International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate the achievements of women around the world. Today we are shining a light on Adele Duncan, the last colleague we interviewed for our Women of Transform series.
Adele has been our Director of Client Services for almost a year, following many years of working in housing and supported housing. When asked to describe her role, she explained that she is responsible for all of Transform’s operational services, including anything that is client-facing.
She began her career in supported housing right after taking her O-Levels – now known as GCSEs – by temping and doing admin work for a housing association.
“I found this whole world of people who didn’t have the same opportunities as me or had challenges in their lives that I hadn’t had. It was a real eye-opener,” she said.
“I worked at this housing association for 17 years and progressed through the ranks,” she added. “I found myself loving giving access to housing and support to people who would perhaps otherwise be homeless.”
Women empowering women
Adele said she didn’t have much of an understanding about empowering women when she first started working. Her dad was very traditional about women at the time, and there was a silent expectation that she would either find a well-paid job or get married and bear children.
“Little did he know…” she joked, knowing she eventually juggled a full-time job, a marriage and two children.
It was while working with a woman named Sue that Adele found empowerment. Sue was a single parent with two kids, but she was also a regional manager for an organisation covering the South East.
“Sue made me think about things a bit differently,” she said. “She made me think, ‘hold on a minute, she’s holding a full-time job, she’s brilliant, she’s absolutely inspiring,’ and it kind of rubbed off on me.”
“I realised I could be more than what I thought I was going to be.”
Adele uses her experiences and knowledge to empower clients as best she can. Part of her role is to think about how clients can be given opportunities (if they want them) to be involved in policy development or review, so that Transform can improve its services.
“During the last forum, for example, we looked at some of the handbooks that we have. That was so brilliant,” she said. “You know, we can write all we like, but until we start going through the content with somebody who’s actually been in those circumstances – we just don’t know. So that’s how I try to empower.”
She also emphasised that learning is a life-long process, and that we should consistently find different ways to do things as the world changes.
Mentoring women and taking responsibility
Nine years ago, Adele began working as an executive team member for the first time and was having trouble finding her place in a male-dominated group. Keen to develop her skills, she sought out mentoring sessions from an organisation called Aspire, which gives women the freedom and support to change themselves and the world. Adele’s mentor was a chief executive at an NHS trust, who – much like Sue – helped her think differently about herself.
“I thought, ‘hold on a minute, if she can do that for people, why can’t I do that for people?’”
Adele signed up to become a mentor with Aspire and has since supported five women over the last six years. She described her mentoring as “really important, because women empower women.”
When asked if she had a message to share for International Women’s Day, she said:
“I think as women, we have to take responsibility for pursuing opportunities and finding ways to get what we need to enable us, particularly in our careers, or as mothers, sisters, daughters, or whatever it is. As I’ve gotten older, it’s been much easier for me to have confidence, knowing that what I want and the way I want things to be is okay.”