Equality, diversity and inclusion are hugely important to us. As an organisation dedicated to supporting the areas we serve, we are committed to ensuring we accurately reflect the communities we are here for – encompassing the array of cultures, races and identities that make them.
With this in mind, we recently relaunched our equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) group with a newly ignited passion and focus on creating open, equal spaces for staff and customers alike. As part of our EDI group’s focus for Black History Month this October, the team organised what was our first guest speaker session with activist, journalist, film-maker and author Marc Wadsworth.
Open to all staff and Group Board members across the organisation, this hour-long session gave insights into areas of British Black History that Marc has spent his career documenting through books and films such as ‘Divided By Race, United in War and Peace’ – a clip of which he included within this session for us to discuss. This feature-length documentary is about Caribbean and English Second World War veterans and race relations during and after the war. It is available on DVD for purchase from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marc is passionate about sharing the stories and journeys of people of colour in Britain. These were at the heart of this discussion, which focused on how learning and discovering the untold stories and experiences of those around us – whose backgrounds and cultures differ from our own – can help us to become stronger allies to one another.
The talk closed with a question and answer session, with the floor being open to some important and insightful questions. These touched on issues such as how we can become a more inclusive and diverse organisation as a whole, understanding the difficulties that different cultures and races can face in accessing housing, and how we can support one another more, through talking and learning openly.
The turnout for this session was fantastic, with around 30 members of our team tuning in remotely to join this important discussion. The feedback from those joining was also wonderfully positive and empowering.
Our Neighbourhoods Team Leader, Gloria Thompson, explained: “I thought it was excellent and thought-provoking on how we can improve on race equality in our workplace. It’s good we acknowledge Black History Month and that our Chief Executive and Deputy Chief Executive attended to listen and hear staff’s questions and views. It was an excellent session.”
Rosalind Eldridge, from the Anti-Social Behaviour team, said: “I thought the speaker session was really informative. For me it’s always important to hear different perspectives and from minority groups. I always look to improve my understanding of society and sessions like this are an excellent way of enabling us to do this. Marc’s shared experiences were fascinating, and I really enjoyed hearing about the history behind the Black Lives Matter movement.”
Mary Swaine, our Company Secretary, Governance & Regulation Manager, said: “I thoroughly enjoyed our session with Marc – he spoke so personally and insightfully about his work as a documentary film-maker and journalist and really understood the issues around access to housing for minority communities. Marc clearly supported us in our efforts to make Watford Community Housing a genuinely inclusive landlord and employer and, I think, motivated us all who heard him speak to keep up the great work we’ve started on this.”
Finally, Carmella Davis – one of our talented Customer Service Officers and member of the Race, Religion and Culture team within our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) group – explained: “I think that the talk with Marc was great. He made me want to learn more about the lives of these servicemen and why their stories were not told. It has made me want to research more in my own time. Throughout he had me captivated.”
With speaker sessions like this providing a space to learn and talk openly with guests outside of the organisation, our ED&I group hope to build and encourage a more diverse and inclusive organisation, where experiences and opportunities can be shared equally. With thanks to the ED&I team and Marc Wadsworth for his time and insights, this Black History Month we have been able to do just this. We will be taking forward the insights shared through this first talk of what we hope will be many more and enhancing our commitment to becoming an inclusive employer and organisation.