This blog has been written by Darren de Souza, Senior Policy and Projects Officer at London Higher.
As the third edition of the Global Majority Mentoring Programme (GMMP) gets underway for 2024, it is an appropriate time to reflect on the past two iterations of the programme, the impact it has had at a pan-London level, emerging best practice, and how this might be applied across other regions and sectors.
Through its various elements, the programme aims to:
- improve career progression for Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff by providing a platform to match mentors and mentees;
- give mentees a chance to be partnered with a mentor from a different institution, broadening pan-London collaboration and giving mentees a space to seek tailored support from their mentor; and
- give participants the opportunity to network with other Black, Asian and minority ethnic professionals from institutions across the capital.
The GMMP is by no means the only mentoring or leadership programme in the HE sector; take for example several fantastic initiatives facilitated by AdvanceHE in leadership, management and the equality, diversity and inclusion space. Nevertheless, it is the London context in which we operate that makes this programme special and underpins London Higher’s commitment to working towards building inclusive institutions that represent the global and wonderfully diverse city in which we are situated.
There are some stark statistics, presented by Mac Alonge, CEO of The Equal Group and keynote speaker at our 2023 celebration event, which highlight the need for action and reinforce our central programme aims to improve career progression and diversify the talent pipeline at all levels of the higher education (HE) sector. Looking at the representation of global majority professionals in the workforce across the capital, Black workers with degrees earn 23.1% less on average than White counterparts, and a significantly lower percentage of minority ethnic workers progress to management and other senior roles, compared to their White counterparts. Nationwide in academia, HESA data shows that in 2021/22, just 165 (<1%) of 23,515 Professors in the UK were Black.
Career progression and professional development
Empowering global majority professionals to progress into more senior roles is a core tenet of the GMMP, so our new leadership development workshop series, ‘Learning Leaders’, co-designed by the University of Westminster and 101 Dimensions, was most welcome. The series provided mentees with a safe and reflective space to think critically about their own leadership qualities, empowered them to find their voice and served as a catalyst for talented global majority staff to take the next step in their careers. Through the Learning Leaders workshops we have examined barriers to work for global majority professionals, for example how progression in seniority sees a shift from ‘routines of practice’ (what you know, your skills, your behaviours), to ‘relationships of practice’ – that is, your contacts and who you know.
Personal and professional development is the silver thread that runs through the GMMP, with support from executive search firm Minerva. Each year, Minerva run a masterclass on career development, giving mentors and mentees alike CV and cover letter advice, demystifying and navigating the headhunting and negotiation processes, and encouraging participants to consider their personal brand as they seek to progress in seniority.
In addition to the regular one-to-one mentoring sessions, we have developed a substantial range of developmental and networking sessions that complement individual mentoring journeys.
For many global majority staff, we hear that networking or building a professional contacts base is not something in which they are well-versed. The GMMP is a tool through which they make and leverage connections and explore career progression opportunities.
Profile raising and impact
Our impact report for the 2023 edition, showcases participant feedback which consistently centres around the sense of empowerment and confidence-building that mentees develop through their participation, with the ability to identify career goals and act towards these.
Dr Randhir Auluck, Head of School at the University of Westminster, has been instrumental in developing Learning Leaders, and has championed the concept internationally, including the IASIA 2023 conference in the Philippines. We are proud that London is leading the way and forging connections across the world – by raising the profile of the GMMP and its participants, we hope to be a model for success.
Dr Debbie Weekes-Bernard, Deputy Mayor of London for Communities and Social Justice, has also recognised the Global Majority Mentoring Programme’s value as an asset for changemaking in London, through her keynote for the 2022 celebration event. The Greater London Authority (GLA) counts mentoring young Londoners as a key aim of their recovery and regeneration work, and I was pleased to share my thoughts on the Programme as a framework that anchor institutions from other sectors can use to reflect on how they might provide good work opportunities and be more representative of the communities they serve.
Emerging best practice
In my blog for the GLA, I also state that that clarity is crucial for success, when developing and running a mentoring programme. This includes clarity of:
- Belief: believe in what you are offering – London Higher is proud to be running this programme for a third year, and we firmly believe in its power to elevate voices and diversify the talent pipeline in partnership with our members.
- Purpose: be clear on your mission and desired impact, stakeholders and timeframe.
- Resource: dedicating enough capacity in order to maximise impact and securing senior-level institutional buy-in.
I am particularly proud of the resource – in this case the time, thought, depth and consideration – that goes into the matching process for mentees and mentors. We match on best fit, taking into account mentee aspirations, specific asks for development, career history and journey, academic/professional disciplines, shared backgrounds, and other qualities that may facilitate a more harmonious match. Uniquely, all matches in the GMMP are cross-institutional. This allows participants to openly discuss challenges they might be facing within their institution and talk through potential next steps outside their institutional hierarchy, confident that what they say will remain between mentee and mentor. This tailored support and building of trust is pivotal to the programme’s success.
Institutional commitment and collaboration
Securing senior buy-in and institutional commitment, is another fundamental part of the programme’s success. Each participating member institution nominates a dedicated point of contact. Maintaining that thread of communication and having a champion at each organisation allows for more cut-through. There have been instances where the point of contact for an institution has been very senior, such as a Pro-Vice-Chancellor, and mentees reported being able to fully immerse themselves in the programme, with the mentoring scheme seen as a vital part of their professional development and workload, rather than something they had to fit in around their already-busy lives.
Through the programme we have harnessed the power of collaboration, co-design and co-delivery. A special aspect of the 2023 edition was increasing this co-creation with our participating members. For example, Josette Bushell-Mingo OBE, the Principal of the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama delivered a powerful keynote for our launch event; Royal Holloway, University of London delivered pre-programme mentor training based on in-house provision; Amaechi Echedolu at London Metropolitan University was substantially involved in the matching process as the lead for the GMMP predecessor (North London Leadership Programme); the University of Westminster co-designed and hosted Learning Leaders; and a ‘pitch and prep’ information session was held at the request of Imperial College London.
As I reflect on the past two years of the programme, it is incredible to see how far we have come. As I excitedly look forward to the third edition getting underway, I also recognise that there is still a long way to go. London HE does not exist in its own bubble – we must continue to champion this initiative and ensure participants are celebrated and empowered to progress in their careers, whilst also recognising systemic barriers to inequality and how we can work to dismantle them.
It takes significant time and effort to pull together so many moving parts to run a citywide programme, however the resulting impact is likewise greater: it is incredible to see what has blossomed through this programme – and I am constantly reminded of how significant interventions like this can be.
The Global Majority Mentoring Programme is our flagship commitment to strengthening equality and diversity in London’s HE ecosystem. With institutional buy-in, driven participants, and dedicated facilitators, London HE can and should be a model for success for other regions and sectors.