Hearing All Stories – Championing equality, diversity and inclusion with the Chartered Institute of Housing

2 July 2021

Today I had the absolute pleasure and privilege of working with some amazing housing professionals at the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) Championing Equality, Diversity and Inclusion event. Positive About Inclusion were co-sponsoring the event along with our friends at Curo and Eastlight Community Homes and I think we can all safely say, we are delighted with the engagement and enthusiasm shown by everyone who took part.

With our years of housing experience combined with our expertise in equality, diversity and inclusion supporting this event was close to our hearts!

Over 120 delegates representing landlords and local authorities from across the UK attended the championing equality, diversity and inclusion virtual event that showcased previously unheard voices from across the housing sector. Preparation for the event began way back in March when CIH used their social media channels to kick off their campaign to look for volunteer speakers to share their stories. The response was incredible and after a selection process, six housing professionals were chosen to speak on the day:

  • Gemma Oxenham of One Housing shared her experience as a woman working in male dominated environment
  • Taranjt Sandhar of Network Homes gave us an insight in to her career as a woman of colour in the construction sector
  • Steve Hayes of Citizen spoke from the heart on his experience growing up as a young gay man
  • Olushola (Shola) Alao of The Hyde Group shared her career story in housing and how she ‘found her voice’ with the support of colleagues and staff network groups
  • Gemma Waddington of The Hyde Group gave an open account of her disabilities (dyslexia and dyspraxia) and the impact they have on her everyday working life
  • Zein Owfar of Hertsmere Borough Council shared his views on the role of social housing and the opportunities to promote the sector as a career of choice

Speaking to Shola before the event, she shared with me the support she had received from the CIH in the run up to the day.

“Each speaker has had coaching to help them develop their public speaking skills and to build their confidence which has been fantastic. And it was so helpful to meet and speak with the person chairing each of our sessions beforehand so we knew exactly what to expect!” 

Shola’s session focussed on the role of staff network groups (or employee resource groups as they’re known in her organisation) to create connection and space for inclusive dialogue, to act as a useful barometer to the senior leadership team, to provide a potential pipeline of talent and to help those isolated or marginalised to ‘find their voice’.

As a sector, we need more opportunities like this to hear (and really listen and learn) from colleagues and their journeys in housing. Applying the learning from opportunities like this may not always be easy but that is when we realise the ambition we share to create a truly inclusive sector, both for our colleagues and the communities we serve.

A recording of the event can be found here.   

Author: Karen Faulkner, Director at Positive About Inclusion

For more information about how we can support housing organisations embed workplace inclusivity contact us.

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