Imperial College London’s Reverse Mentoring scheme will return this year and is recruiting for its second cohort.
Reverse mentoring involves a senior leader being mentored by a more junior colleague who – from a diversity and inclusion perspective – is different from them in some way and has a different experience of the organisation.
Cultural change, raising awareness and increasing dialogue
The College’s Reverse Mentoring scheme launched in January 2020 with eleven members of the President’s and Provost’s Boards matched with an Imperial staff member as their mentor. The scheme is part of Imperial’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, and featured in an inclusive leadership and management plan announced in April 2019.
The purpose of the scheme was to:
- have a positive impact on the culture of the College.
- offer opportunities to leaders across the College to increase their awareness of different experiences, so that they can take account of these perspectives in their decision making.
- increase dialogue and understanding across different communities within the College.
The first cohort ran from January to July 2020, and issues discussed in the mentoring sessions included:
- sharing of experiences and perspectives
- sexism and racism within the College
- LGBTQ+ and disability issues
- impact and reactions to Black Lives Matter
- power and hierarchies
- College culture
“I wholeheartedly recommend the scheme to others and would like to thank the mentors for their engagement.” Professor Nick Jennings Vice-Provost (Research and Enterprise)
Mentees on last year’s programme felt more confident talking about race and other challenging conversations at the end of the programme and felt their awareness and perspective had shifted as a result of the interactions with their mentors. They also experienced a greater understanding of intersectionality and the complexity of sub-cultures and sub-communities.
Professor Nick Jennings, Vice-Provost (Research and Enterprise), was a mentee on the Reverse Mentoring scheme last year. Reflecting on his experience, he said: “I found the mentoring scheme extremely useful to help understand the perspective and experiences of my mentor. His background and career path were very different to my own, and the ability to have deep conversations about potentially sensitive topics has really broadened my horizons and improved my understanding of some of the challenges faced by our diverse community at Imperial.
“I wholeheartedly recommend the scheme to others and would like to thank the mentors for their engagement.”
Nikita Rathod, Communications and Events Officer, Institute of Global Health Innovation, was a mentor on the programme last year. Nikita said: “It felt very empowering to be a mentor. I felt like the College wanted to make a change and signed up so I could be a part of those changes.
“There are very few chances to engage with senior members of staff at the College, so this was a good opportunity for my voice to be heard. I think the scheme enables difficult conversations and encourages both mentors and mentees to be vulnerable. I also feel it allowed for the intimidating façade we often associate with senior leaders at the top to crumble away.
“As a woman of colour, I found it quite liberating to discuss my experiences through the Reverse Mentoring programme – especially as I work in a sector which is underrepresented by people from an ethnic minority background. Overall, I really enjoyed the programme.”
Kani Kamara, Head of Imperial’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Centre, has helped to embed the Reverse Mentoring scheme at the College. She said: “I am really pleased that last year’s Reverse Mentoring pilot was successful and that it has helped to challenge perceptions, generate discussion, and create ways for senior leaders to understand the specific pressures and challenges faced by staff from different backgrounds.
“I am hopeful this scheme will break down barriers and support Imperial’s progress to become a more inclusive environment. This doesn’t mean our work is over – there is still much to be done, but I am excited to see what the second cohort will bring to the scheme.”