Focus on: Susan Bland

Susan, Head of Property Operations, at her desk

International Women’s day is approaching, it is a day where we celebrate women’s achievement, raise awareness about discrimination and take action to drive gender parity.

This year’s theme is Equality, and we are excited to celebrate women who are excelling here at Grand Union, despite the fact property is a traditionally male dominated field.

Susan Bland, Head of Property Operations

Susan has been at Grand Union for 14 years, having fallen into housing when she started out as an agency temp working as a Tenant Participant Officer for Northampton Borough Council after she graduated University. She realised she really enjoyed helping people.

Susan was recently promoted to her current role as Head of Property Operations and now manages a large team.

“I completed the Operations Leadership programme last year, which really refreshed my confidence and was probably the catalyst for me getting my current role as Head of Property Operations. I would definitely recommend this programme, whether it’s to progress your career into management or to improve in your current role.

“I haven’t been in my current role that long, but I’m really proud of my team because they really do care about our customers and work really hard. I think that changing some of the processes will really make it easier for them to do their job more efficiently and hopefully a bit more easily.

“Managing so many people with different experience and personalities can be quite challenging, and you have to be on your game all the time. For example, if people are sick, you must ensure you’re managing your resources and reallocating work effectively. But really, you’ve just got to trust your people.

“I’d like to be able to make sure all of my team are happy in their roles and proud to work for Grand Union.

“I aspire to be a strategic leader, to work closely with my team and works planners to reduce the backlog of repairs caused by covid and to get the strategy right for managing damp and mould in our customers’ homes.”

Susan is no stranger to facing challenges in her career.

“I think working in any male dominated role as a woman is hard. I’ve definitely dealt with sexism before and working in construction, it’s something you just have to get used to! I regularly got comments about clothing or makeup and learnt to have something quick witted to respond to it with.”

“It was certainly intimidating when I was younger going out on site on my own, and I’ve experienced times where I people haven’t known who I am and have assumed I was an admin support rather than the lead officer.”

“My confidence has grown over the years, and I’ve gotten used to it. I think things are better than when I first started my career, but there is still a long way to go for roles such as this.”

“I think women are often worried about working in property because of it being such a traditionally male dominated field; it has almost a bad reputation from its boys’ club days. You don’t necessarily need to know all the technical skills or trades to work in property. Working in property now, there’s a long way to go but it’s definitely a lot more equal.”

“I am proud to work for Grand Union because there are lots of female leaders in our organisation and I feel women are well represented at a leadership level, less so in trades. I’m looking to get more women into trades in the future because there are definite benefits to working at Grand Union compared to being self-employed. There’s also benefits for Grand Union in having more female trades people.

“If I were to offer advice for women looking to get into property I would say- don’t be afraid to try something new. Make mistakes and learn from them. Be brave. See the future as you want it. Get advice from the right people. And you’re never going to know everything about everything so talking to other people can really help.”