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Mentoring at UCL

Pilot Mentoring Initiative in the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences

Why is mentoring important at UCL?

As part of UCL's first Gender Equality Scheme, we piloted a mentoring scheme for female academic and research staff from the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences. There have also been smaller pilot programmes in the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences (PALS) and the Division of Medicine. The pilots began in 2009 and are currently being evaluated.

The aim is to:

•  Create a learning culture within UCL where women can reach their potential

•  Encourage women to plan their careers and applications for promotion

•  Signal the commitment of UCL to its female staff

•  Advance women's participation at UCL in leadership and decision making roles, and on influential committees

•  Move closer towards UCL's 'aspirational' gender equality target: to increase the representation of women at grade 9 and above with the ultimate aim of a 50:50 split of women and men at this level

•  Retain women, especially after career breaks

•  Raise the profile of mentoring as a tool for professional development at UCL

•  Reduce feelings of isolation for women working in male-dominated environments

•  Encourage networking across departments

•  Make sure positive outcomes from the pilot are sustainable

•  Form a prototype programme which can be rolled out across UCL

Why mentoring for women?

While good employment practice benefits all staff, there is evidence that a lack of support and development has a more adverse impact on women's career progression. In addition to this women tend to face different sorts of professional challenges to men, especially managing an academic career and family life. Women are under represented at senior levels and lack role models. They sometimes face unconscious gender bias and isolation in traditionally male disciplines and environments.

The UCL Mentoring Scheme pilot has been developed in an attempt to address these inequalities and bring about change. Not all of our pilots are restricted to women mentees, though women are generally encouraged to participate.

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is a planned pairing of a more skilled or experienced person with a lesser skilled or experienced one, with the goal of the mentee developing specific skills and knowledge to reach long-term objectives.

UCL has chosen to use mentors outside the line management relationship. Independent mentors are preferable as they can provide a neutral 'sounding board' and assure total confidentiality. They will have no agenda other than assisting their mentees in their development and helping them reach their goals by supporting, challenging, encouraging, listening and questioning.

Mentoring is a dynamic developmental process founded on a two-way relationship between the mentor and mentee. It is based on exchanging experiences, ideas and feedback. The relationship works to promote a deeper understanding of the discipline and UCL context, to professional services staff in preparing for or adjusting to new roles, to enhance opportunities for staff to develop within existing roles and to enable continuing professional and personal development. Often the mentor learns as much as the mentee, and gains a better awareness of the barriers facing those in more junior roles or the barriers facing women, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and ethnic minorities.

What's in it for me?

For mentees:

•  It can help you to develop your potential and appreciate the value of your work, skills and abilities

•  Help you to identify strengths and weaknesses

•  Provide independent career advice and direction

•  It can help you to identify and clarify issues, problems and obstacles, make checks and get things off your mind

•  It can enhance your capacity to make sense of and apply learning within the department and UCL

•  It can boost your confidence

•  Enhance your ability to source new ideas and practices from outside your usual area and integrate them into it

•  It can offer the opportunity of networking across a broader spectrum than that provided by your day-to-day environment

For mentors:

•  Development and refinement of skills (coaching, listening, questioning constructive criticism, supporting)

•  Fulfilment from facilitating someone's development and encouraging others

•  Contribution to personal career development and growth of the department

•  Networking with peers and other colleagues

•  Assisting others along a path you have already taken - giving back

•  Recognition - feeling valued by others

•  Opportunity for personal reflection through exposure to other views and perspectives

•  Satisfaction when your mentee makes a breakthrough or gains confidence

•  A chance to get involved in more 'enabling' work

What next?

There are plans to set up a mentoring scheme for female post-docs in the Faculty of Engineering Sciences. We are also in the process of reviewing and evaluating the current pilots to inform the new Gender Equality Scheme. This review will be complete and the new Gender Scheme published by July 2010.

How do I get involved?

If you are interested in getting involved in an existing mentoring pilot you should contact the relevant person in the contacts list below to find out more. If you are interested in developing a new mentoring programme then you should consider which underrepresented group the scheme will be targeted at e.g. female post-docs, LGBT people, people from an ethnic minority and also who might be best placed to mentor them. It is common for women mentees to be mentored by male mentors due to a lack of senior women in their discipline. You should also consider if there are any resources in your department or faculty to pay for costs such as training sessions. You should then contact the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion to discuss in more detail.


For more information about current programmes contact:

Jane Dacre - Biomedical Sciences

Philippa Talmud - Division of Medicine

Jan Atkinson - Psychology and Language Sciences

If you are interested in setting up a mentoring scheme contact:

Sarah Guise - Head of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion




Last updated: 12th October 2016