Encouraging diversity is a priority for many businesses including Stockport based Equity Housing Group.
For Collette King, Chief Executive of Equity Housing Group, diversity has always been a number one priority throughout her entire career in the housing sector. So, it was only natural that when Collette came on board as Chief Executive at Equity Housing Group in 2016, she wanted to ensure such values were embedded in the organisation.
Collette explains why:
Since my appointment, Equity has been through significant change and now has a business strategy in place that reflects our mission and values.
One of our core focuses over the past few months has been encouraging diversity within our workforce. But it’s not only our workforce where we’re trying to drive change when it comes to inclusivity and diversity; it’s with our customers too, and the two go hand in hand.
Last year, research from Stonewall revealed that one in five LGBT people expect to be treated worse when applying for social housing, and although social housing providers tend to perform well on Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index, there is still work to be done. There are still landlords out there who simply don’t understand the sometimes-complex needs of the LGBT community. This group is also much more likely to fall subject to homelessness because of the need to sometimes leave families, friends and homes.
Here at Equity, we’re trying our absolute best to work with our peers to make social housing an inclusive place for the LGBT community. A few months back, we held an event with HouseProud North West – a networking group made up of people from housing providers keen to develop and implement best practice in supporting LGBT colleagues and customers. The event was held in Manchester and attracted over 100 LGBT customers. Throughout the day customers were able to voice what was important to them and what they felt social housing should provide.
One of the key concerns for many of those that attended was getting older and feeling isolated. In particular customers felt there was an increased need for retirement housing to be more inclusive and supportive of the needs of older LGBT people.
In response to this Equity commissioned a joint training session for our own Retirement and Independent Living Managers and Co-ordinators, which better equips them to recognise and respond to the needs of older LGBT customers and to provide an opportunity for best practice sharing across our organisation.
We are also discussing ways to capture the stories of some of our older residents in creative ways, such as video blogs and case studies that we can use internally and externally to raise awareness of the issues they face.
We are confident that this event provided a much-needed voice for LGBT communities, who felt accepted and listened to in a safe environment. This is the type of activity we want to embrace at Equity Housing Group.
Due to the popularity of our customer event, we are hoping to organise an event for LGBT colleagues in the near future. We know that in order to create a diverse environment for our customers, we must start at home, so are also prioritising talking to minority groups within our workforce and ensuring their voices are heard. Here at Equity, we are actively seeking to engage with our diverse customer groups and colleagues. And only by creating an environment of trust, acceptance and empowerment internally, can we translate this to our customer base.
Expert Opinion contributed by Collette King, Equity Housing Group