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Change starts at the top – How Local Housing Associations are tackling a lack of diversity in the Boardroom

North Star, working in partnership with Beyond Housing, Gentoo, Thirteen Group and the Housing Diversity Network has launched a two-year programme to develop the Board members of the future. The programme, the first to be delivered in the North East, has focused on increasing diversity at Board level.  Applications were encouraged from people from ethnic-minority communities, the LGBTQ+ community, people with a disability, women, and young people, all of whom are significantly under-represented at Board level, locally, nationally, and internationally. During the two-year programme, the twelve apprentices will receive comprehensive training, shadow local Boards, and be supported by a mentor. The skills they will gain will help prepare them to become the Board Members of the future.

Diversity and inclusion are essential in business today. A healthy variety of people from different backgrounds and cultures provide organisations with the balance of voices and diversity of thought that is needed. Across the decades, many reports and reviews have attempted to tackle the lack of diversity at Board level. They have all made valid recommendations and, some progress has been made, however, this local partnership felt that more was required. The partners strongly believe that real change only happens when you are able to influence leadership – and hold organisations to account.

Angela Lockwood, Chief Executive of North Star was one of the founding partners.  Her involvement was born out of a strong desire to bring about real change. Through her connections with the Housing Diversity Network and the CEOs at Gentoo, Thirteen; and Beyond Housing; Nigel Wilson Ian Wardle and Rosemary Du Rose, respectively, the partnership was created.  Angela said “This programme will ensure that North Star is even more dynamic, energetic and understanding of the needs of people and communities. This can only lead to a stronger and more visionary organisation in every way”

One of the major benefits for the apprentices is the lived experience of observing Boards and Committees, enabling them to see how things come to fruition. It will develop their confidence and build networks whilst enabling North Star, Beyond, Gentoo and Thirteen to all gain diversity of thought and experience on their Boards.  Manisha Sharma, who’s application was successful said; “I am honoured to be part of this wonderful opportunity. It is vital that a range of diverse voices are heard in the Boardoom. This is why I applied. I applaud all the partners for leading the way on EDI at a strategic level. This has been missing for too long “

Yvonne Davies, Consultant for The Housing Diversity Network said: “I look forward to introducing the trainees to the world of housing, governance and regulation over the next 2 years. They will, develop their skills, knowledge, constructive challenge and diverse thinking, adding value in the years to come, to the boards who have supported them. This is a great programme to promote diversity on boards.”