The pilot cohort of the Skills and Education Group’s diversity mentoring programme has received excellent feedback from participants.
On Thursday 8 December 2022, mentors and mentees on the programme came to Robins Wood House for a focus group facilitated by programme lead Rajinder Mann OBE.
“Empowered”, “rewarding” and “mindful” were just some of the words used by participants as they reviewed and reflected on the programme.
The diversity mentoring programme aims to support equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the workplace. For those taking part, the aim is to increase awareness of one’s own cultures and differences, focusing on individualism and collectivism whilst raising increased awareness of stereotypes and taboo subjects.
As well as encouraging EDI, the programme is also designed to support the career development of both mentors and mentees. The mentoring approach provides guidance for mentees to find their own solutions, rather than being instructional. As Rajinder herself said in the focus group, “You know the answers yourself, mentoring just gives you that bit more stability and support.”
Those taking part benefited from Rajinder’s expertise in EDI training and over 37 years of experience in education. Rajinder is the former Chief Executive of the Network for Black and Asian Professionals and a former Executive Director of the Black Leadership Initiative.
Here is some of the feedback shared by participants in the focus group.
Providing different perspectives
The participants spoke about how the programme opened their eyes to the different perspectives and experiences of those from diverse backgrounds.
Sam (Lincoln College Group) said that her mentee Yani (Burton and South Derbyshire College) shared an experience that “blew me away”. Sam was stunned to hear about Yani’s experiences of everyday discrimination, which has made her think “What can I do?” to improve the student experience for learners from all backgrounds at her college.
Similarly, Lucy (Lincoln College Group) said the programme has made her more self-aware, particularly in terms of the language she uses, and more mindful of the experiences of those from different backgrounds:
“There’s much more for me to learn, I’m much more aware of diversity, this programme has made me aware of my lack of knowledge.”
The mentees shared similar thoughts. Bhavna (Leicester College) said the programme has helped her to look at things from different points of view and challenge the barriers she places on herself. Yani said the programme was a “great learning curve” and that it was beneficial to be paired with a mentor of a different race because it allowed them both to see different perspectives.
Rewarding for both mentors and mentees
For the mentees, the programme boosted their confidence and empowered them to move forward. Bhavna said that she was apprehensive about the programme at first, but her mentor Lucy was a calming presence that put her at ease. She liked being able to speak to someone outside of work and having a designated time to talk about her emotions. Bhavna now feels more confident to speak out and take action when faced with difficult situations and feels “open to change and ready to make changes”.
Similarly, Yani said she felt hesitant about diving into the mentoring relationship but experienced a huge change in her confidence after the first session. She said that Sam “helped me to see things that I didn’t see in myself”.
The mentors also gained a lot from the programme. Lucy said, “Having a mentee has been great for me at this point in my career” and she now understands her own skills better.
Benefits for personal and professional development
Amrit (Burton and South Derbyshire College) enjoyed a successful mentoring experience, helping his mentee Daria (Loughborough College) to make improvements in interviews and secure a new job as a result. He said that unlike previous mentoring training he had undertaken, this programme enabled him to “learn by doing”.
Amrit said he is now using his “invisible mentoring hat” in other situations and is thinking about how he can help to grow other people. He is sharing what he has learned on the programme with his colleagues, and is now more mindful about his behaviour in his personal life:
“I have a wife and two daughters, and I work in an organisation where 60-70% of my colleagues are female. This programme has made me think more about how I manage female members of staff and older staff, and even how I interact with my wife and daughters too.”
Find out more
If you would be interested in participating in our diversity mentoring programme, or feel that your staff would benefit from this, please get in touch with our Professional Development team. Burton and South Derbyshire College are currently delivering a bespoke version of the programme to their staff and there is the opportunity for other organisations to do this too.
You can find more details about this and many other bespoke training programmes on our Training page.
Skills and Education Group also delivers professional development events that cover EDI and related topics. Our next Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Network will take place in March 2023. Browse all upcoming events here.