We talk all things Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
Jo speaks her mind:
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) is the now common term, to describe the work organisations do to ensure fair treatment and opportunity. While there are laws protecting groups that have protected characteristics such as gender, race and sexual orientation, the reality is there are many people discriminated against for reasons which are not covered by the law. One such group is social housing tenants, something that as the Director of People for housing association Connexus, I am really passionate about.
The lack of diversity at a senior level in most sectors was brought to the fore again last year following the death of George Floyd and the international outcry against racism. It is an uncomfortable truth that the housing sector also lacks diversity at a senior level even though we are there to serve communities and all their diversities. This is something we need to recognise if we are to change. That said, making real change is difficult as there are layers of complexity around discrimination, but we have to be prepared to tackle these tough issues and find ways to create working environments that are fair for all.
Data provides an irrefutable honesty, in an area of emotion and at times denial. Without it, organisations cannot take targeted, effective action to make real change. But its not easy and organisations need to work hard to plug the gaps in their data if we are ever to make serious inroads on this issue.
Raising awareness, talking about EDI and creating spaces where people can learn is also critical. Stories are a great way to support learning, creating understanding, empathy and connection. If you can create a safe space, people can open up about their feelings, thoughts, fears and experiences, things that need to be acknowledged to make change.
There is a real opportunity for the social housing sector to lead the way in this area with our passion for social justice being at the heart of our social purpose. It will mean getting comfortable with the uncomfortable, talking openly and honestly about the issues and reviewing the policies and processes that can create the structural inequalities that we have all come to recognise.
We have started our new EDI journey, launched our brand new policy and are looking to the future. We want to make equality, diversity and inclusion pivotal to our way of working by being self‐critical, looking at our practices and policies to ensure they constantly evolve. This will help to increase our understanding so we can raise awareness, take decisive action whilst developing action plans to ensure EDI is current and integrated in our business. As an organisation we are fully committed to this approach and our aim is also for our workforce to be representative of our customers and the areas we work in and for colleagues and customers to have a sense of true belonging where they are seen and valued for who they are.
Our Board, Executive Team and Senior Management Team will ultimately drive change linked to our policy, through discussion, ensuring relevant data is collected/analysed and developing and constantly reviewing our action plan. We believe this approach will help to create a culture where equality, diversity and inclusion are natural to all colleagues and stakeholders, as people’s experiences and knowledge broaden about all difference within our society.