Helping women is a big part of what I try to do with my blogging. So it is always great to highlight women and particularly those who are improving the life chances of other women. Here is a guest post from Cherry who works for the Renewal Trust in Nottingham.
It’s a rare thing these days but I’ve been lucky enough to grow with my job, and watch my family expand at the same time. I started as a Partnership Worker at The Renewal Trust in Nottingham way back in 2002, 16 years ago, and worked my way up as opportunities arose, becoming CEO in 2009.
I gave birth to my son in 2005, so you could say he’s grown with the charity too. There’s been quite a few additions to the family since then, in the shape of 2 dogs, 23 sheep, 3 alpacas, 2 goats, 8 pigs and 2 cows!
My own experiences have inspired me to try and make The Renewal Trust a great place to work for women (and men!) – at all stages of their lives. There’s this idea that a woman has to be a superwoman, juggling a million things at once, and making it all look effortless. That’s exactly what many do of course, but I wanted to make it as easy as possible for my staff.
On a practical level, the charity offers things like part-time working and flexi-time, so staff can tailor work around other commitments and things that, from time to time, crop-up out of the blue – like the arrival of my triplet lambs this spring! Beyond that, I also aim to have an ‘open door’ policy, where staff can come and talk to me about anything, not just work stuff. I can only support and develop my staff if I know them, and that isn’t just about their role at the Trust.
Our adaptable policies are useful for parents of course, but it’s important to recognise it’s not only parents with young children that need support and flexibility. We all have different responsibilities, needs and wants, throughout our lives, and I really wanted The Renewal Trust to be a place that would enable people to flourish and grow with the organisation – no matter what their situation or point in their employment life.
For example, Ann Rose, who runs our employment support service for local communities, hadn’t worked for many years when she applied for the job in her fifties, because of other commitments. She may not have had qualifications in the usual sense, but she had experience and people skills in abundance, and this has made her the ideal person to work with people in a similar situation – in the neighbourhoods she grew up in.
It’s not just about supporting people with responsibilities like parenting and caring though. Being able to work flexibly is enabling one of our youngest staff, Holly James, to develop her creative aspirations, which in turn is helping her progress in her role at the Trust, working with our arts and culture programme.
Something for everybody
Helping people branch out and have time for other things isn’t just good for individuals, it’s good for the charity too. As a result, many of our staff stay with us for years, just like I’ve done, and we’ve even had people who’ve left or retired, and then chosen to come back, because they know we’ll do our best to support them.
I, like a number of my staff, am also a trustee on other charity boards in Nottingham. I believe I can put some of my learning and experience back into the system, and equally I’m always willing to learn from others!
The whole ethos of The Renewal Trust is to help people live their best lives, whatever that means for an individual. We run a range of projects for children, young people and adults, including a project to inspire young people through science; a sports programme that gives children a way to discover different sports from walking age and progress all the way through to a professional level if they want to; and a training and development programme for future leaders, aimed at making leadership in Nottingham more diverse and representative of the communities the city represents.
In today’s climate of austerity and the resulting trend towards ‘poverty porn’ many communities are being unfairly labelled and expected to accept a bare minimum and we work hard to tackle that, celebrating what make each neighbourhood unique and giving people exciting, aspirational opportunities. For example, St Ann’s, an inner-city area of Nottingham, is home of one of the world’s largest urban allotment sites and a wonderful green oasis for people who live locally and beyond. A Grade 2* English Heritage site, it’s also a nationally-important site for wildlife.
We believe really strongly that people have the right to thrive, not just survive, and we shape our services around the things people really need and want. For instance, we trained and employed local people as community researchers and worked with Nottingham Trent University to help develop an employment support programme that truly supports people as individuals, with dreams about what they want to achieve, and other commitments and responsibilities, not simply ‘unemployed’.
As we all continue to work for longer, often in multiple careers and roles throughout our lives, it’s going to become more and more important for employers to acknowledge and respect the other things people have going on in their lives, from parenting and caring roles, to hobbies and passions that are great for our health and wellbeing.
It’s great to be in a job where being a mum, a smallholder, a sports lover and all the other things I enjoy, feel valued and included, rather than things I have to keep hidden or juggle in the background.