Working towards building a fairer, more equitable society through the GMMP

This blog has been written by Darren de Souza, Senior Policy and Projects Officer and lead of the Global Majority Mentoring Programme at London Higher. 

Tuesday 23 January 2024 marked the official launch of the third edition of the Global Majority Mentoring Programme, London Higher’s flagship commitment to strengthening equality, diversity and inclusion in London HE. 

Taking place in the remarkable Aga Khan Centre, nearly 50 mentors, mentees, senior colleagues and invited guests met to mark the occasion through networking and the chance to hear from the CEOs of two prominent organisations that champion and advocate for global majority people and to advance racial equality.  

The Global Majority Mentoring Programme is proud to have an illustrious cadre of keynote speakers that have provided remarks at the launch and celebration events of each edition, so I was delighted that Jeremy Crook OBE, CEO of Action for Race Equality, and Laura Durrant, CEO of the Black Talent Charter (and trustee at Action for Race Equality), were able to join us on 23 January, sharing their reflections on the landscape for global majority professionals, the importance of mentoring, and the need to have a leadership that represents our city and our society. 

Colleagues from Minerva, whose sponsorship of the GMMP for all three editions generous support has allowed us to deliver fantastic events and workshops, discussed the various programmes they run that are aimed at improving diversity in the workforce and at board level, such as Aspire and Board Prospects. 

We then heard from Laura, who detailed her journey to becoming CEO of the Black Talent Charter (BTC), including 20 years as lawyer and how she built a career as a woman of colour in a non-diverse world, where only 1% of law firm partners in commercial firms are Black. Laura highlighted emerging data from Bain research that shows the necessity of mentoring for Black talent – who are present at universities, go on to be very well-qualified, and have high levels of sophistication in terms of understanding which careers to pursue. Nevertheless, progression to these careers is less likely, and Laura emphasised the role of mentoring as part of the puzzle to support development, insights and managing coded cultures in organisations.  

Another aspect that Laura spoke about was for the need for for diversity – in all forms – in leadership. The diversity gap for Black talent (as per BTC data and research) in business shows that the workforce is 70 years away from representation across the board to match population demographics – and much longer when London’s demographics are considered. The Black Talent Charter is an organisation that seeks to build race equity for Black talent into the DNA of British businesses, using collaborative and innovative evidence-based solutions, and brings British businesses together to inspire a movement for change by changing perceptions and challenging the structures that perpetuate inequities for Black talent. 

Diversity in leadership is a core tenet of the GMMP, which is why I am so pleased to announce that our leadership development workshop series, ‘Learning Leaders’, co-designed with the University of Westminster and 101 Dimensions, will return for its second year. This series provides mentees with a safe and reflective space to think critically about their own leadership qualities, empowers them to find their voice and serves as a catalyst for them to take the next step in their careers.  

Something we have discussed through Learning Leaders is that culture change – meaningful organisational culture change – is a behaviour shift over a sustained period of time. Change does not happen overnight. Whilst we work towards building a fairer, more equitable society, we recognise those that came before us. This is why I was enormously proud to welcome Jeremy Crook OBE, CEO of Action for Race Equality (ARE), to speak at our launch event. 

ARE is a national London-based charity set up 33 years ago to tackle disparities in education/skills, employment and enterprise for Black, Asian and Mixed heritage communities. ARE delivers a range of programmes, including Routes2Success (R2S), a role model and mentoring programme for children and young people aged 10-24 years, and Moving on Up, a London employment initiative aimed at levelling the employment rates between young Black men and young White men. ARE also runs small grant programme such as the £1.3m Windrush Justice Programme on behalf of charitable trust funders and the Greater London Authority (GLA), and undertakes policy work covering education, employment and the criminal justice system.  

Jeremy also announced that ARE will be conducting a UK Racial Terminology survey this year – following George Floyd’s murder and BLM protests, there was much focus on the terms that we use to describe ethnic groups. Jeremy echoed London Higher’s statement that whilst we use the term ‘Global Majority’, there are numerous terms used by universities, other public bodies, employers, and charities. ARE wants to gauge from ethnic minority young people the terms they prefer to use – although it is unlikely that there will be a consensus!  

Jeremy highlighted that in addition to R2S, ARE is a strong supporter of mentoring, having worked closely with the GLA and Bloomberg Associates in producing the 54-page Mayor of London’s Mentoring Quality Framework. This product is for London’s civil society sector and helps to ensure children and young people can always access quality mentoring services in the capital. The Mayor of London/GLA and its mentoring partners made a commitment in the London Recovery Programme (A New Deal for Young People) to provide 100,000 disadvantaged young people with access to a mentor by 2024. ARE is always looking to recruit volunteer mentors so do get in touch with ARE if you are interested in R2S! 

It is very powerful to hear about the impact of mentoring from such distinguished individuals – who note that not only does it make a real difference to mentees, but it is incredibly rewarding for mentors. Drawing from R2S, Jeremy explained that mentors demonstrate care for their mentee’s future by making and fulfilling a time commitment, offering advice, support and inspiration. For many disadvantaged young people, a mentor can improve the mentee’s social capital by making connections to individuals in the professions they hope to pursue and expanding their personal networks. This chimes with the GMMP’s mission – and with an invigorated and engaged 2024 cohort, I am confident we will continue to work together to build professional networks and diversify the London HE talent pipeline. 

To conclude, Jeremy said ‘it is a pleasure to participate in this 2024 launch event – ARE commends London Higher and Minerva for running this successful programme and we wish this year’s participants a positive and rewarding year’. 

Thanks go to all attendees, speakers, sponsors, our hosts, and dedicated London Higher colleagues who made this event possible.