Dr Margaret Kadiri is a Lecturer in the Geography Department here at King’s College. In Margaret’s blog, she shares some reflections on StellarHE – a programme providing strategic executive development for diverse leaders in higher education.
As an academic, I experience professional struggles and challenges that seem to come with the territory. However, as my career has progressed, I have realised that some of these challenges are particular as I navigate the professional academic space as a professional from an ethnic minority background. I was motivated to participate in the StellarHE leadership programme because it is uniquely designed to equip ethnic minority academics like myself with leadership competences and strategies to navigate the particular career barriers that we face, so that we can develop and effect change.
The StellarHE leadership programme is distinct from other leadership programmes that are designed on a deficit model which suggests that ethnic minority academics need to be fixed as a way of addressing the obstacles hindering leadership progression. There is a lot of publicly available data identifying some of the obstacles that have inevitably resulted in the persistent under-representation of ethnic minority academics, particularly black academics, in leadership roles across the Higher Education sector. Wider data indicates that a leak exists in the academic pipeline for the ascension of black academics in the sector, with their representation declining drastically as grades increase – only 0.67% of the 19,285 professors in the UK are currently black. We cannot grow the pool of ethnic minority academics in senior roles if there is no impervious pipeline of ethnic minority academics in lower and mid-level positions that can grow to fill senior roles.
In my view, the StellarHE programme is innovative in the way it equips ethnic minority academics and professional services staff in Higher Education institutions with the competences to draw on our diversity as a leadership strength and to implement strategies that reflect our unique challenges and experiences in navigating our environments to enable us optimise opportunities and fully realise our leadership potential. To this end, it provides transformational leadership training, networking opportunities and target capacity building.
The programme is one of self-discovery, development and growth. Personally, it has enabled me to become more aware, as an ethnic minority academic, of the additional distinctive qualities that I bring to my profession, and this has empowered me to move forward in my career journey while remaining authentic.
I would like to share two of the many key learning points which I gained from the programme drawn from the danger of a single story and the urgency of intersectionality, two exceptional TED conference talks that are pre-workshop preparatory materials for the programme, and I would encourage everyone to watch them in their spare time. The first point is on the importance of diversity for building our experiential knowledge of people and communities, and the second, is the need to emphasise that under-representation is not a blanket or homogenous phenomenon but exists across different planes.
Each year, the College funds a number of places on the StellarHE programme as part of its commitment to race equality and to provide a valuable opportunity to develop racially diverse talent. Professional services and academic staff can apply, and places are awarded on a competitive basis. More information on the programme, the eligibility criteria and how to apply can be found on the King’s StellarHE intranet page.