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The National Housing Federation (NHF) has published the results from its analysis of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the housing association sector workforce.  The report is based on data provided by 174 organisations who together own 71% of the sector’s homes in England and covers workforce, staff, executives and board members.  The NHF has also published an accompanying national dataset, which has been published in a completed NHF EDI data tool.

Key findings of the analysis are:

  • There are large data gaps in what is known about the sector’s workforce, executive teams, and boards, making it difficult to build accurate pictures to compare to population data. The biggest gaps are around caring responsibilities and socio-economic characteristics, with between just 1% and 4% of workforce data available
  • Staff are more likely to choose not to share religion and sexual orientation, with 8% and 7% of the workforce choosing prefer not to say for those characteristics and
  • There is a clear lack of representation for disabled people across all levels within the sector (8% of staff/executives/boards identify as disabled compared to 24% for the population). Younger people (16-24 years) are also under-represented with 14% of the population aged 16-24 years compared to 7% of the sector’s workforce. Executive teams are not as ethnically diverse as all staff, with 90% of executives being White compared to 81% of staff and 83% of the population. Executive teams and boards also have fewer females than at staff or population level, with just 45% of executives and 42% of board members being female, compared to 55% of staff and 51% of the population.

The report makes three overarching recommendations for housing associations in England:

  • Engage: talk to the workforce, boards, and stakeholders to scrutinise recruitment practices and understand attitudes and behaviours around EDI culture within the organisation, with the intention of better understanding inclusion in the workplace and improving data accuracy through more voluntary data sharing
  • Measure: use the NHF’s EDI data tool (or internal EDI data) to review representation amongst staff, management, and leadership (including boards) within the organisation and any departments and
  • Act: use data to inform EDI strategies and action plans, using targeted action to make progress towards becoming truly equal, diverse, and inclusive across all levels and teams within the organisation. The NHF highlights examples of good practice on its website.

The NHF will continue to update and improve the EDI data tool and repeat the national data collection exercise in 2023, to give time for equality, diversity, and inclusion strategies and action plans to make an impact and for data gaps to be reduced. The NHF hopes that the 2023 data analysis will show improved EDI in the sector, particularly in terms of:

  • Better representation of disabled people amongst workforce and leadership
  • More females in executive positions
  • Greater ethnic diversity amongst executives
  • More young people (aged 16-24 years) in the workforce and potentially younger age groups (aged 44 years or less) within leadership teams and boards and
  • Improved data coverage through less unknown or undeclared data across all characteristics and groups, particularly at board level.