Research is a critical part of affecting change. It enables us a sector to see where we are and to hold ourselves to account. It also allows us to measure progress and the impact of measures we have taken. In order to affect meaningful and sustainable change, it is important to be very clear on what the current reality is in terms of diversity and representation. This is a fundamental stage but also the first stage. It is how we respond to the information and data that ultimately defines its impact.
Below are four key studies into the diversity in the Housing Sector’s workforce and Leadership over the last seven years. Other important studies and news can be found here: News & Views
Leadership 2025 and Altair Reviews , 2017 and 2019
The Altair Review 2017
Leadership 2025 commissioned Altair, a strategic Housing and Regeneration consultancy, to undertake an independent review of the state of black and minority ethnic (BME) leadership representation in the social housing sector in 2017.
The report found that of 64 chief executives, only 3 were from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. There were 15 executives who were BME (including the three chief executives) out of 331, so just 4.5%.
At board level, there were only 50 board members who were BME out of 735 in total (or 6.8%), with 18 boards having no BME representation at all.
‘The overall BME representation at executive levels falls
short by considerable margin.’
The report also sets out and explains the Five-Point Plan which organisations can adopt to improve the diversity of their leadership. You can read more about this and the diversity champions adopting it here: The Five-Point Plan and Diversity Champions
Leadership 2025 Diversity in the Sector (2019)
In 2019, Leadership 2025 and Altair conducted a second review to measure where the sector was in terms of the diversity of its leadership and what, if anything had changed since 2017. The report showed incremental progress but there remained considerable room for improvement in becoming fully diverse, representative and inclusive at a senior level.
Board representation had risen to 13.6% (from 6.8% in 2017) and executive representation to 9.1% (from 4.5% in 2017). Figures should be treated with caution as the respondents to the survey were self-selected and “it is likely that those who have a positive story to tell are the ones to have completed the survey.”
The results also mask a significant difference between the sector overall and respondents with over 10,000 homes whose diversity data was much less positive. These had 9.6% board representation and only 5.6% representation amongst executives.
The National Housing Federation, ‘How Diverse is England’s Housing Association Workforce?’ 2021 and 2023
In 2021, the National Housing Federation conducted research which examined Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in England’s Housing Associations’ workforce compared with their local communities. In 2023, the NHF repeated this data collection, analysing the same protected and unprotected characteristics. The second study looked not only at where the sector is in terms of EDI but also what, if anything, has changed.
How Diverse is England’s Housing Association Workforce in 2021?
Some key findings:
- Housing Staff had almost twice the representation of Black ethnic groups and half that of Asian ethnic groups compared to the population in stock location.
- Representation did not extend to executive level. 90.1% of executives identified as White compared to 83.2% of the population and 80.6% of staff.
- Board members appeared to be more ethnically diverse than executives and the wider workforce. However, boards also had the biggest data gaps which could distort the findings.
- There is poor representation of BME groups at executive level as 9.9% were from BME backgrounds compared with 19% of staff.
You can read a more detailed overview of the findings around ethnic diversity and recommended actions here: How diverse is England’s housing association workforce? 2021
How Diverse is England’s Housing Association Workforce in 2023?
Some key findings:
- At a national level, the sector’s workforce is ethnically diverse and representative of the communities served. 10% of the workforce are from a Black/African/ Caribbean/Black British ethnic group, compared to 8% of residents and 5% of the population where stock is located.
- This ethnic diversity is somewhat mirrored in boards. 82% of board members are White, compared to 81% of the workforce nationally. However, there were variations in representation within different organisations and there are still all-white boards. Research commissioned by Lara Oyedele, as part of her In My Shoes Campaign, investigates this further.
- As in 2021, executive teams are significantly less ethnically diverse. Only 4% of executives are either Black/African/Caribbean/ Black British or Asian/Asian British compared to 16% of the population.
- Executive teams are not diverse or representative. 10% of the workforce is Black/African/Caribbean/ Black British compared to 3% of executives. 5% of the workforce is Asian/Asian British but only 1% are executives.
You can read a more detailed overview of the findings around ethnic diversity and recommended actions here: How diverse is England’s housing association workforce in 2023?
You can read the full report here.