“Role models make a unique and integral contribution to the Aurora programme. The majority of LFHE’s role models are Aurora alumnae or senior women from higher education institutions and related bodies who are committed to enabling women in HEIs achieve their potential and gain maximum benefit from participating in Aurora. The time that role models are willing to volunteer demonstrates their commitment to addressing the under-representation of women in leadership positions in higher education. This volunteerism is itself an act of leadership.”
Vijaya Nath, director of leadership development and course director.
1. Provide a safe space for (sometimes) challenging conversations
“Imagine you’re hosting a meal with friends. You want people to talk to each other and have a good time”- Rebecca Nestor
Enjoyment is a key element of Aurora so make sure that everyone has an opportunity to voice their opinion. If someone doesn’t engage in one activity, encourage them to engage in the next. Or when the facilitators ask for feedback encourage each member of the table to speak up at one point. Do not feel afraid to ask participants from your institution or who you know to go to another table as it will enable them to meet new role models, and provide them with a safe space to speak without fear of judgement. During Power and Politics (Day 2) tables will be pre-allocated for role models and participants.
2. Ensure all opinions are valued
“Make sure all opinions are respected”- Rosemary Stamp
Last year there were over one thousand Aurora participants from both academic and professional services backgrounds so it is no surprise that opinions vary. Try to facilitate so that no one person, or opinion dominates. As future leaders Aurorans will be faced with numerous perspectives in their professional lives, some they may not agree with, that will have to be managed with diplomacy.
3. Listen carefully
All of our facilitators agree that being a good listener is a vital trait in a role model, encouraging conversations with questions rather than dominating them. This will help you ensure everyone is heard, that people on your table are encouraged to speak up and that you are able to pick up on any areas where you can help aid the learning of the table.
4. Share your own experiences and knowledge
“Feel open to sharing any relevant experience or advice that others at the table might not have- it is very much an added bonus” – Phyllida Hancock
Even if you have only very recently completed Aurora yourself, everyone’s experiences professionally are different. Think back to your own time at Aurora, you may have seen a different speaker who had a particularly relevant message or be able to draw on learnings from days that happen later in the programme to stimulate the discussion.
5. Take the opportunity to learn
“Use this opportunity to practice all the skills you learnt during the programme and step out of your comfort zone”- Jenny Garrett.
If you are not an Aurora alumnae then still take the opportunity to learn. The guest speakers throughout the programme bring valuable insights from both within and outside of the sector.
6. Read through the tasks
“The best role models have read the role model guidance” – Maeve Lankford
4-5 weeks prior to each event the Aurora team will send out joining instructions which will include insights into the tasks you can expect on the day, set out by each facilitator. This preparation enables you to think about the tasks, feel confident in the task, and start to think of ways your own experiences and learning can help enhance the learning of the participants on your table.
“The tasks vary depending on the session, for Identity, Impact and Voice it’s really about reassurance and helping participants feel at ease but during the later sessions it is increasingly important to help participants stick to the task”- Rebecca Nestor
Be prepared that every day is different so the task changes each time. It is therefore essential to read through the tasks prior to each event.
7. Be confident
“Remember that we only need to be one step ahead of another person to be able to give them some support and encouragement. We are not experts”- Maeve Lankford
Know that you have knowledge and experience that will be useful to the Aurora participants and take comfort in having examples and pre-work sent to you before the event. You don’t need to have all the answers, just encourage and facilitate the discussions and learning.
8. Enjoy the day
“Most importantly, enjoy helping others learn. We’re so grateful to our role models for giving their time, energy and wisdom and hope that they enjoy the days as much as the participants.” – Phyllida Hancock
If you are considering being an Aurora role model and have a question, please do get in touch.