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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Housing organisations take on diversity challenge


Housing organisations are signing up to improve the diversity of their leadership. The Chartered Institute of Housing’s (CIH) Presidential Commission on leadership and diversity is making a series of challenges to the sector in its final report, which is being launched tomorrow (Thursday 25 June) at Housing 2015, CIH’s annual conference in Manchester.

The report calls on housing organisations to sign up to and deliver against 10 challenges by 2020. Social landlords including Affinity Sutton, B3Living, Circle, Community Gateway Association, Genesis, Hastoe Group, Merthyr Valleys Homes, Midland Heart, New Charter, One Manchester and Stonewater are among the first to sign up. The challenges include:

  • Setting an aspirational target for board recruitment from under-represented groups
  • Publishing diversity-related data on the composition of their boards, executive teams and total workforce every year
  • Identifying and providing mentoring and coaching opportunities for staff and board members
  • Challenging all staff (and external agencies) responsible for recruitment to ensure that all shortlists include appropriate candidates from under-represented groups. 

The report is also calling on social housing regulators to take into account the level of governance and leadership diversity when addressing and assessing organisational risk and performance.  And it is challenging recruitment agencies and contractors working with the housing sector to work towards broadening talent pools so that all shortlists meet the requirements of their clients and include talent from under-represented groups.

The commission was set up last year by then-CIH President Steve Stride to examine ways to improve the diversity of housing industry leaders. 

Commissioners have been collecting evidence from people across the housing industry online and in person since September.

Steve, who is chief executive of Poplar HARCA, said: “We didn’t want to produce just another report making the business case for diversity – as far as we’re concerned, the business case has been made. So our focus is on uniting and challenging the sector to improve on the current levels of diversity in housing leadership. 

“We know there is an appetite for change and we’d like to thank the hundreds of housing professionals who have come forward to work with us in developing this commission. We have heard about some great initiatives, but we’ve also heard about significant barriers preventing some housing professionals from progressing their careers and moving into leadership positions.

“This commission aims to challenge the housing sector to improve, and to start that journey of improvement now; so we are asking housing providers to sign up to and deliver against our 10 challenges by 2020.  It’s not about increasing diversity for the sake of it. It’s about making our industry the best it can be, recruiting talent from the widest and most diverse of backgrounds; and making sure we don’t get left behind. We want our leaders to be the best; and the best because they represent the diversity of our industry and the communities we serve.” 

Midland Heart chief executive Ruth Cooke said:  “We are acutely aware of the diversity in leadership challenges facing our sector and are absolutely committed to meeting those set out by the CIH Presidential Commission. This will help us share our ideas so we create a more powerful, transparent and practical sector-wide response.

“One of the ways we are doing this is to positively take steps to grow the capacity and the capability of under-represented groups, so that they have a real opportunity to apply for, and be successful, in obtaining a board role. 

“The aim is to develop a more diverse talent pool through a targeted development programme with the offer of a guaranteed interview for future board or committee positions at Midland Heart. We are at the early stages of developing this programme – if your organisation would like to help shape and implement this programme with us I would very much welcome a conversation. We really need to find practical ways of making a difference.”

Richard Sharp, head of diversity and inclusion at Genesis, said:  “Genesis are delighted to be involved – diversity and inclusion is embedded throughout our organisational values and behaviours. 

“While we are doing some great things, we only want to get better and race is central to our diversity and inclusion strategy and action plan.

“We feel that we are more effective when working in partnership with other registered social landlords so we can share what works well and what we will do jointly to improve the lives of our residents. We are excited about this brilliant coalition.” 

Diane Bellinger, chief executive of Community Gateway Association, added:  “We are delighted to be an early adopter of the commission’s diversity in leadership proposal.  Community Gateway Association has embedded diversity into our organisational values: “We put our diverse communities at the heart of all we do”. 

“However this doesn’t mean that we’re going to rest on our laurels.  We are committed to continuous improvement and to providing excellent services that recognise people’s differences and embrace their many different needs. We look forward to delivering the ten challenges set by the commission.” 

John Giesen, B3Living chief executive, said: “We’re delighted to be among the first to sign up to the CIH commission and deliver on its challenges.  We recognise the vital role B3Living has to play in ensuring equality and diversity is at the heart of housing and community.”

Jonathan Cawthra, group resources director at Affinity Sutton, said: “Affinity Sutton has long recognised that we gain strength from the diversity of our staff throughout the organisation. We are pleased to sign up to the commission’s challenges, which are a natural fit with our own ambitions, and we look forward to others joining us.”

Karen Stephens, project director at Stonewater, said: “At Stonewater we believe that equality, diversity and inclusion are intrinsic to providing an excellent service to our customers and stakeholders. This belief and commitment runs throughout our organisation, by the Stonewater leadership and our board members through to our frontline staff. 

“Stonewater is proud to sign up to the CIH 10 by 2020 challenge.  Our vision is that everyone has an opportunity to have a place they can call home. We believe we can achieve this as a much stronger organisation by committing to improve on the current levels of diversity in leadership across our sector.”

Organisations can find out more and sign up to take the 10 by 20 challenges at

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