A blog by Curo Chief Executive, Victor Da Cunha
I have been wondering how I can demonstrate more clearly my personal commitment to supporting a much-needed change in our sector’s leadership profiles – a cause that, for me, is very close to home.
It’s not a thing I talk about, but I have my own stories of glass ceilings and of discrimination which I have navigated over the past 28 years. Stories of polite refusals, ‘thanks for the feedback’, enormous effort and steadfast resilience. All so I could, despite the odds, achieve my ambition, aspirations and the potential I felt I had.
It’s the story of many other first-generation immigrants, of poor secondary education and a basic lack of life chances at the start. That said, I feel lucky because mine has been an ultimately successful story and I’m grateful for how things have panned out.
I feel very privileged to have had a number of senior roles within a sector that I love and that I’m proud to be part of. But it hasn’t been an easy journey, not at all, and I know that many other talented people still, sadly, haven’t been given the chance their talent deserves. Let’s be clear, we are less as a sector than we could be because we are missing out on their talent.
It shouldn’t be this way, not in 2020.
Amongst everything else, the past year has reminded us that racism and other forms of discrimination have not yet been defeated. In the wake of Grenfell, and the prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement, I feel more than ever that I must leave the sector (not yet, but when I retire!) richer in diversity at Executive and Board levels than it was when I arrived. Social housing sector has a duty to lead the way on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) because our wider social purpose places greater expectation on us to be a beacon than other sectors.
I have been honoured to be involved in the National Housing Federation’s (NHF) National EDI group. It’s a group of diverse people, made up of colleagues from all across the sector. Together the group supports the NHF in its attempt to influence change; helping us to become more vibrant and diverse at all levels, so that we more accurately reflect the communities we serve.
For too long we have seen EDI as a project, not a means to competitive advantage, anchored in our values, culture and practices. In the new year, the group will release resources and share best practices to support these aims.
In one of its first actions though, the EDI Group published an Insights report which reminded us that, despite many efforts, our Executive and Boards are not as diverse as the rest of our colleagues or the communities we serve. It’s a sad reality.
The Insights report also reminded us that our EDI data is not collected consistently and that gaps continue to hinder better debate, analysis and decision making. One of my favourite sector colleagues says this and the awkwardness of the conversation hinders us from being sufficiently curious or brave. I agree. The simple fact is that we need to redouble our efforts and role-model the change without being defensive.
So, I want to pop my head over the parapet to say what I will promise to do over the next six months to show leadership in this space at Curo. Our Chair, Liz Potter, will do the same from a Board perspective too in the new year. This is because above all things, actions count much more than words, no matter how small. Taking small, quick steps allows us to show and then celebrate progress and build momentum. Imagine the amplification if we all committed to action?
My three first public EDI commitments are:
1. I will publish the diversity characteristics of Curo and put them on our intranet and website – openly comparing our workforce to the communities we serve;
2. I will publish the pay gaps not only for gender, where we have some work to do already, but also for people of colour employed in our business;
3. I will encourage a conversation within my organisation about our diversity characteristics and our pay gap(s) – so we encourage open-minded curiosity and begin to plan for inclusive change over the next few years – including thinking about the role of targets.
In July 2021, I’ll publish more but for now I hope these serve to create a discussion and inspire others to commit to their own. It is only if we each individually prioritise action, and are held to account, that change will happen.
We are all collectively the sector and we are not as diverse and vibrant at Leadership levels we should be and as our sector’s wider social purpose requires.