How we're improving diversity, equality and inclusion: November 2020 update
Teach First CEO Russell Hobby updates on the progress we're making to improve diversity and inclusion within the organisation.
When colleagues first mentioned the idea of reverse mentoring, as part of our ongoing efforts to improve diversity, I must admit I was a little sceptical. The concept of ‘reverse mentoring’ is to ensure that senior leaders who don’t themselves come from underrepresented backgrounds (like me) can learn from the experiences of those who do, to ensure they make better decisions. I was keen to learn in this way – I could see a lot in it for me – but I was worried that it might be seen as presumptive or that we were simply continuing to ask those who already bear the burdens of discrimination to do more work to tackle it. An obvious solution is also simply to ensure that we have more leaders from under-represented backgrounds!
As we work on that, however (of which more below), both greater dialogue and greater visibility are good. After speaking to our BAME affinity group and other colleagues, there was appetite to give it a go. It is voluntary (on the part of the mentors) and is very carefully structured. The whole Exec team and the HR director now have reverse mentors. Early days but we will see. Personally, I have really enjoyed my first sessions, getting to know better the paths, the hopes and the challenges of people I work with.
The concept of ‘reverse mentoring’ is to ensure that senior leaders who don’t themselves come from underrepresented backgrounds (like me) can learn from the experiences of those who do, to ensure they make better decisions.
In order to ensure that senior leadership is more representative, which is a weakness of ours, we have also established a more traditional mentoring scheme (in addition to altering our shortlisting requirements as reported on previously). We have connected small groups of colleagues from under-represented groups to some of our talented and highly accomplished trustees in mentoring circles. We hope that this will not only spread expertise, but also establish networks.
As mentioned in a previous blog post, I am also delighted to report that we have completed appointments to our programme diversity and inclusion team. These are three outward facing, rather than HR, roles that will ensure the experience of our trainees and programme members is fair and equitable, and that all can thrive. They will help widen access, develop our policies and support frontline colleagues in dealing with incidents and opportunities that emerge. A key priority will be to improve our monitoring, evaluation and resolution of racist incidents into a more systematic approach. It happens already, but it is not consistent and not aggregated into the bigger picture so we can make more proactive interventions.
A key priority will be to improve our monitoring, evaluation and resolution of racist incidents into a more systematic approach.
We’re also turning our attention to progression into senior leadership roles for teachers from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. We’ve been talking to ambassadors and building a plan for mentoring, networking, and continuing to make changes to our existing leadership programmes. I’ll update you on those as we progress, but we will start with a ‘state of the community’ report, publishing the data on the demographics of our community of ambassadors as we already do with our paid staff. We have found that partnership and collaboration with external organisations in the sector has been incredibly helpful to our thinking and we look forward to pursuing this work in collaboration with the many others who care deeply about this.
Last year we moved away from rigid annual objective setting to a flexible, more regular programme of goal setting. All my Exec team now have tangible quarterly goals relating to EDI, which fit into long term plans reflecting their distinctive contribution. This will help sustain momentum.
We’re turning our attention to progression into senior leadership roles for teachers from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
I’d like to finish this update by saying thank you to colleagues in our affinity groups, in HR and our many guests for running Diversity and Inclusion month across the charity, and for the Future Terms panel on representation in the books taught at school. This blog post from my colleague Joanne Benjamin-Lewis is representative of some of the discussions and ideas generated. I know that people will not be able to celebrate with their families and friends as they would normally, but wishing everyone all a happy and joyful Diwali. We all need light, truth and knowledge to triumph at this moment.
Upcoming event: We’re holding a listening event with young Black people to hear their experiences of racial injustice in the education system on Wednesday 18 November, 5pm. Join us for Tackling racial injustice – an online panel.
Read our past updates on diversity and inclusion: