23 Jul 2021

Being part of the CIH equality, diversity and inclusion group

Over the next few months, members of the Chartered Institute of Housing’s equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) steering group are going to be taking the time to share their stories and experiencing, highlighting why they feel it’s important to be part of this group. First up, Daniel Revell-Wiseman tells us why he's driven to make a difference to the housing sector.

For me, it’s a true  honour to be part of the Chartered Institute of Housing’s equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) group. It’s extremely important to me, especially as I realise that I have a responsibility as a confident, proud gay man, to champion equality and diversity.

And it’s clear that, while we have come so far, we still have a way to go.

I joined the EDI group because I wanted to make a difference, and this gave me an opportunity to be able to do so – to lead the sector to make the changes required.

The EDI group are, by our very nature, a diverse bunch with a common goal. However, it is all very well having an EDI group at the Chartered Institute of Housing, or any organisation for that matter, but to drive real change, we all have a responsibility to strive for inclusivity. We need to all ask the questions during planning, policy writing and any meetings that we attend, and ensure that we all champion, protect and do not disadvantage minority groups.

As I have said in previous blogs, true equality is not about tolerance but inclusivity, allowing everyone to contribute to the whole. This is important, because a lot of discrimination is not obvious. Of course, it is progress that people are not openly discriminated; but none-the-less, it means in a lot of ways, the hardest hurdle is yet to come.

Some organisations are very forward thinking in terms of their EDI policies, which I suspect is driven by a small cohort of forward-thinking individuals. It takes a lot of personal development to be able to face these issues head on, and even more so to take these things forward. To every one of you who have done so already, I thank you.

When confronted with promotion of diversity whatever it may be, each minority group is often confronted with the same opposition. You’ll hear things like, ‘where is International Men’s Day?’ or ‘straight pride’ or ‘all lives matter’. The issue is of course, is that somewhere out there in the wider community, there is a confused/vulnerable person who still thinks that they are worth less, or even worse, better not existing. That of course is the point of equality, diversity and inclusion.

In the workplace, those of us who are different have something we can offer, and I believe every organisation is missing out on individuals who are not willing or able to be themselves at work. Some of us, due to our strength of character and perseverance, have been able to turn our difference into strength, using it as shield to protect ourselves from the sad truth that there will always be opposition.

There have been countless times when I have felt the need to show this strength. In my experience, it is best used subtly but powerfully to demonstrate that I will not be intimidated by difference. There have been occasions I have felt the need to email a whole teams to provide guidance on diversity, out myself and link this back to the organisations values and behaviours.

I know that some people are not keen on providing personal information but personally, I like it when EDI data is collected. There are often easy ways to be inclusive – having an ‘other’ box next to a question about gender gives people the freedom to write how they want to be identified; allowing staff to have their pronouns on their email signature; having gender neutral toilets. It could even be having inclusive policies around childcare or clear EDI policies in place. All of these things play their role in creating an inclusive environment.

I know some colleagues do not appreciate this, but for me, it says that the organisation has at the very least, considered me as an option and my importance. I have worked for an organisation previously where the CEO asked why this information was relevant. The answer of course is that it should not be, but I think that this was lost on that CEO.

There is very little point in creating EDI annual reports if an organisation and board are not willing to do anything to address any deficits. I have sat in too many meetings when gender pay gaps are discussed. Excuses are often made, for example ‘the top tier is a small cohort of large salaries and this skews the figures’. That of course is the point. It should not detract from the fact that your top tier is not diverse enough, which is also true for many housing association boards.

My reasons for wanting be part of the CIH’s EDI group is to be proactive, and to change the sector. To highlight unintentional bias and open up the conversation for the sector to think about policy and procedures and how they could unfairly impact minority groups.

It is great to see that many more organisations are increasingly celebrating diversity within their organisation and more widely in society. The shift in support for Pride or an increase in the awareness of the impact of work on mental health, has changed dramatically over the last five years. And while the cynical among us will say that this is a corporate PR decision, I say that any celebration of any minority groups is always a good thing.

We want to encourage unheard voices from across the housing sector to share their experience in the hope we can learn from each other and continue to make improvements to our collective response to EDI. Make sure to tag us on social media @CIHHousing and use the hashtags #ChampioningEDI and #CIHComeIn. You can find out more about CIH's EDI work here

Written by Daniel Revell-Wiseman

Daniel Revell-Wiseman is a member of CIH and is part of the CIH London board. He is head of care and supported housing at Look Ahead Housing and Care.