Written by Madeleine Hale, Press and External Affairs Officer, L&Q
Chair of Inspire
In Autumn last year, my senior manager, who was also Chair of Inspire asked if I’d like to go with her to meet with three other Housing Associations to discuss plans for a joint International Women’s Day celebration. Eight months later, I’ve been shortlisted for the Women in Housing Inclusion Champion award.
How did that all happen?
Take a step back to last summer when Emma at Ellwood Atfield put me forward for a role in the Press and External Affairs team at L&Q. As you can guess, I got the role, and a few months later the additional position of Chair of Inspire became vacant. My career had been in politics and public affairs, but I jumped at the chance to do more on diversity and inclusion, and as it turns out it was perfect timing. L&Q was going through a significant step change in diversity, and I was going to be part of it.
I started going to our Chief Executive with ideas, half expecting them to come back with a stern word putting me in my place. What I got was endless encouragement and support. This immediate buy-in from the very top of the organisation is invaluable. Our CEO David recognises the value of diversity and his gut reaction to all my ideas and proposals (of which there have been many) has been an immediate yes. Although the most important ‘yes’ so far was from our HR Executive Director, when I suggested the work of the diversity network chairs be recognised as part of our job objectives, with an allowance of time out of the ‘day job’ to undertake our duties effectively. Until then, it had always been lunchtimes and evenings, but he wasted no time in making this change.
The first thing I did was rebrand the network – cue snazzy new logo featuring a lightning bolt – and shifted the emphasis from a women’s network to a gender equality network. All too often men’s equality battles are swept under the carpet, and I wasn’t going to let that happen here.
Next? I wanted to get people talking.
I launched L&Q’s first ever Gender Equality Week – hosting events on male mental health and domestic violence and culminating in the International Women’s Day PechaKucha event. Eleven women from across the housing sector gave five-minute speeches on being a woman in housing. Over a hundred people attended and thousands engaged with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.
But it’s not just about events; the network is a key internal lobbyist. We convened a working group on the gender pay gap, presented it to the Executive Group, and nearly all the recommendations are now becoming company policy.
I could go on about the incredible work L&Q is doing not just on the gender front but also working with our BAME and LGBT+ networks. I feel privileged to be working for an organisation that takes diversity so seriously, and of course, hugely honoured that they put me forward for the Women in Housing award I’ve been shortlisted for.
So, what now?
For me, I’ll get back to planning the events for International Men’s Day.
For you, consider what your gender equality network could do to make your company more inclusive.