The Woman Behind the Houses: Meet Anne Ward

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FOR INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY THIS YEAR, WE SPOKE TO A WOMAN WHO IS BEHIND THE SCENES, BUILDING OUR HOUSES WITH FAMILIES IN MIND.

MEET: ANNE WARD, HEAD OF UK DEVELOPMENT

“The team was tiny in May 1997, and at that time there were only three Ronald McDonald Houses in the UK. My role was actually to manage a small grants programme to give out funds to other charities.

“But when I started working more closely with our CEO, I began to take control of locating opportunities for new Houses. I would research which hospitals provided the most specialist children’s services, and the number of patients that would be admitted and the distance they travelled from home to hospital. So, my role evolved as the Charity evolved and that’s how I ended up where I am today as the facilitator for Houses to be built where we need them.

“Historically, the construction industry is a male-dominated environment, it’s an area that women didn’t believe they could get involved in or weren’t encouraged to.

“I’ve got quite used to being a woman in a man’s world, but that’s started to change a lot over the years. I now work with female architects, structural engineers, project managers… there is much more encouragement for women to be in the construction industry and as a result, more women are getting involved! We’re yet to have a female site manager, but we’re getting there.

“There are just so many more opportunities for both men and women to get involved with something they’re passionate about. I think I’ve come from a generation where a ‘job is for life’, but that is no longer the case – people do change jobs a lot to look for something that’s right for them, whether it’s in the construction industry, hospitality or healthcare – there’s no limit to what you can achieve as a woman now.

“So many more women are working either through choice or necessity, which means tasks that were deemed as being more ‘traditional’ for women are being shared out with men.

“I’ve always been surrounded by women just doing things, and never questioning who should or shouldn’t do what. I went to an all-girls school where we would take part in sciences, sports, technology… things that were deemed more ‘boyish’. Most of our teachers were women, so I think I just always had it in my mind that women can do anything that men can do.

“I think all the women I have met on my life journey have contributed to why I see men and women as equals and I’ve always tried to make sure my children have that mindset. I mean, my daughter is an incredible engineer.

“It’s really important that we celebrate International Women’s Day because women have achieved so much and they continue to every day. That being said, it’s important that we recognise everyone’s achievements – I mean, why wouldn’t you? Sadly, I think our society is still one that stereotypes consciously or subconsciously and it can be hard to get away from that.

“But the more we talk about, celebrate and accept the equalities of men and women, the more it becomes the norm. There are many things that it is good to talk about and discuss – this is how we can bring things into the open and recognise problems in society, that we can then go on to face up to and resolve.

“My advice to women who don’t think they can have it ‘all’, is to just try and believe in yourself! It might be a difficult juggling act, having a career, family, education… but if it’s something you really want to do then go for it – you’ve got nothing to lose.

“I love my job and I’m one of those few lucky people who can get out of bed in the morning and feel really excited to head off to work.”

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