To celebrate International Women’s Day, we wanted to highlight the work of women who are active in the community in and around Regent’s Place and are an inspiration to others.
Meet Sharon Gordon, Director of West Euston Partnership, a community charity working in collaboration with local people, businesses and organisations to tackle inequality in health and employment opportunities.
How would you describe your role to people who don’t know about your industry?
I don’t know if our name, West Euston Partnership, gives away that we’re a charity. There are three key things we focus on: health, employment and improving the lives of local residents through community initiatives. It’s very busy, very hands-on and a lot of what we do is free to people who live in the local area. More specifically, my role involves supporting trustees, managing staff and premises and providing strategic direction for the organisation.
What moments in work and your career are you most proud of?
Obviously, there’s a hugely long list [laughs]… but one would be receiving my Masters in Coaching and Mentoring Practice. That was a real achievement as I was doing this job at the same time and it really helped me to understand people and understand myself. It gave me more empathy towards people and an in-depth knowledge of how people think.
In terms of work achievements, it’s when we get funding bids in. Or when someone who comes to us to use our services and gets a good result; maybe someone who wasn’t very good with computers or wasn’t having any luck finding a job and they’ve come out the other end (with our help) skilled, working and feeling as though they’ve achieved something.
What advice do you give to people who want to break into the charity sector?
Volunteering is a good place to start. Anyone interested in working in the sector should look at your local area and talk to some of the groups there. Most boroughs have volunteer centres; see what organisations you can volunteer for based on your interests. Whether it’s young people, old people or sports activities, there are many organisations which would really welcome people who want to give something back. You’ll get a lot back too: work experience, a sense of well-being, you get to make friends, learn and enhance your own life skills.
What’s the most useful piece of work advice you’ve ever been given?
A couple of things spring to mind. When I started at one of my first jobs I remember asking a colleague “What’s everyone like?” And she said, “You know what, I’m not going to tell you anything about anyone. Just get to know them and come to your own conclusions.” I thought this was great advice as I could just get to know them without any preconceived ideas.
Another piece of advice I received from one of our trustees was to get out there and meet people, talk to people and network. It’s all very well keeping your head down and getting things done but actually speaking to people, seeing things for yourself, getting to know people and having real views about them and not just relying on bits of paper or files on your computer. This has actually led to us getting more funding in as well.
How do you think industries can help women into sectors where they’ve been traditionally under-represented?
There’s so much in the news at the moment. Women are paid less. It’s a case of not giving up, speaking up where you see injustice, not acquiescing. If there’s something you want to do, you can’t be put off because you’re a woman and you think you might be less likely to be given an opportunity. I went to an interview skills training seminar years ago and I remember the tutor saying to me that men will go for a job where they think they have half the skills whereas women will often only apply for jobs where they think they have all the skills required.
Can you name one woman who has inspired you and your work?
The person who inspires me is my mother. She’s the smartest woman I know. She has so much good advice about life generally from saving money to buying a house. She came to this country when she was young and worked two jobs. Because of her, I’m in the position I am now. She’s very kind. On a wider level, I’d also have to say Michelle Obama.
How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?
I try not to take work home. That said, I am an emergency contact, so the phone is never really off [laughs]. But I can seriously say that I wake up in the morning and no matter how tired I am or what issues we’re having – because of the nature of what we do, we’re often working on a shoestring – I enjoy what I do and that’s because of the people.
What do you do in your spare time?
I enjoy spending time with my family, going for walks, socialising with friends, I like to read… I kind of enjoy cooking.
Finally, why do you think International Women’s Day is so important in 2018?
It’s about saying thank you. There are women who do things for us, who help us and it’s about being grateful and celebrating success. It helps to set an example to the young people in our lives – whether they’re male or female – we all have women in our lives: mothers, sisters, aunts; they’re all worth celebrating.
About West Euston Partnership
West Euston Partnership is a community charity working in collaboration with local people, businesses and organisations to tackle inequality in health and employment opportunities. As part of its services, it provides free PCs for anyone to use as well as information about local events, courses and activities.