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Not afraid to address the elephant in the room

05 Mar 2020 | Advance HE Ahead of the next iteration of the Diversifying Leadership programme, we spoke to previous participants to get their impressions.

Confidence, or lack of it, is often a major reason why people, from any background, can shy away from taking on leadership roles. This effect is exacerbated when your community is underrepresented in the sector in which you work.

2018/19 HESA data suggests that 9.8% of UK staff in the sector are from BAME backgrounds, with just 2.3% in Northern Ireland, and that these staff are more likely to be part-time and less likely to be high-earning than White colleagues.

Increasing the diversity of people in leadership roles in institutions is a key part of BAME people being represented more equally across higher education, however this can only be achieved by removing any ‘imposter syndrome’ feelings and making anyone and everyone believe they can be a leader in their field.

Advance HE’s Diversifying Leadership programme seeks to break down these barriers for BAME academic and professional services staff looking to make their first step into leadership.

Diversifying Leadership alumni tell us they have found it vital to their professional development, and of the confidence it gives them to push themselves professionally:

“The Diversifying Leadership programme is such an empowering programme to be on. It creates a safe and open space for us as BAME people where we are often out of our comfort zone. It helps you to bring down walls and speak openly without judgement and has also allowed me to make friends on the way.”

“Diversifying Leadership has been a wonderful and transformative experience. Not only has it given me the tools and confidence to develop my unique leadership style, but it has also made me more aware and responsive to other behaviours. It has taught me to think and network strategically. And finally, it has given me the confidence to believe that despite structural barriers, I can be a confident agent for change - and I have the capacity to find a way to make a difference.”

“The experience has been bold, challenging, but one of the most rewarding programmes I have been on.”

“I have thoroughly enjoyed the programme and have personally gained a great deal of learning through the different development activities, peer to peer discussions and speakers. It has been fantastic to be in a non-judgmental, positive environment that has allowed peers to think strategically but also have space for reflection between modules. My only gripe is that the programme went far too fast and wish there were more modules!”

“Very relevant and not afraid to address the elephant in the room in a gentle way.”


Diversifying Leadership explores concepts such as ‘authentic leadership’, allowing the self-identity of your own leadership style and role as a leader to emerge, as well considering your motivation and influences. It enables exploration of various elements of leadership and has been designed to provide a safe place in which to discuss issues relating to your lived experiences of working in HE.

What I loved about the course was meeting people like me facing the same issues, and perhaps even challenges, in the workplace and the freedom to be just me and everyone accept me for being me.

"The first speaker inspired me to embrace this idea further in embracing and accepting ‘me, myself and I’ so much more than I think I do currently. As a result having completed day 1, I feel far more confident going out in the world and getting people to accept me for me, something I think I have struggled with at times historically."

Sandra D’Souza, Planning & Operations Manager at Brunel Language Centre (delegate on DL10)


Diversifying Leadership is run by Programme Leader Jannett Morgan, a consultant and coach with over 20 years’ experience in higher education. Her personal focus is the empowerment of individuals from marginalised and underrepresented groups, and she has also worked with people with ‘hidden’ disabilities such as dyslexia and dyspraxia.

Jannett Morgan

Applications for Diversifying Leadership 11 close on 19 March. Find out more and book your place here

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