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Being a woman in housing in 2020

Posted 18/09/20

What does the world look like for women who are facing inequality, and in particular those who work or are involved in the housing sector?

Here we explore the equality and diversity of the social housing sector. We also take a look at what it’s like to be a woman in housing in 2020, and highlight the organisations who are leading the way in addressing the gender gap.

Equality and diversity in the social housing sector 

Like most industries, the UK housing sector has a gender equality problem. There is a lack of women working behind the scenes at many organisations, especially at senior board level.

Research has shown that women make up just 36% of housing association’s senior management board (Inside Housing). In comparison, women in the UK’s leading public companies only hold a third of board roles. Even though the housing sector seems ahead, there is still plenty of room for improvement.

So how can businesses ensure their workforce is more representative and promote jobs in the housing industry aimed at attracting women?

To really make a difference in the social housing sector, businesses need to address the inequality and lack of diversity at the top. Your senior leadership team sets the example for your whole company.

Be transparent with your employees too. Acknowledge where you as a business may be falling down, and explain exactly how you plan to tackle the problem.

The first steps a business should take is to introduce a dedicated equality and diversity talent strategy. Are you seeing an imbalance in the number of CVs you’re receiving from men and women? It may come down to a lack of awareness in the social housing job opportunities you can offer as well as the potential career progression for the candidates.

All in all, when it comes to being a woman in housing – whether that’s as a tenant or working in the sector – all businesses have to show their support to fighting the good fight.

Housing organisations leading the way

There are amazing organisations in the industry working to promote equality and women in housing.

The Women in Housing awards 

The Women in Housing Awards are organised by Inside Housing. The awards recognise the fantastic contributions women are making in the sector. It celebrates women at all levels who work in the sector, as well as tenants.


WISH is the network group for all Women working In Social Housing. It operates with a dedicated volunteer board for each UK region, and regularly holds events (pre-COVID) to enable members to network and connect with one another.

Women’s Budget Group 

The Women’s Budget Group is an independent and not-for-profit group made up of gender equality academic researchers, policy experts and campaigners. It works to hold the government to account and suggest policies that ensure a more gender equal future.

Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director of the Women’s Budget Group:

“Housing is one of the most urgent public policy issues in the UK with a large number of people pushed into poverty by housing costs or unable to afford to rent or buy. But our work at WBG shows that this crisis of housing affordability is far worse for women than for men. There is no region in England where the average home to rent is affordable for a woman on median earnings and women need over 12 times their average salaries to be able to afford an averagely priced home in England.

“Although women and men tend to buy or rent their homes as a couple, women are likely to find themselves unable to afford a home of their own if that relationship breaks down.

“Covid-19 has exacerbated these pre-existing problems as large numbers of women face redundancy or cuts to their working hours, followed by the risk of eviction.”

Women’s Housing Forum 

The Women’s Housing Forum was set up to address the inequalities women face in the housing sector. The aim is to raise awareness and influence housing providers in addressing women’s housing needs and tackling the inequality issue.

Women’s Pioneer Housing 

Women’s Pioneer Housing is one of the oldest housing associations, having been founded in 1920. It will celebrate its 100th birthday in October this year. Its work over the years has always focused on making a positive difference to women’s lives through affordable housing.

Housing for Women 

Housing for Women is a charity and housing provider that helps women to find affordable housing. It supports those who have faced domestic abuse, trafficking, are ex-prisoners and older women.

Here at Andersen James, we know the importance of gender equality at all levels, but particularly at senior board level. We work with our housing partners to develop equality and diversity-focused talent acquisition strategies and retention schemes. Contact us today to find out more about transforming your attraction and retention of talent.