G15 Ethnicity in Housing Awards: Words from our Winner - Elaine Lewis

At this years’ G15 Ethnicity in Housing Awards that took place on 25 May 2022, L&Q’s ethnicity colleague network group, Kaleidoscope, won the Ethnicity Colleague Network Group Award. We caught up with Kaleidoscope Chair, Elaine Lewis, to see what winning the award meant to her.

Congratulations on your achievement. How did it feel to hear Kaleidoscope announced as the winner?

“Oh wow, I was blown away. I was absolutely blow away. I genuinely did not expect to win so it was an amazing surprise that really affirmed all the work we have achieved. We have really challenged our organisation to do better, and L&Q have been really receptive to us. This has seen real progress and change at our organisation.

Getting recognition for the team means everything. I don’t think I could be me without the team, without kaleidoscope. They are behind me all the way. To be shown, through this award, that what we are doing stands above the rest, was an amazing, amazing feeling!”

When nominating you, your colleagues said that you've done phenomenal work to promote diversity and inclusion. Where does your motivation to do such work come from?

“Well, have you got all year?! It makes me emotional thinking about this. When I was a young person, I had major aspirations and belief in my ability to be anything I wanted to be. But, as a young black person, I had to weave my way through society, trying to avoid racism and discrimination. While I was doing this, I was not able to reach my full potential. Had I been nurtured and given equal opportunities, I think my position in this organisation, or any organisation, would have been more senior.

So, I do this because I do not want anyone else to be limited in what they want to do, and what they can achieve. I’m motivated by those negative experiences and making sure no one else has to experience them. While I recognise privilege and know it exists, I do not buy into it. I do not allow myself to believe I am less worthy because I am a black person and I try to pass this onto others. I encourage them to stand in their power and take a seat at the table.”

What impact has Chairing Kaleidoscope had on your career?

"I am now a resident diversity and inclusion specialist and being Chair of Kaleidoscope allowed me to secure this role. The skills I gained from being Chair, particularly around diversity and inclusion were essential for this career opportunity.

The role has also improved my confidence – 100%. I was always silently confident, now I am confident. I am able to speak up and challenge ideas in a more articulate way and engage people more effectively.

I have also really developed my public speaking ability and I am knocking out presentations like nobody’s business! I’m not perfect yet, but my confidence has grown enormously.”

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

"Firstly, colleagues and organisations must listen. Then, I think the most important thing is accountability. I think sometimes our personal relationships can interfere with accountability. I would like for colleagues to be conscious of this and to ensure that their relationships with peers do not stop them from taking action."

This year, the G15 has renewed its commitment to the G15 Ethnic Diversity pledge which our members signed three years ago. What do you think are the key next step G15 members should be taking to build on the work done so far?

"The next steps I think the G15 should take is around collecting more data, and then using this data to make change. There are lots of areas where data is being collected but this is not being utilised. This applies to both colleagues and residents.

At L&Q, we have a foundation organisation that supports residents, many of whom are from ethnic minorities. However, I think we need to dive deeper and understand exactly which ethnic minority groups are being supported, so that we know if certain ethnic minority groups need additional, targeted support.

We also need to look more closely at the ethnicity data of individual teams to understand if some directorates are not as diverse as others. It’s in these areas of our organisations that we need to be targeting recruitment and development opportunities for ethnic minority people."