Two of the North’s leading housing associations have teamed up with Housing Diversity Network to unlock the potential of future leaders by championing diversity.

We have joined Together Housing to pioneer Achieving and Harnessing Board Diversity, a pilot programme which aims to identify the next generation of influencers from all walks of life and develop them into candidates for a board-ready talent pool.

A recent survey revealed that although the affordable housing sector is more culturally diverse than many other sectors, there is still much to be done to represent tenants and our society on governing boards.

Research* has revealed that people from BME backgrounds, women, people with disabilities and those identifying as LGBT remain under-represented at the most senior levels:

Just over a third of Chief Executives (34%) are female with women making up 39% of executives and 36% of board members;

6.8% of board members / 4.5% of executives identify as BME;

4.5% of board members / 1% of executives have a disability;

1.6% of board members are LGBT

Jacqui De-Rose, Group Chief Executive of Progress Housing Group, said: “It stands to reason that inclusive organisations consistently perform better. Diverse businesses are able to attract people from the widest pool of talent, and employees who are free to be themselves are happier, more authentic and more productive.

“Having a wide range of perspectives represented in the boardroom is critical to effective governance. Being able to draw upon a diverse set of skills and knowledge is essential for boards to address the complex issues our organisations face.”

Michelle Park, Together Housing Group Board Diversity Champion, added: “Board diversity is not about meeting quotas. It is about bringing together different experiences to best represent the communities we serve.

“Numerous studies have shown that boards that include talent from all walks of life can benefit greatly from the insight and creativity generated by that diversity and also improve their business performance.”

The Achieving and Harnessing Board Diversity programme seeks to invigorate diverse thinking and decision-making on boards and committees through the authentic contribution of diverse individuals. It does this by a holistic approach, which both challenges and supports, through:

  • Preparing with Board and Senior Team for the business to receive and maximise the opportunities of a more diverse board;
  • Searching for and supporting selection of diverse board members (particularly in terms of ethnicity and age/younger members);
  • Inducting and training new recruits, including exposure to other boards and access to the HDN Board Excellence programme;
  • Support mentoring, coaching and training to ensure retention and a great contribution from new recruits, over a period of 2-3 years.
  • Progress Housing Group (PHG) recently recruited five trainee board members for its programme, and Together Housing has recruited six candidates.
“For me, the ‘Achieving and Harnessing Board Diversity’ programme is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to be part of a forward-thinking organisation, like Progress Housing Group, whose main driver is to make a positive social impact. “The traineeship will enable me to share my skills and knowledge and provide a safe space in which to learn new business skills. The extensive coaching and mentoring programme is really valuable and will help me to broaden my skill set and develop in a way that is best suited to me. I really enjoyed meeting the board and members of the Senior Management Team recently and I am looking forward to working with such an inclusive, motivated and friendly team.” Said solicitor, Shruti Brockett who is one of Progress Housing Group’s new trainee board members.

Fellow Progress Housing Group trainee board member, Luke Jno-Baptiste is the Senior Community Development Officer for Community Gateway Association in Preston. He added: “Progress Housing Group’s commitment to diversifying the boardroom is an exciting and innovative project and one that I am really excited to be a part of. The programme offers learning and experiences that I could not access through standard qualifications or training. I am really looking forward to working with my mentors, the Board Excellence training sessions and sharing the experience with fellow trainees from both Progress Housing Group and Together Housing.”

Policy Officer for West Yorkshire Housing Association, Rebecca Simpson, from Halifax, is one of Together Housing’s new trainee board members and said about the scheme: “I have applied for a couple of other board positions but was told I didn’t quite have the experience so it is great to be given the opportunity to become board ready via this programme. I am hoping to learn more about governance of housing associations, to be more strategic, to have decision making capacity and to impact the lives of people in the community I’m from.”

HDN welcomes all housing organisations to join this pilot – please contact Carla Olfin: carla@housingdiversitynetwork.co.uk or 01484 652606.

*www.insidehousing.co.uk/insight/housings-diversity-challenge