Equal Housing - A Talk With Aileen Evans
Written by Ben Farquharson with Aileen Evans
National Housing Summit 2018 certainly created headlines both inside and outside of the Social Housing Sector. Theresa May’s announcement that Housing associations, which are private and non-profit-making providers and managers of low-cost homes, will be able to bid for a share of the £2 billion fund stretching as far ahead as 2028-29.
During the two day summit, a number of speakers and seminars took place to discuss key issues within the sector. One of which was delivered by Kate Dodsworth, who gave an overview of the Leadership 2025 programme, highlighting the lack of diversity within the sector.
Leadership 2025 was launched to tackle some of the shocking statistics that have also been highlighted within Inside Housing’s Inclusive Futures campaign. The numbers from the survey carried out by Inside Housing are particularly stark when it comes to race, revealing a sector that is led overwhelming by one demographic: Caucasian people. Only three out of the 64 housing associations that responded to Inside Housing’s survey are led by a BME chief executive. Even when we look deeper, across the housing associations that responded to the survey, only 15 out of 331 (or 4.5%) of the most senior managers in the business are BME. Only 50 BME board members out of 735 in total (or 6.8%), with 18 boards having no BME representation.
As part of Leadership 2025, the Five Point Plan to begin to combat those statistics has been outlined as:
1. Reporting annually on key diversity statistics
2. Set aspirational targets
3. Interview more diverse pools of candidates
4. Develop the leadership pipeline
5. Lead by example
Following the seminar, I spoke with the CEO of Grand Union and incoming CIH Vice President, Aileen Evans about the diversity issue and her thoughts on how we can begin to overcome those statistics.
BF: Hi Aileen, thank you for taking the time to talk with me about Diversity within Housing, what are your thoughts on the figures that have been published across this year?
AE: “I wonder what it is at the back of the issue. I think of Grand Union and we aim to reflect the area we are working, we believe we are multi-cultural and diverse but we have to ask ourselves if we are. Grand Union are planning further work in talking to their staff about these issues”
BF: What are your thoughts on the Leadership 2025 Programme and how do you think it will impact the sector?
AE: “Leadership 2025 –is a great initiative however it is up to us as individuals and leaders to create lasting change, we need to understand if there are any barriers for staff. Leadership 2025 will absolutely help in doing that however we need to do work as a sector on unconscious bias. We do not think that we have any prejudice but our work force is not as diverse as we would want it to be. We need to understand whether people are not applying for senior roles and the reasoning behind why”
BF: How do we ensure that we are not losing talented individuals from the sector?
AE: “Succession planning is crucial, everybody can be part of those conversations, what we implement within our organisations to let people excel and shine. We need to find a way of using the size of our organisations to encourage and develop people from within. Everyone has different interests and attributes that we can utilise and upskill ensure everyone has access to do well within their chosen role.”
BF: How do you feel we can begin to improve the low numbers of BME representation within executive and board member roles?
AE: “Raising awareness is vital to beginning to improve those figures. Sharing success stories of BME employees and discussing what has helped them succeed, how they came to do it and the support and encouragement they received. Once we begin to outline the barriers in the sector that we are not aware about we can begin to tackle them. We must continue to keep talking about success whilst also highlighting our shortcomings and failures.”
Following my conversation with Aileen, we are committing to speaking to more BME candidates within the sector to highlight successful employees across all levels of the industry.
The Housing team at Niyaa People want to be a platform for more people to share their stories as part of a series. If you want to discuss your personal or organisational story, please get in touch with me firstname.lastname@example.org.
0121 790 0980