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In Celebration of The Women in our Workforce: Rachel Simms

In Celebration of The Women in our Workforce: Rachel Simms

In Celebration of The Women in our Workforce: Rachel Simms

This international women’s day we want to celebrate the female faces behind our business.

We have spoken to colleagues from across Touchstone, at different stages in their careers to establish the value of investing in women’s careers, empowering women, and inspiring inclusion in our workplace.

Across the month we will be sharing interviews that explore how Touchstone have evolved as an inclusive employer over the last 20 years, what international women’s day means to our colleagues, and how the impact of investing in women is felt across the business.

We are kickstarting international women’s day by speaking to our Residential Director, Rachel Simms, her career, and the significance of this year’s themes.

Tell me a little about your time at Touchstone and your career.

I am now one of the business leads at Touchstone, but I started here almost 20 years ago in May. Before that, I worked at a subsidiary of Touchstone, which was their Gas Engineer Servicing where we organised all the gas engineers to go out to do the Gas Safety certificate. This was a very male dominated area, although I did have a female boss who still works for Touchstone; Tracey McEnerny.

I was made redundant from there and that’s when I joined the property side of things, starting on the ground as a property manager—also with a female boss. I then went and did some recruitment work, and eventually had the opportunity to come back to Touchstone as I really wanted to get back into property.

Why do you enjoy working for Touchstone and why did you want to come back?

Before returning I went and did some letting agency work and that’s when I realised that I do really enjoy property and there’s lots of interesting stuff. No day is ever the same, and every day you are learning something new. The opportunity arose to come back, and there was nowhere else locally (Bath area) like Touchstone in that corporate sense. There were only private landlords and local agents, and I wanted to get into the institutional and investment side of things.

I think the best thing about Touchstone, and you hear Cath Webster talk about the ‘‘squiggly line career’‘, and although my career hasn’t been that ‘‘squiggly’‘, I think Touchstone has been and has very much evolved over time. I have liked being a part of how the company has grown, how we have side stepped, how we have learned new things, and how flexible we are. We are keen to move with the times and it’s very much a people focused company now.

Individuals are embraced and you can be who you want to be, so I think a lot of my enjoyment is the people that keep you going because it can be quite a difficult job and a difficult industry.

How has Touchstone supported you as a woman of our workforce?

It’s great that there are conversations about the menopause out there now. It has been difficult for women, and watching some of the power hours from directors that were at Group, have been informative. Watching how vulnerable they made themselves was great in order to understand different perspectives and create awareness, because it can be quite a difficult conversation. Especially if you have a male boss.

Touchstone has been completely supportive in everything I’ve ever wanted to do. From a training side of things; anything I have wanted to get involved in, conferences I have wanted to go to, and expanding my development. Touchstone has helped me grow from the person on the ground, to the position that I am in now, and I wouldn’t necessarily have been able to do that without Touchstone’s support.

In a typically male dominated industry, how far do you believe Touchstone has come as an inclusive employer and what role do you play in encouraging this?

Touchstone has come along massively. I think back to a time when we were such a small company, and it was very different. I think that the respect for women has certainly changed, encouraging our voices to be heard. You want to feel that you can simultaneously have a joke at work, and that you are taken seriously.

I would recommend Touchstone as an inclusive employer to future colleagues or those returning because we have evolved. We are inclusive, we are a people company and that shines through. We make people feel like an individual, show them respect and make sure they feel valued. The benefits, support, and opportunities to progress are also important reasons.

I try to encourage inclusivity by being on a level with my colleagues and showing them that it doesn’t matter about race, age, gender, sexuality and particularly as a female you can follow your ambitions.

You will always have the support from your colleagues and the company. We are open and honest and allow colleagues to have the conversations they want to have, including doubts or anxieties they have about being able to progress. It’s important to be flexible for people, whether that’s males or females; we want to help them find a balance. We are one team at the end of the day with the same goal.

What does international women’s day mean to you?

It means something important, I may not go and burn a bra tonight, but I am very grateful that other women did!

Being part of the evolution for women to get here is important. I have not been forcefully on the front line of it, although maybe in a more natural sense.

When you look at the facts:

  • In 1975, women could finally open a bank account in their own name and apply for a

mortgage without facing discrimination.

  • 27% of Senior leadership in the property sector are female (Real Estate Balance Research)

It really puts into perspective the last 20 years, and how short that period is for so much to have changed.

Finally, tell me about a woman who inspires you.

There is one woman who really inspires me, and that is Beverly Knight (Singer).

I first saw her when we were both 20 years old, and she was not known at all. She was breaking into the club scene and came to Bath. There was no stage, so she was on the dance floor with the crowd, when about 10 mins into her performance the sound system crashed, including the Mic. There she was this young black woman trying to break into the music industry, and she was completely unfazed by the situation, she kept going and sang her heart out with no music or Mic.

I just remember thinking how resilient she was at such a young age and in such a difficult industry. I know its music related and she’s not out there representing women or anything politically, however she is someone that always makes me smile. The music always gets me going. She is always upbeat, she’s open and honest, and I think every time I have seen her perform it’s been quite personal, and I have learnt quite a lot from her and how vulnerable she makes herself in the public eye. And she looks fantastic—she’s just turned 50!

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