Mon,15 May 2023

It’s time to end racial disparities in mentoring and coaching

By Dr Maxine Room CBE, BLG Associate Director for Leadership Development, Coaching and Mentoring

Mentoring session

Mentoring and coaching can be vital to an individual’s career development, yet we continue to see racial disparities in access to such opportunities in this country. 

According to a report by the UK government’s Race Disparity Unit, ethnic minority employees are less likely to have access to mentoring and sponsorship in the workplace compared to their white counterparts. This highlights the need for anti-racism mentoring programmes to address this inequity.

A survey conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that 41% of Black employees and 37% of Asian employees felt that they had been unfairly treated at work because of their ethnicity. Anti-racism mentoring programs can help to address this by providing support and guidance to these employees and by helping to address bias and discrimination in the workplace.

In response to the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, many UK companies have pledged to increase their diversity and inclusion efforts, including mentoring programmess. For example, EY has committed to increasing the number of Black and minority ethnic partners in the UK by 20% by 2025 and has launched a mentoring programme for ethnic minority employees.

Addressing under-representation

A report by the UK charity Business in the Community found that mentoring programmes can help to address the under-representation of ethnic minority employees in senior leadership positions. However, the report also highlighted the need for these programmes to be properly structured and resourced in order to be effective.

The UK government has launched a number of initiatives to support anti-racism mentoring, including the Race at Work Charter, which encourages UK employers to commit to five actions to address racial disparities in the workplace, including mentoring and sponsorship programs.

These UK-specific facts highlight the need for anti-racism mentoring programmes to address the disparities and challenges faced by ethnic minority employees in the UK. By providing tailored support and guidance, mentoring programmes can help to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace and help to address bias and discrimination.

All very laudable but where is the real change, particularly when race is rolled up together with diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives?

In 2021, the then Black FE Leadership Group emerged as a force to support black staff in Further Education. Being activist, authentic and authoritative are at the core of the group’s work. The background to the evolution of this group was the overwhelming data, information and evidence of racism across not just education but through the increasing exposure of organisations that make up the fibre and fabric of life in Britain. 

Part of the evolutionary strategy was the development of the 10-point plan diagnostic toolkit for organisations and the recognition of the support needed by individuals in the talent pipeline. What emerged from this latter need was a mentoring programme. 

Mentoring programme

The Black Leadership Group mentoring programme is different from many similar programmes in that 

  • It is black-led and managed by Dr Maxine Room CBE
  • Mentors are black and mentees are black
  • Mentors offer their time pro bono
  • Any member of BLG can access this free six-hour minimum programme
  • There is a matching process by application
  • On boarding through a free workshop
  • It is open to any black member from any sector (membership of BLG is only £30 a year) 
  • There is a celebration event recognising attendance with certification
  • There is ongoing support if needed
  • Members can access a range of additional  benefits including access to an extensive black network

There are a range of mentoring and coaching programmes offered within organisations and sectors, whilst many of these seem to have served to perpetuate the status quo of who rises within the ranks. 

Individuals who have the funding, whether private or public, may make invest in mentoring and coaching. Sponsorship, often informal, supports career progression. But let’s ask the question if the prevailing top teams are looking for people like them, how do the people not like them get a hand up? 

The BLG mentoring programme has been successful in supporting what in reality is a small pool of talent of about 30 mentees across two cohorts but there is also the invisible talent hiding in plain sight which is larger, cross sector and deserves recognition. 

The BLG is determined to shine a light on this pipeline and offer a programme that will challenge and make a difference not just in education, but in sectors such as health, creative industries and the green economy. You name it and we will support those individuals through an anti-racist mentoring programme.

For more information about the BLG mentoring programme, email

  • On Thursday, 25 May, at 4pm, London South East College will host the Black Leadership Group Virtual Mentoring Celebration and Launch Event. Building on a celebration in December of the first cohort of mentees, this event will celebrate the second cohort on the programme and welcome the third group inducted. To register, visit the booking page here.