The Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter organises regular Explore Days, which are exclusive events for Charter Supporters and Members. These Explore Days provide an excellent opportunity to learn from various organisations about their best practices related to specific aspects of the Charter. Great Places Housing Group hosted a session on the 5th of October 2023 which was all about Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion. It was a valuable day filled with insights into their exemplary employment practices and ongoing projects.
Great Places Housing Group are part of a partnership called Greater Manchester Housing providers (GMHP). This partnership combines 25 housing providers that will house people across Greater Manchester. They provide people in social need and house 22% of the population in GM.
Changing housing associations so ethnic minority leaders can emerge and thrive.
“I have waited 30 years to hear so many white executive colleagues speak so frankly and passionately about the lack of BAME leaders in senior roles in housing. We need to use the energy of the participants from the programme combined with the genuine passion for change shown across GMHP to create lasting diversity at the top level of housing organisations.”
– Devon Poyser, Equality Business Partner at Southway Housing.
In 2018 there was a ‘Cable Report’ which identified issues about the housing sector being overwhelmingly led by white people. This was an issue because the majority of customers living in these homes were from Black, Asian or Minoritised ethnic backgrounds, therefore highlighting that these housing providers were, at the time, not led by representing bodies of the community. 64 UK housing associations were surveyed in this report and of those 64, only 3 of those had Chief Executives from a Black, Asian or minorized ethnic backgrounds.
During this report they also noticed that the people that lived in the poorest quality homes were typically from ethnically diverse backgrounds. A way to help combat this would be to have a more diverse leadership team.
In 2020 a DICE (Diversity, Inclusion, Community cohesion and Equality report was taken. This was to report who was actually working in the organisation. When it came to Board Members, Senior Teams and Colleague Teams, the general same pattern was found. 19 Members of the Greater Manchester Partnership were reviewed and of those, only 1 Chief Executive was not white, in addition to this, 16 had leadership teams which were at least 90% white (8 had 100% white teams). The question Intention vs Impact was then raised.
This led to the BOOST project. This programmed aimed to increase the amount of Black, Asian or Minoritised ethnic people in leadership roles. To do this they used a reciprocal mentoring programme and change agents to support career progression of Black, Asian or Minoritised ethnic mentees. They looked for talented colleagues from diverse backgrounds who could be suitable for leadership roles and put them on a mentoring scheme for their progression. These mentoring programmes allowed the mentees room for growth, but also allowed the mentors to understand some of the barriers for people from ethnically diverse backgrounds getting into leadership roles. Advocacy for change, communicating barriers and using access to senior leaders to design and facilitate organisational change were other processes to help champion change for Black, Asian and Minoritised ethnic Leadership.
What they learnt
- People felt ‘if you can’t see it, you can’t be it’. This was an issue surrounding leadership roles which meant If you couldn’t see a face like you in a panel then you couldn’t be it.
- Commitment to Ethnicity Pay Gap Reporting (EPGR) to focus attention and drive action.
- white leaders should be supported to understand the legitimacy of their role in creating change.
- White leaders to become more self-aware of biases and privileges.
- Own the expertise that our racial and ethnic experience enables and enjoy learning from others.
- Accurately understand how race shapes norms, in-group/out-group relations and power in our society (and organisations)
- Celebrate the difference and find commonality.
- Become allies in a movement for racial equality.
Some things that got in the way is that white people sometimes struggle with Distance, Defensiveness and Denial.
Distance: White people are often socially distanced from the lived experiences of ethnic minority folk and so don’t have first-hand experience of their experiences or a lens through which to think about how white-centric orgs are.
Defensiveness: Being Resistant to hear about radicalised experiences or realising that our orgs are white-centric because this undermines our (white peoples) own position in organisations (potential threat), the idea that we (white people) got where we are through hard work and capability (meritocracy threat) and because it makes us feel bad about ourselves (white identity threat).
Denial: Doubting or denying that the experiences voiced are real.
Increasing diversity in leadership roles is important as we get different and innovative ideas, different styles of working, more representative board allowing for decision-making to be valued more as you will have more unique perspectives when making those decisions.
If you are interested in hosting an Explore Day to share your organisation’s good practice, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Speaker - Elaine Johnson, Director of Great Places (Talking on behalf of GM Housing Providers).