17 April 2018

We need to recognise the moral and business case for bringing diversity back to our governance, work force and residents.

Given the high priority the Housing Corporation (as it was known then – now Homes England) placed on regulating equality and diversity in the 1990s and early 2000s, it’s fair to say that the social housing sector was at one time among the leaders in reflecting an increasingly diverse society.

The sector brought in policies, people and programmes that began to deliver the promise of an inclusive culture. This was a time of monitoring and regulation with teeth that demanded formal compliance. There were significant positive action initiatives such as PATH, COFEM, BASE and a BME strategy (we’ve left these as acronyms on purpose just to test you!), and there were passionate and diverse individuals in abundance.

So was that just because the sector had to comply? Where is that diverse sector now? In 2017 the facts and figures sadly showed a very different profile, particularly in relation to governance.

The first #housingdiversityday social media campaign took place on 19 March 2018 and trended as the second most popular hashtag in the UK with 836,502 tweets and 2.2m impressions. This revealed there is a still a plethora of passionate, diverse individuals with ideas and who really care. The voices advocated that our journey back to the front of the pack must be a joint effort – a genuine collaboration that recognises the moral and business case for bringing diversity back to our governance, work force and residents. Enough of an apparent willingness to accept an increasingly monochrome sector with token gestures and good intentions – we need to take action to deliver the diversity in housing that we see in so many other businesses that excel.

This past week has seen the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther’s King Jr’s assassination (he would only have been 89 now), what would have been Maya Angelou’s 90th birthday, and the deadline date for UK organisations to report on their gender pay gap. And today we’re announcing a new conference on 2 October 2018 (Gandhi’s birthday): the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion in Housing Conference. It’s all about the sector taking action, becoming openly passionate about promoting and indeed becoming a more diverse sector once again.

There are many individuals and organisations in our sector that would like to see housing once again at the forefront of what diversity brings to table – successful businesses. The Diversity, Equality and Inclusion in Housing Conference therefore isn’t just a conference, it’s an active step to equip and call organisations and the sector to account concerning equality, diversity and inclusion. BMENational, HDN and the National Housing Federation are proud to be partners on the first of what will be an annual event in the sector’s conference calendar.

Cym D’Souza and Raj Patel

Cym D’Souza is Chief Executive of Arawak Walton and Chair of BMENational. Raj Patel is Chief Executive of Housing Diversity Network.

Strength in diversity