“Diversity, equality, and inclusion in any workforce is vital”
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Alysha Burrell. I’m a housing professional and I am one of four newly appointed Board members at Southdown. I’ve been on the Board since September 2020.
Can you describe your responsibilities?
As a Board member I have the shared responsibility to work collaboratively with the Executive team to ensure the success of the organisation in meeting its core vision, mission and objectives. This includes being responsible for the governance of the organisation, balancing and managing risks and opportunities to the business, and providing strategic direction to the organisation. Duties also include approving Southdown’s Business Plan, budget and accounts, and monitoring the organisation’s performance in relation to the agreed plans.
Why were you attracted to Southdown?
The main reason was because of Southdown’s focus on supporting vulnerable people and I’m really interested in housing, regeneration and economic development, which is the field I currently work in.
I’ve also held roles as a teaching assistant at a specialist school for those aged 5 to 19 who were autistic and had various learning difficulties. It was rewarding to work with children and young adults and see the joy that they had when they learnt a new skill, such as feeding themselves or swimming, which many of us may take for granted.
Everyone deserves to be happy and live a great life. The range of services that Southdown provides in terms of care, support, and housing in order to achieve its mission to help people live a fuller life and be as independent as possible is a great purpose, which I wanted to be a part of.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your key motivations to be on the Board?
My background is in economics and finance. After completing a master’s degree in Political Economy of Development at SOAS University, I joined the Graduate Programme at Homes England and worked on creating new financial products to get more private sector investment into the market to get more homes built. I now work as a Transaction Analyst within the Investments department of the agency.
My motivation to be on the Board is for two main reasons. The first is due to my experience and the impact I can bring by offering a different perspective. I am a current Board member of the Charted Institute of Housing (CIH) Futures, which aims to attract more young people into the sector and support up and coming housing professionals. We challenge the housing sector about how they are engaging young people and challenge the sector to diversify their organisations, which includes proactively seeking young people to join their boards because of the benefits of diversity of thought.
The opportunity to be a Board member at Southdown is really exciting because I’m a strategic person and a natural big picture thinker so being able to contribute by offering new perspectives to an organisation that has a mission that I strongly believe in is truly rewarding.
The second reason is due to what I can learn. The range of services that Southdown provides is extremely vast and it’s great to be able to increase my knowledge and skillset in my areas of interest and develop governance experience, which will improve my professional development.
Why is it important for organisations to pay attention to diversity, equality, and inclusion?
As a current Board member of CIH Futures, I’m a passionate advocate for improving diversity within the housing sector. With 25% of the sector set to retire in the next 10 years and the lack of young people choosing housing as a career, there is a looming skills gap that needs to be addressed.
We also know that there are a lack of women and ethnic minorities in senior leadership roles which can stifle under-represented groups’ career progression. Workplaces should be representative of the people that they aim to serve.
Diversity, equality, and inclusion in any workforce is vital in order to improve the productivity of the organisation and ensure that staff feel like they belong and can bring their whole selves to work.
2020 has highlighted many existing inequalities, including Black Lives Matter, the gender pay gap, and the disproportionate impact of Covid on marginalised groups. It’s vital that organisations pay attention to these matters and ensure that there is fair treatment and equal access of services and opportunities for all staff, clients, and tenants. This is important not only because of the benefits this brings such as improving the recruitment and retention of staff, building the organisation’s brand, and promoting new ideas and innovation to improve services, but fundamentally because it is the right thing to do.
Do you hope to bring this interest and experience into your role as a member of Southdown’s Board?
Yes. My role within CIH Futures and my experience of promoting equality and diversity through chairing a Graduate and Apprentices Network and being a committee member of a Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Network will allow me to play my part in ensuring that Southdown demonstrates clear leadership and good governance on these issues. There is always more that can be done to improve equality, diversity, and inclusion in any organisation.
How has it been becoming a part of Southdown during a pandemic?
Becoming a part of Southdown during a pandemic has meant that I have never met any of the other Board members or Executive team face-to-face!
Zoom meetings haven’t really been problematic and a structured tailor-made induction programme to help me learn more about Southdown was a great introduction into the organisation.
It has been great to read about what staff and clients say about the organisation and once it’s safe to do so I look forward to meeting them and visiting Southdown’s services to see the great work that the organisation does.
What has been your impression of how Southdown has responded to the pandemic so far?
Southdown has put its staff, clients, and tenants at the heart of its response to the pandemic. From awarding a staff pay rise to moving services virtually in order to still meet the needs of its clients, the organisation’s ability to adapt and show such resilience at a difficult time has been fantastic.
It’s thanks to the hard work of staff that Southdown has been able to innovate and go above and beyond to continue to support the most vulnerable. It is however important that as an organisation it continues to learn from new ways of working and how it can continue to best meet the needs of those it aims to serve.
How important is an organisation like Southdown to the community?
Although there can be no one-size-fits-all approach because each community is different, organisations that provide services that support social inclusion and economic participation are important to the strengthening of any community.
Due to the range of health and wellbeing, educational, care, support, and housing services that Southdown provides, it is able to focus on addressing the most important issues in the community and reduce inequalities and tackle issues such as poverty. Through Southdown’s continuous investment in its services it should be able to have an even more influential role in the community.
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