Advance Chair, Melba Wilson was invited to speak at the National Housing Federation’s conference on Diversity, Equality and Inclusion held in October. More than 150 people from housing associations around the country attended the event in London. The conference focused on how to improve policy and practice in a challenging and changing environment. Below she summarises the main points of discussion and what diversity and inclusion means at Advance Housing and Support.
"My session was called: “Leading from the front: gaining a competitive advantage by having a diverse Board.” My message to the conference was that organisations need to be committed to diversity and inclusion at all levels and in different ways.
Our vision - Transforming Lives Together - was developed through work with everyone in Advance, including customers and staff. People like the fact that Advance thinks about diversity in a very inclusive way. For example, as well as focusing on areas of race, gender, sexuality, religion and age we believe it is important to include disability as part of an understanding of diversity.
At Advance we work hard to show that we respect and value diversity and that we believe it is important to do that by listening to, working with and taking on board the views of people with a disability or mental health condition. It is also important to set goals and targets to get things done and to report back about what progress is made; and what still needs to be done.
Nearly eight out of ten customers say we ‘always’ or ‘nearly always’ listen to them; and over 30% of customers are involved in some form of engagement activity. This is above the 25% target that we set.
At Advance’s we have PRIDE values which they are a big part of how Advance does business. For example, recognising staff through the quarterly and annual PRIDE awards, which celebrate our values. Our latest workforce results show that nine out of ten staff are proud to work for Advance and 84% of staff would recommend it as a place to work. We have increased the workforce diversity of people from black and minority ethnic groups and 13% of staff have a known disability.
Advance has a very diverse Board - of the nine Board members, six are women and three are from a black and minority ethnic background.
Organisations must keep working at being inclusive. It is never a job that you should feel is finished and no one has all the answers all of the time. The real value of being committed to diversity and inclusion is to keep trying to get it right for everyone."