G15 Ethnicity in Housing Awards: Word from our Winner - Rebecca Burton

At this years’ G15 Ethnicity in Housing Awards that took place on 25 May 2022, Network Homes’ ​Rebecca Burton​​​ walked away with the Supportive Colleague Award. We caught up with her after the ceremony to see how she was feeling.

Congratulations on your award. How did it feel to hear your name read out as the winner?

“I was surprised and shocked. I really was not expecting to win because I recognised all the names of the colleagues who had been shortlisted and I know about all the amazing work that they have been doing. I had really accepted that this award was not for me. So when my name was called out, it was really unexpected. That’s why I was sitting at the back of the room, I really wasn’t planning on walking to the front.

But it was really nice, it was amazing to be recognised. It’s the things you do outside of your job that you are not quite sure how many people are aware of. Even receiving a nomination is an amazing way of seeing that people really recognise the work that I am doing.”

Can you tell us a little bit about the work you do at Network Homes?

“I am a Communications Manager, specifically covering internal, resident and digital communications. I am very well placed for communicating messages across the business and having reach. This was really important when Network Homes’ Race Equality Action Group was first established. I was there at the start to support colleagues to get the group’s messaging out across Network Homes quickly and effectively.

Then the opportunity to be co-Chair came along when the previous Chair stepped down. In this role, I am always thinking about ways that I can raise awareness for the group and racial equality, like delivering internal campaigns. I never want to be at the front of everything, so I really try to use my role as co-Chair to encourage and promote others.”

In your nomination, you were described as being unwavering in your commitment to inclusive, non-tokenistic, genuine racial equality. Where does this commitment come from?

“It definitely comes from my own life experiences. Both of my parents are Jamaican and they came to Britian just after the Windrush. My parents have always instilled in me, that if there is anything that you want in life, you have to go for it and you can’t rely on others to do things for you. They have really instilled in me the value of hard work. Their experiences and the challenges they faced when they first moved here have always made me determined to ensure that no one else has to go through that. Even if it is a small, ‘pebble in the sea’ sort of thing that I can do to make a difference, to ensure no one has challenging experiences like my parents in the future, that is what drives me.”

Is there a particular colleague that has supported you in your career, and what did their support mean to you?

“There have been many people throughout my career. I’ve worked in housing for over fifteen years, and throughout, I have been really lucky to have always had really supportive managers. Every manager I have had has always seen my potential, encouraged me to take on opportunities outside of my role to progress my development, and helped me to have a voice.

This is very much the case in my current role. My line manager is very supportive, he always makes me aware of development opportunities and puts me forward for these. Colleagues in my team and within my Race Equality Action Group are also an amazing support network.”

What do you think are the most critical things organisations and colleagues can be doing to include and support minority ethnic colleagues?

“Make sure you are providing equal opportunities to everyone on your team and ensuring that you do not rule anyone out or make assumptions based on biases. Not everything has to be targeted and no one wants to be the token person for anything, we all just want to be given equal opportunities and to be given a real chance.

The second, very important thing colleagues can do, is to stand up and speak out if they see anyone one at work treating someone in a way that does not feel right. It is really important that we say something if we see any form of micro aggression about someone’s race or any other cultural or personal difference. If you have the courage and the opportunity to say some thing in the moment, that’s great. But if you don’t, it is just as important that you raise the issue afterwards in another way. Being a bystander can be seen as being a supporter.”

What would be your message to anyone thinking of nominating a colleague for next year's awards?

“Reflect on the people who may have supported you in your career journey. Try and think outside of the box, there may be people who seem silent, but they are doing a lot behind the scenes and seeing the value in these colleagues is really important. You don’t have to only nominate colleagues for one thing that has had a big impact. A lot of small changes and continued effort can also have a big impact. So, consider colleagues who do a lot of additional work and do lots of small things every day that add up to a big change. They may not be the colleagues in the group who speak the loudest, but they may be those who get others talking and thinking about a lot of great ideas.

A just definitely go ahead and nominate!”

Finally, where is your award being displayed?

“My award is in the living room at the moment. But I am trying to find a wall in my house to display it against that is not white, so it really stands out. But all my walls are white!”