putting up barriers to success and it has always been important to me to encourage and support young people with talent, drive and commitment to be the best they can be. Role models are really vital. Seeing someone like you in a position of influence is very motivating and strengthens self-belief.
There is a lot still to do create a more equal society where everyone is treated with respect. In spite of discrimination and the structures of wider society which perpetuate disadvantage, International Women’s Day is an opportunity for us all to reflect on and take inspiration from all that women throughout history have achieved.
The challenges we all face in doing what we do – providing good quality affordable homes and landlord services, investing in communities, supporting people – are many and varied, and in the housing association sector we have to continually adapt. That is one of our strengths, and I believe that our sector is a great example of effective social enterprise – independent businesses which exist for a social purpose. We have a duty and responsibility to achieve as much as we can in our sphere by being creative, innovative, focused and efficient and in doing so forging productive partnerships with government and commercial companies. That means using all the diverse talent available to us by giving opportunity to all to do their best.