BLOG: Taking firm action to increase diversity in our sector

By Vipul Thacker, Group Director at Notting Hill Genesis

  • 17 July 2020

In July 2019, Kate Davies, Chief Executive of Notting Hill Genesis, invited a few colleagues from the G15 (Geeta Nanda, Chief Executive of Metropolitan Thames Valley, Ria Bailes, Group Director People & Change at One Housing, Jamie Ratcliffe, Executive Director of Business Performance and Partnerships at Network Homes and myself, to a meeting entitled, Supporting a Diversity Pipeline for G15.

The purpose was simple. The challenge difficult. We were asked to address an issue that has been known, talked about and discussed for years, but with no tangible outcomes: Why are there not enough BAME leaders in the housing sector? What can the G15, who primarily work in London - the most diverse city in the world, do to address this so that we reflect the communities we serve? Where have we failed and why? And, how do we respond to this challenge?

Unlike most cross cutting and cross organisational groups that I have worked in, this subgroup felt different. It was made up of five people keen to take action. It was not a committee. Nor did it need a formal constitution, terms of reference a secretariat etc. We drafted a short business case, which was taken to the G15 CEO meeting in August and approved. Thus, the first official G15 BAME subgroup was formed. And, whilst this was being done, ideas that had flowed during the initial meeting started taking shape.

A G15 BAME Diversity pledge was drafted to commit each G15 housing association to reflect the ethnic diversity of the communities they work in - particularly at senior managerial, leadership and board levels. I must confess, one of the easiest process that I have been involved in because we knew what needed to achieve – I drafted it, it took less than one meeting to review and agree. This was formally agreed and signed by the G15 CEOs and published on the G15 website. A great start - a public commitment for G15 by G15 CEOs.

By end of August 2019, we had a 10-point action plan, allocated leads and timelines in place. It’s pleasing to note that during the last 10 months each of the sub group leads, working closely with their teams, have got all the actions started and indeed most are ready to be launched. All in 11 months including the last three months where most organisations have been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s an overview of the actions and progress to date:

  1. Agree and set a target for % of BAME Board members across G15 by 2025, using the baseline data as a starting point.
    Completed. A target for doubling the BAME proportion on our boards across G15 to 30% by 2025 agreed.
  2. Chief Executive commitment signed and published.
    Signed and published.
  3. Research strategies and initiatives adopted across G15 in promoting diversity (developing pipeline activities) and share best practice at a future celebration event.
    Draft is ready. Currently with team for branding and publication.
  4. G15 BAME leadership programme
    G15 Accelerate - a new high calibre Chartered Management Institute (CMI) leadership development programme for BAME colleagues who are managers and want to accelerate their career trajectory, has been launched with the first cohort starting in Autumn. We anticipate running future cohorts twice a year.
  5. Identify and promote BAME speakers at regional and national conferences
    G15 CEOs have identified circa 70 BAME experts across a wide range of topics who can speak on their areas of expertise. A training and support programme designed and launched – first cohort completed and 45 staff registered for the first tranche of training. Each one will be accredited as a speaker and will be on a list of speakers available to conference organisers such as Ocean media, Future of London, Inside Housing, CIH, NHF and Housing org. Already CIH has started inviting colleagues on this list to lead on their webinars and round tables.
  6. G15 talent page on the G15 website – all G15 adverts in one place
    G15 Linkedin page is in place. All jobs that are advertised on our websites also feature on G15 Careers.
  7. G15 BAME talent management programme including G15 BAME talent programme, events such as breakfast meetings etc.
    The subgroup will lead on this once the Accelerate programme is in place.
  8. G15 BAME recruitment and selection good practice shared
    Draft is ready. Currently with team for branding and publication.
  9. Collect baseline data using the G15 template (March 2020) and publish collective numbers and progress
    Collection started. We will use this to measure and report progress.
  10. Celebrating BAME achievement event
    Currently postponed and to be delivered post COVID easing.

A lot done, lot more to do. The first step is to disrupt.

Unlike other working groups that I have worked in, this experience has been different. Here colleagues have shown that we can set the standards for the sector. And create a sector that values equality, where differences are valued, where everyone has an opportunity to advance, and where we can be proud to work.