Addressing inequality is the right thing to do – the impact of collecting equality, diversity and inclusion data

Victor da Cunha, 15 May 2023

The NHF has launched its updated equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) data tool calling on housing associations to submit their EDI data and help build the most accurate picture of diversity in social housing in 2023.

As we champion the latest EDI data collection, I wanted to reflect on the positive impact the EDI data tool has had on our sector. It’s helped us to use data to better understand the EDI of the housing association workforce and put measures in place to drive change.

Our EDI journey so far

In 2020, the NHF published an insight review of housing association staff in England, which examined the current EDI landscape in the sector, the work already being done to improve representation, and what we can learn from other sectors. The insight review exposed data gaps and, where data was available, it showed just how far we have to go.

This led to the creation of the EDI data tool with a focus on improving and understanding data. It was a very important step to collect data and better understand diversity within the sector.

The EDI data tool was used to conduct a national data collection exercise in the sector in 2021. The subsequent report presents the findings of the first ever national picture of EDI within the housing association workforce in England. It collected EDI data from 174 organisations, representing 71% of homes owned by housing associations in England.

The report highlights clearly where there are issues around representation amongst the housing association workforce, particularly when it comes to our leaders and those with a disability.

I was proud that Curo was one of many housing associations across the sector that engaged in the first data submission collectively representing a healthy start to driving meaningful change.

The data has also helped set out the scale of the challenge ahead. It’s allowed us to see where we are currently, and to better understand the key areas of focus to make progress and become a truly equal, diverse, and inclusive sector.

By being transparent and accountable, it’s time for housing associations to demonstrate how serious we are about representing the communities we serve, building greater trust, and unlocking the benefits of a diverse sector.

Driving meaningful change

The main findings the national EDI data report revealed were not a surprise to many of us across the sector. Our executives and boards do not reflect the residents and communities we serve. You are more likely to be white, male and older if you are in a leadership position in social housing, just like many other sectors. However, many other sectors don’t possess our customer profiles or are as deeply embedded in their communities. We should be doing better. Much better.

The findings have prompted sector-wide discussions and helped raise the profile of the challenge we face in addressing the inequalities within our workforces. We are missing out on a fantastic pool of diverse talent at senior levels and this is hindering the sector’s progress.

Over the last few years, the NHF has been working hard to support members on our journey to become the most equal, diverse and inclusive sector we can possibly be. This has included creating two thriving national EDI networks, one for chief executives and one for staff who have responsibility for creating organisational change. We’ve also run events and webinars, and developed case studies and blogs showcasing some of the fantastic work happening across our sector.  

Governance is crucial to creating the cultural and systemic shifts that we need throughout the sector, driving inclusive workforces where staff feel empowered to bring their whole selves to work. The benefits of a diverse and inclusive board are far ranging and so the NHF worked with a group of 20 board members over 18 months to create a fantastic set of resources that can be used by boards to drive equality, diversity and inclusion, developed in partnership with Altair.

This features a Chair’s Challenge shaping our sector’s vision for change. It’s a public commitment from housing associations to take boards on a journey to understand how diverse and inclusive they are now, and then develop a vision for the future. Curo has signed up to this challenge and I also have as Chair of Local Space.

Change can only start from the top and the wider programme of work demonstrates sector leadership on EDI. We need sector leaders to take an active lead on this agenda and drive meaningful change.

Submit your EDI data

The latest data tool collection is a great opportunity for housing associations to help build the most accurate picture of diversity in social housing in 2023.

The more members who contribute, the more we can demonstrate the sector’s commitment to EDI and provide solid foundations for measuring progress over time. I know this will be welcomed by Curo’s Board, our workforce, our customers and our stakeholders.

If the exercise provides more complete customer data, then we may be able to compare how representative our workforce and leadership is to the people we serve, not just the wider population.

Data is critical to progressing equality, diversity, and inclusion. By being transparent and accountable, we show how serious we are about representing the communities we serve, building greater trust, and unlocking the benefits of a diverse sector.

Addressing inequality is simply the right thing to do.

The deadline to submit your completed data tool is on Monday 5 June. After analysing the findings, the results will be launched at the National Housing Summit on 11-12 September 2023.