Leadership 2025 – essential to addressing the imbalance

I was 27 years old when I was first appointed to a housing association board. By 29 I was Chair. I held my first Chief Executive’s role at 31.

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Honestly, I do not think I was uniquely talented – there were quite a few people of similar age doing these leadership jobs at the time.

We were a young movement, where young but growing organisations trusted young people to use their commitment and talent to be effective leaders. We have equally, or even more, talented young people now.

I know because I meet many of them. But the opportunities for them to take on leadership roles are much more limited.

One of my highlights of the year is being on the judging panel for the Young Leaders Awards.

It is wonderful to see the enthusiasm and ability of the future leaders of our sector and to watch them grow in confidence as they set out their big ideas.

In an ever evolving world we need young people to come in and disrupt our traditional ways of working. As a sector we cannot afford to be left behind and we need to be ready and willing to embrace change.

I am committed to doing all I can to encourage young talent, which is one of the many reasons I have been a mentor on the HDN mentoring programme for the last five years.

Recently I spoke on a panel where I noted that there were no women.

I could have equally said that there was no one who was disabled, young, LGBTQI, or from a BME background.

I am proud to work in a sector that celebrates diversity, but I am continually disappointed that our diversity doesn’t extend to the very top of organisations.

Whilst I am pleased that we have taken positive action to promote leadership in the sector, we now need to step up and acknowledge that people from a BME background are still not adequately represented.

A statistic that really disappointed me came from Paul Hackett’s recent article showing just 4% of senior leadership roles are occupied by BME leaders. This really isn’t good enough and the new Leadership 2025 programme is essential to addressing the imbalance.

Now is the time to unlock the potential for more BME leaders.

The peer learning, mentoring, and shared study that will be offered through Leadership 2025 coupled with the commitment from the organisations taking part is a positive and critical step to supporting the aspirations of BME leaders.

I’m delighted to have been asked to be one of the mentors, not least because I have learned a lot about myself from every mentoring relationship I’ve had.

But it shouldn’t just stop with Leadership 2025.

As a Federation, we have signed up to the Future of London’s Diversity Pledge. I would actively encourage leaders across the sector to do the same. We can, and should, create the same opportunities we once had.

This leadership challenge is at Board level too.

I am delighted that (subject to confirmation at our AGM) we will be welcoming Geeta Nanda to the Federation Board. Geeta is not only a judge for the Young Leader Award and a champion of London’s Diversity Pledge, but she is also the only BME leader of a top 20 housing association.

Housing needs more leaders like Geeta and embracing diversity at Board level will help to ensure that diversity is embraced at all levels.

As a sector we need talented people to drive us forward. We need talented people to address the supply crisis, we need talented people to tackle social injustice, and we need talented people to create solutions for the challenges that lie ahead.

That talent lies in the pool of fantastic, diverse people working in housing associations across the country.

Investing in them is investing in our successful future.

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