The 13th iteration of SWLDP took place in 2021 and, despite the challenges brought by Covid-19 and remote learning, the participants made it clear they did not feel like the unlucky ones. Following Module 2 of the programme, over 94% of respondents would recommend it to others, with one remarking that they had done so already.
One participant said: “The programme provides the space to articulate fears, question, listen and share experiences as part of a leadership journey. We are enabled to get under the skin of our own experiences in a supportive and safe environment.”
Providing that ‘supportive and safe environment’ is a key aim for programme director Barbara Bassa, as she seeks to allow participants to create a space for deep reflection and open and challenging conversations with colleagues from the sector.
‘Stimulating and thought-provoking’
The programme also looks to enhance technical knowledge of key strategic areas including institutional finance, structures and governance along with exploring individual leadership styles, leadership legacy, personal impact and developing political skills. Participants felt that the programme does all this and more, by providing a networking space and the opportunity to learn from peers in senior leadership roles.
Another participant said: “This has been a stimulating and thought provoking programme. Increasing my knowledge and understanding of how HE works and also how to influence and lead in such complex sector. An opportunity to work with a wide range of exceptional people who have contributed their experiences and offered support unconditionally.”
The participants also said that they had made fantastic connections and, despite not being able to meet in person, connecting with other senior women from across the globe was a hugely important part of the experience.
One participant hoped to meet the other participants in the future to continue the valuable conversations, while another appreciated the ‘time and space to build a rich network of women leaders.’
“The SWLDP provided me with expert insight into the finance and governance arrangements within the HE sector. The facilitators were experts in their field, and really cared about the experience of those on the Development Programme. A safe space was created and whilst it was online in delivery, I do hope that I will meet some of the participants in person one day to continue the supportive, yet challenging, discussions.”
‘Value your values’
More than anything else, the participants felt inspired and empowered following the programme and were given the opportunity to focus on their personal strengths and develop a personal leadership style which they could take back to their institution with confidence.
One said: “Sometimes you just need that nudge to release your potential. The programme provides the affirmation that you might not hear in your daily life. You will walk away feeling lifted up on the shoulders of incredible women and find you have a much better view.”
Another remarked: “The programme has taught me to be bold and not be afraid to value my values. I have achieved what I have because of this and shouldn't underestimate my own worth to higher education.”
Another simply said: “Be yourself with skill; Value your values.”
Three months later…
Three months after SWLDP13 had concluded, we caught up with the participants again to get their thoughts on the impact it has had on them in the time since. Participants said that confidence in decision-making was the biggest impact, along with stronger political awareness and the ability to delegate and ‘use the influential leadership concept, build coalitions and paint the bigger picture’.
“I think the programme has made me feel more confident about my own approach to leadership, my capabilities and contribution to Faculty and the institution. This has enabled me to say no to some activities when it has been appropriate to say so, I try not to keep repeating successes but give others the opportunity to learn whilst I move on to new challenges for me. I feel I have become more politically aware and am working on becoming more astute whilst remaining authentic and true to my own values.”
Participants were also asked about opportunities for leadership roles they had pursued since, with one being successful in becoming a Deputy Pro-Vice Chancellor at their institution and others applying for roles such as Head of School and Director of Education they say they would not have had the confidence applying for before the programme.