Network of Women+ Professors’ Mentoring Scheme

The Network of Women+ Professors at the University of Hertfordshire promotes career progression and progress towards gender equality in the professoriate in line with the institutional Athena Swan action plan and supports HR to close the gender pay gap and gender ratio in the professoriate. The network has established a mentoring scheme to support women aspiring for Reader, Associate Professor and Professor levels with individual mentoring support offered to people who identify as women+ at the University by nationally and internationally recognised colleagues.

What kind of an organisation are you in the context of the Concordat?

The University of Hertfordshire is a 'post-92 university', with 134 research staff; 1245 research and teaching staff (not all research active); 119 technicians; and 1088 professional support staff. 346 staff submitted for the REF 2021.

What challenge were you trying to address with this initiative?

1. To ensure women are represented in higher academic roles

2. To help mentees to understand the criteria for career progression avenues at the University of Hertfordshire

3. To help mentees translate their unique skills into external recognition

What did you do and how does this align with the Principles and keywords you have selected below?

Thirty-four Network of Women + Professors (NW+P) mentors with diverse careers and leaders in their field of endeavour agreed to take part in the NW+P mentoring scheme that was launched in April 2021. A list of mentors was created that highlighted their professional development, career management, training and research impact (e.g. policy), potential mentees then chose their desired mentor from the available list and contacted their mentor directly.

The mentor/mentee pair was asked to arrange up to three meetings in a given time period depending on the action plan. The meetings were aligned to the goal(s) of the mentoring session, with a circuit breaker/review mid-way. Upon completion, feedback was collated in order for the scheme to be evaluated for assessment and recognition.

What were the challenges in implementation and how did you resolve them?

There were several administrative responsibilities, including updating the mentoring list as new members opted-in to the NW+P network, as well as monitoring progress of the mentor/mentee meetings.

Additionally, we perceived a challenge around receiving timely formative feedback from both mentors and mentees for maximum impact.

How did you evaluate the impact of your initiative?

Network co-Chairs created a Microsoft feedback online form with the following five questions that were sent to both mentors/mentees upon completion of their meetings:

1. What aspect(s) of your NW+P mentoring partnership worked well?

2. What aspect(s) of your NW+P mentoring partnership did not work well?

3. How has this NW+P mentoring partnership impacted on your career development? Depending on your role, for example, will you continue to offer future mentoring? Have you applied for promotion?

4. How could we strengthen the NW+P mentoring partnership scheme?

5. Can we quote your responses (e.g. testimonials) for future promotion of our NW+P mentoring scheme?

What advice would you give others wanting to do this?

1. Have a clear plan of what is expected from a mentor/mentee

2. Prioritise the time needed for such a scheme to be organised/planned

3. Ask for help from Human Resources on administrative duties for the scheme

Beneficiaries: Research staff Research and teaching staff Managers of researchers

Stakeholders: Researchers Managers of researchers Professional staff

Concordat principles: Environment and culture Professional and career development

Keywords: Training Professional development Research identity Research culture Career progression Equality, diversity and inclusion Career management Leadership development Research assessment Recognition Mentorship