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Come and join our board or get involved in 2023! 

Would you like to get involved with HouseProud?

I’m Jamie Hickling, Co-Chair and I’d like to invite you to join me in making 2023 an amazing year for HouseProud. It’s the time of year when we throw open our doors and invite our members to come and join us in shaping and running HouseProud.

We’ve decided to slim down our steering group to 7 people and so we’re looking for good all-rounders who would like to get involved. As a network group, a lot of our work relates to organising and publicising events and speaker meetings - we also aim to respond more to sector policy and changes going forward, and the work continues with the roll out of our Pledge Project. 

As such, we are looking in particular for applicants who have good organisational skills, experience with events management, communications, social media and housing policy

You don’t have to have sat on a board or committee before - in fact HouseProud is a great place to start sitting on committees, in a safe and collaborative space. 

We’ve redefined what it means to be a board member at HouseProud, to be eligible to apply you must be a HouseProud member, work in Social Housing and identify as LGBTQ+, please read our terms of reference.

We are looking to recruit to the following board positions, please note all positions are unpaid volunteer positions: 

  • HouseProud Board Member (5 positions) closing date 5pm, 20th January 2023 

  • Co-Chair (1 position) - who must not identify as male - closing date 5pm, 20th January 2023 

Shortlisting will take place in the week commencing 23rd January 2023 with interviews taking place in the week commencing 30th January 2023.  I will shortlist along with the members of the existing board.

If that sounds like you, then please email Houseproud_LGBT@outlook.com your application, which should be an up-to-date CV and a cover letter, which in no more than 1,000 words outlines your experience and skills that you will bring to the role. If you would like be involved in any ad-hoc projects at HouseProud, then please send a separate email to Houseproud_LGBT@outlook.com and let us know what areas you are interested in.

I'd be very happy to talk through what the Co-Chair and Board roles involve so do email me directly at: Jamie.Hickling@wlm.org.uk 

 Happy New Year from HouseProud! 

 

2023 

Happy New Year from all of us at HouseProud. It's going to be an exciting year - we will be announcing our new partner for the Pledge Project, and also taking a new approach to our steering committee, which will enable a lot more you to get involved with all our networking events and projects. 

Our membership is free and means you'll be kept unto date with all our news and events - just hit the 'Join Us Now' button above!

 

This will be in the run up to our 10th anniversary in 2024 - the time has just sped by, and we'll be looking at some of our achievements and building on our success.

 Partner with us for the Pledge 

As we came out of lockdown, we realised that the HouseProud Pledge was growing at such a rate and with increasing interest from housing providers, it made sense to look for a partner to help deliver the Pledge more widely.

This would  continue the amazing work so far - which aims to create a step change in how LGBT+ residents are treated by their landlords. With the White Paper and regulation encouraging and mandating more resident engagement, we are sure that the pledge will continue to grow. 

If your organisation would like to partner with us, please read our partnership proposal  here and return it to us as outlined in the document

International Women's Day 2022
#breakthebias - our week of blogs

This International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month we're sharing the lived experiences of women and LGBT+ women in the workplace and in housing. We've explored a range of areas where women face discrimination and stereotypes, providing links to resources to help #BreakTheBias

6. How can we support our staff and residents who have disabilities?

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by Lynne Nicholls

Events Officer – HouseProud                             Vice Chair of the Board - WATMOS

The disabled rights movement shares many parallels with the LGBT+ movement. It took protests by disabled people to force the government to act, leading to the landmark introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Thisbmade it illegal to discriminate against disabled people in connection with employment, the provision of goods, facilities and services or the disposal or management of premises. 

In 2010 the Equality Act defined disability as 'a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day- to-day activities' and placed a duty on employers to make “reasonable adjustments”.

https://ukdhm.org/v2/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/B5-Disability-Time-Line-NHS-North-West.pdf

The ONS found the negative social impacts of the pandemic have been greater for disabled people. Among people who indicated that their wellbeing had been affected by Covid-19, 46% of disabled people said the pandemic had a negative impact on their mental health. This compares with 29% for non-disabled people.

We have a long way to go to #BreakTheBias surrounding disability, not just as employers but in the services, we provide and how we provide them.

In Housing we have a greater imperative to act as we provide people’s homes as well as employment. And let’s not forget 8 out of 10 disabled people acquired their disability, so it can affect anyone at any time: anyone of our staff, residents, or customers. 

 

Infographic from Purple Changing the Conversation

As human beings we have more than one identity, I identify as a daughter, wife, Yorkshire lass, Carer, Christian, Cis gendered, Bisexual, Dyslexic and Disabled. These identities all combine to make me who I am, how I experience the world/workplace, and the privileges I have.

‘The whole is greater than the sum of the parts’ 

Aristotle

My experiences of being a young carer, managing diverse teams, being neurodivergent and having invisible disabilities have certainly allowed me to see bias first hand. For example, why does it take a Pandemic for business and the Housing Sector to see the value in flexible working and reasonable adjustments? 

Reasonable Adjustments

Pre-pandemic it was nearly always a battle to get agreement for staff to have the reasonable adjustments they needed to enable them to fulfil their role without a detriment to their health. Whether that be through long protracted processes or a belief that the organisation knew better than the employee what they needed. Often a little creative thinking and a flexible interpretation of the policy was all that was required.

As we return to ‘the new normal’ please take a people centric approach, listen to your staff, and really consider why an adjustment cannot be made. If the answer, is we have not made this type of adjustment before, then that is not a good enough reason to deny it.

Invisible Illnesses

Some conditions at the point of diagnosis as considered disabilities such as Cancer, HIV and MS. Other conditions can be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010 if they have a 'substantial' and 'long-term' negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities. This can include invisible conditions such as asthma, arthritis, lupus, and endometriosis. 

 

 

 

 

 

Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women; it takes years to diagnosis and there is no cure. I have lived with this condition for years and often the best you can do is manage the symptoms such as extreme pain which can be as painful as experiencing a heart attack.

https://qz.com/611774/period-pain-can-be-as-bad-as-a-heart-attack-so-why-arent-we-researching-how-to-treat-it/

When you introduce your menopause policy, extend that to supporting women in what comes before. For example, what is your organisation doing to address period poverty for your staff and residents?

https://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/blog/period-poverty-persist-see-it-shameful-womens-problem

 

Neurodiversity

Dyslexia is recognised as a disability within the meaning of the legislation because individuals with dyslexia are substantial disadvantage within the workplace when compared to those who are not dyslexic.

 

 

My personal journey with dyslexia has been one of shame, before with the help of organisations such as Made by Dyslexia, I embraced it as my superpower.

This shame was reinforced in my early career by a manager who insisted that I write the flipchart in our group and when I fed-back for the group, they proceeded to point out my spelling mistakes in front of the whole conference. From then on, I did not always disclose I was a dyslexic at work as I was worried it would affect my career.

Has your organisation reviewed your policies and processes through a neurodivergent lens if not, why not? You are missing out on a range of in-demand skills.

https://www.madebydyslexia.org/The-Dyslexic-Dynamic-Report.pdf

Physical disabilities

My mum has a physical disability, which means we have always had to carefully plan to go outside to ensure where we were going was accessible, including public transport and other public services.

As employers we have a duty to ensure our workplaces are accessible, however,  if they are accessible, it is often only in certain areas. I knew of one occasion when a colleague arrived at the office and could only go as far as the lobby. Clearly more needs to be done in our workplaces and when building homes as there is a shortage of accessible homes in both the private and social housing sectors.

https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/housing-and-disabled-people-britains-hidden-crisis-main-report.pdf

How is your organisation addressing these issues?

Diverse Teams

The benefit of diverse teams is well documented, and this has been recognised by the Housing Federation in the 2020 Code of Governance.  The code is explicit in the board's role in taking an active lead in committing to equality of opportunity, diversity, and inclusion in all of the organisation’s activities as well as in its own composition.

How does your organisation's board measure up?

"With great power comes great responsibility"

Various -  St Luke, Theodore Roosevelt, Voltaire, Spiderman

We have the power to change the experience both in the workplace and in people’s homes, I urge you and your organisation to act now and #BreakTheBias.

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5. Head Coverings

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By Puja Mitra

Events Officer, HouseProud

Inclusion and Diversity Lead, Ark

Women wear head coverings, for a variety of reasons from religious, traditional, safety and for fashion.

 

https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/headscarf-brief-history/index.html

 

My mother-in-law who lives in India started wearing hijab a few years after I got married. Since that time, I have heard and seen few people judge her and make comments which now I realise are clearly micro-aggression. I reflected deeply about this on World Hijab Day in 2022 following reading a powerful blog from a colleague. 

 

As someone who has been married to a Muslim family and as part of my role as D&I professional, I have found that women of colour who wear headscarves are often discriminated in society and workplace and data supports the same. 

In my journey of being an ally to women who wear headscarves, I have also found women who are from LGBT+ community who wear headscarves, face bias, micro-aggressions and other forms of discrimination. 

These blogs and talks helped inform me of the lived experiences that women who wear head coverings face.

I urge you to read, listen and consider  - are you and your workplace doing enough to #breakthebias?

  • Because I Wear Hijab People Don't Expect Me To Be Queer  

https://graziadaily.co.uk/life/real-life/because-i-wear-hijab-people-don-t-expect-me-to-be-queer/  

 

  • Wearing a niqab and identifying with queerness is not a paradox by Hafsa Lodi  

https://gal-dem.com/wearing-a-niqab-and-identifying-with-queerness-is-not-a-paradox/  

 

 

  • What does my headscarf mean to you? | Yassmin Abdel-Magied  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18zvlz5CxPE  

4. Including Trans Women in the Workplace

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by Sophie Collinge

Trans Officer, HouseProud

Peabody

This International Women’s Day is an opportunity to reflect on the world we strive for, one which is diverse, equitable and inclusive. As a trans woman I have always felt passionate about those goals and how they can be achieved for all people who have had experiences of being a woman.

 

Knowing I was a trans woman was the easy part, and something my innate nature reminded me of daily. But to transition was a far more difficult undertaking. In large part this was because for a long time Trans people lacked the visibility in society to know whether diversity extended to them, equitability included them, and inclusiveness would be offered to them. Negatively impacting my career in Housing due to transitioning was a real fear.

 

It was this time, the first week of March, four years ago that I sat in a large waiting room nervously wondering what was going to happen in the next few hours. This was not my appointment at the Gender Clinic, that had been scheduled for the next week, this was the Old Bailey and I there for jury service. In a rapid series of events, I was made to cancel my appointment but then be rejected for the trial and the rest of jury service anyway. This major setback would be for me the catalyst to transitioning at work, and within a month I had achieved that. 

 

The Housing Association I work for, worked closely with me and by every measure my transition at work was a success. But up until that point I had no idea that it would be. While companies have progressed a long way since 2018 with a focus on accepting and accommodating for Trans and Non-binary people, a policy or set of practices does not complete the full picture. A company needs to both externally and internally show that it welcomes and provides for Trans and Non-binary staff. This means easily available to read policies, related intranet and website content, seminars on inclusivity and recognition of the LGBT+ staff contributions.

 

‘What helped me was being able to tell my team in my own way and when I was ready. As a Repairs Operative one thing that was challenging was finding safety gear and uniforms suitable for women another was not having a clear transitioning at work policy. ‘ 

Repairs Operative – G15 organisation

 

‘Having the support of the LGBT+ and gender networks really helped make the process of telling people I was transitioning at work be less daunting. But not having staff, managers and HR trained in using the policy meant it was a challenging at times.’ 

Housing Support Officer – G15 organisation

 

Trans and Non-binary staff may not want to or be ready to disclose this fact about themselves. Trans women in particular may feel vulnerable if having transitioned in a previous company to making it public knowledge again that they are Trans. This means that companies must take steps to be inclusive and show that they are welcoming from the beginning, and not wait until a member of staff declares they are changing their gender status or choosing to transition in the workplace.

 

If we’re bringing people into a space to have a collective mission to work together, then we need to get to know people more individually and say, ‘what is it that you need to succeed in this environment?’.

 

For the Trans and Non-binary people entering the workforce in 2022 I hope they don’t need a significant event like I had to make the gender change they desire in the workplace. For them I hope they just need to take a moment to check the company Welcome Pack to then know that it will be fine. 

 

What can your housing organisation do?

 

  • Work with your LGBT+ network and/or gender networks, trans and non-binary staff and external organisation such as Gendered Intelligence when reviewing and developing a transitioning at work policy.

  • Have a transitioning at work policy and ensure it includes non-binary identities.

  • Ensure the policy has guidance for staff, line manager and HR with a glossary of terms.

  • If you have a dress code policy, ensure its inclusive of all gender identities

  • Ensure that HR and anyone who manages staff are trained on the policy and guidance.

  • Have specific training for all staff on gender diversity.

  • Look to other sectors such as the great work being done by Trans in the City

 

For some further helpful information on transgender inclusion in the workplace watch:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8Yh9QgEdFw

3. Writing an inclusive menopause in the workplace policy.

by Jamie Hickling

Co-chair HouseProud

Area Manager - WLM, West London Mission

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I wanted to think about what we can do in the workplace to support people through the perimenopause and beyond. In particular, I wanted to listen to experiences of women, trans and non-binary people and those across queer communities with a view to contributing to our organisation’s first policy on menopause in the workplace. 

“I felt alone, but actually now the conversation is becoming more open there’s an opportunity to become more of level playing field for everyone so that doesn’t need to happen to someone else.”

“Talking to your Mum is not always possible for queer people and there are different experiences across class and culture. Reaching out for help is hard but after talking, I felt so much better. ”

“The housing sector is not always like a corporate office and sanitary provision can vary from building to building.”

Just a handful of great blogs, podcasts and other platforms:

Effinhormones.com: There is no one face of the menopause

Queer Menopause

Menopause whilst Black

Davina McCall: Sex, Myths and the Menopause

“I’m intersex, I don’t get periods and I’m going through the menopause”

https://thebms.org.uk/

I can roll off that ‘not all women bleed, and not everyone who bleeds is a woman’ almost in rote after spending ending a lot of time being lucky enough to discuss this. I need to remember that for some this is a large concept to get their heads around if they haven’t had the opportunity for the same conversations- so having time to think through this and space to ask questions is key to getting any support right across organisation.

Gay and bi women, trans and non-binary people must be included into the fabric of any workplace policy (not only because it is law- but because it’s the right thing to do, please don’t think of this as an ‘add on’). To be inclusive, people should not have to make brave leap to ‘disclose’ their menopause, but have the structures in place where it’s clear that we are an organisation where it’s OK to talk about your menopause.  

What can we do…

Menopause is a health issue, yet only a third of people tell their employer and seek support in the workplace- being far more likely to tell line managers and colleagues rather than occupational health or HR. Sending a clear message that your organisation is open and supportive can be the biggest factor to start conversations within teams.

Understanding that there is ‘no one face of the menopause’ means the policy has to be clear to all and relevant to those that need guidance on the best supportive approach. 

Here's what I recommend

  • Create a culture open to talking about all life events

  • If you don’t have one, write a supportive policy

  • Properly fund research

  • Review facilities provision across any gendered spaces

Great resources for developing your approach to Menopause in the workplace:

https://menopauseintheworkplace.co.uk/articles/how-to-write-your-menopause-policy/

Talking with staff about the menopause: Menopause at work - Acas

I hope to share our policy when complete and keep the conversation going.

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2. Caring Responsibilities

by Dewbien Plummer

Diversity and Inclusion Lead, HouseProud

Head of Housing Strategy, Royal Borough of Greenwich

A few weeks ago, my first child turned 18. I found out I was pregnant on my first day as a Housing Officer. Mortified, I hid it at first, terrified they’d think they made a mistake hiring me. When I did eventually tell my boss, he was great about it. Even so, I worked myself half to death worried that I’d lose my job. I remember being heavily pregnant & going in on a Saturday to catch up with work. I forgot to display my parking permit & my car was clamped and towed away. It cost me about £250. Eventually my body said no more, and I stopped working. 

After six weeks of bed rest, high blood pressure & an emergency c-section, baby arrived healthy and well.

For a long time, I was ashamed of that experience. Why did I feel it necessary to push myself so hard? Was I imagining things?

I got my answer about 3 years later. When I first came back to work after maternity leave, I unsuccessfully applied for an internal promotion. Years later the hiring manager – a mother – came to me and apologised. She confessed that she had not given me the role, despite me being the best candidate, because when she had first returned to work after having a baby she had really struggled. She assumed it would be the same for me. 

“One of the most important things to say about the gender data gap is that it is not generally malicious, or even deliberate. Quite the opposite. It is simply the product of a way of thinking that has been around for millennia and is therefore a kind of not thinking. A double not thinking, even: men go without saying, and women don’t get said at all.”
― Caroline Criado Pérez, Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men

 

 When men & women first enter the workforce, the wage gap is minimal. But once the first child is born, the wage gap continues upward on a steady trajectory, finding it’s resting place as the gender pension gap (37.9% in 2019/20 in the UK, twice the level of the gender pay gap that year – 15.5%). 

‘Either the mother commits to the working practices of dominant masculinity, that is a boundless time schedule, a suppressed personal life and a reduced investment in care, reinforcing what some mothers feel is a destructive work paradigm, or they must accept lower-status work. Most mothers who stay in work   in the UK choose the latter option’ (Cahusac and Kanji, 2014).

 

Gender wage gap by time to/since birth of first child Source: BHPS 1991-2008 and Understanding Society 2009-15 presented in (Costa Dias et al., 2018)

During their careers, women tend to work in lower paid jobs/sectors, have more time out of the workplace and require more flexible working arrangements to meet their caring responsibilities. Part-time working has been proven to have a detrimental effect on career progression.

Globally, on average, women take on three times as much unpaid care work as men. Unpaid work includes caring for children, other dependants, and the household.  (ActionAid, 2017) This extra work leads to ‘time poverty’, negatively impacting women’s health, well-being, and earning capacity.

 

It’s no surprise then women report feeling they need to ‘behave like men to get on’, downplaying their caring responsibilities to avoid stigmatisation. In some studies women reported being pushed towards or held in devalued roles, due to a perceived fit with their gender-stereotypical skillsets. 

Women and certain racial ethnic groups from working class backgrounds can face a distinct double disadvantage fitting the image of an ‘archetypal’ candidate and describe that the process of suppression and assimilation as exhausting, carrying significant emotional cost. Women from the LGBT+ communities also face additional pressures as carers as there are often additional barriers to accessing support.

 

The overarching theme in all the studies is the conflict between the way that we work (e.g., long hours), and our caring responsibilities. The pandemic has changed the reality of working life for all and made a way for try something different. Enabling women, (everybody), to fulfil their full potential in the workplace, is something we should all expect as standard.

Caring work is the backbone of society and allows all other work to continue. Although this post is about women with children, caring responsibilities can affect any of us at any age and come in many different forms; relatives, pets, plants and most importantly self. Do your part to #BreakTheBias.

 

Action organisations can take

  • As an organisation, review your policies through a carer’s lens are they fit for purpose, if not changed them.

  • Report on your pay gaps for gender, disability, ethnicity, LGBT+ and look at it intersectional; that way you have better data to address inequities. 

  • Set up carers' networks so that people have a place to seek support and you have a sounding board.

  • Promote organisations that support carers.

  • Ask your Boards, Executives, Managers, Team leaders to Read ‘The Power of Diverse Thinking’ by Mathew Syed who extols the virtue of cognitive diversity. Cognitive diversity, differences in perspective, insights, experiences & thinking styles, is different but related to demographic diversity (gender, race, age etc). 

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1. Starting OUT in Housing 

 

by Harriet Proffitt

Young People's Officer, HouseProud

Lead Project Manager, Notting Hill Genesis

I started working in housing when I was 24, the same year I finally came out to my parents. I’d come out to some friends in my 20s and finally built up the courage to tell my family when I had returned from travelling.

Starting my first real office job threw up some complications on whether I had to carry on leading a double life again or if I felt comfortable to be my true authentic self. I’m sure every young gay person goes through the same struggle of feeling like you’re living with this secret which makes you different to everyone else. Every teenager spends their high school lives trying to fit in and be “normal”, but when does this end? Do we all carry this on for the rest of our lives? School drama changes into office politics, still trying to blend in and do what you can to further your career and “fit in”. Don’t get me wrong of course there are people who break this mould. As a gay person I still look to these loud figures who are so out and proud and don’t seem to care what anyone thinks of them. I think surely this is exhausting, how do they find the strength to be like that? 

By the time I began my career in housing, and working with colleagues of varying ages and cultures in such a diverse workplace, I was unsure of whether I should come out. One of the women I worked with was a similar age to me and had similar interests, so we struck up the beginning of a workplace friendship. One day at the printer she complimented me on the perfume I was wearing and how nice it was. She then quickly remarked “Don’t worry I’m not a lesbian though!” at this point I froze; this was my moment to say “Well I am” but instead I decided in that split second to laugh along and mumble something along the lines of "Oh yeah, good".

 

After this I distanced myself from her and decided to keep my personal life personal. 

Probably about a year later I became closer with some of my teammates, these women were all in their 40s or 50s. I looked to them as mother figures, like my aunties. One of them even used to bring me in some food if she knew I had spent all my pay too quickly. We all used to sit and have lunch together, me enjoying all their stories and office gossip. One lunch I was the focus of their attention, they knew I loved to socialise and spend time with my friends at the weekend. One of them asked if there was a man on the scene? Here again was my opportunity to open up and reveal myself. Instead, I laughed it off and said my love life was non-existent. Many months later again the topic came up, this time in a one-on-one lunch with one of my closest team colleagues, who was my favourite ‘auntie’. When we were out for one of our lunches, she asked me how my non-existent love life was and if I had a man yet. I thought this is it now or never, I managed to finally mumble the words “Well actually I’m gay, i don’t like men” She took a moment and said “Well never would’ve guessed that! So, is there a woman on the scene??” and carried on as normal, just wanting to know more about my life.

After this it built my confidence to feel comfortable to open up to more people in the office, sharing my true self with them but these were people I considered my friends at work. I still found it hard to open up to those who I saw just as colleagues. When I moved offices, I was lucky enough that my manager was part of the LGBTQI+ community, she was getting married that year to her partner and she wasn’t afraid to share this with colleagues. Seeing her be confident enough in herself to share every aspect of her life with those she worked with, not just her work friends. Gave me the confidence to do the same. Its not always easy and some days I don’t feel like sharing anything with anyone.

 Some colleagues have reacted in a way which disappoints me and makes me distance myself from them. But now as I’ve reached my 30s and moved away from my turbulent 20s, I’ve realised how damaging it is not to accept and love who you are. I’ve finally understood now when friends have said to me in the past about me receiving a homophobic reaction to coming out, that’s it’s not a reflection on me but of them.

 

If you are starting out in Housing, Housing Diversity Network have a great mentoring programme that runs from September to June each year. Applications for the September 2022 open on Monday 12th April 2022.

https://www.housingdiversitynetwork.co.uk/mentoring/staff-mentoring-programme

 

Another way to seek support and meet people is to join a staff Diversity network in your workplace. Outside of your workplace you could join HouseProud a free network for LGBT+ people who work in social housing. You join as an individual, perfect if you are not yet comfortable being out in your own workplace.

Harriet.tiff
The Network for LGBT People Working in Social Housing
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