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This seminar was the fifth of the 2020 series and is sponsored by Barclays, titled Networks and Sponsorship: building supportive communities. It focused on the importance of inclusive workplace cultures and explored how to create a culture of belonging where those from diverse socio-economic backgrounds are able to be themselves and succeed in their careers and the benefits this will bring to businesses.

A key part of professional growth is mentorship, networking and sponsorship. This seminar looked at the importance of developing supportive relationships to create and drive change in the lives of those from lower socio economic backgrounds. But mentoring and coaching help people develop knowledge and skills, and improve employee engagement and positive culture. Whether formal or informal businesses can develop vital support networks to help those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, and individuals work on their own progression.

The virtual room was welcomed by The Rt Hon The Lord Mayor of the City of London Alderman William Russell. He explained how important informal networks and mentoring can be. Those with privileged backgrounds often end up progressing faster as they have better networks.

Chair Dan Robertson, Director of VERCIDA Consulting and Chair of LMA’s Power of Inclusion programme described what can be different formats of mentoring – sometimes they follow a hierarchy, whereas they can also be more horizontal. Trust, open communication, honesty, and commitment are crucial for any mentoring or sponsorship relationship.

Reggie Nelson, Fiduciary Management Analyst, Legal & General Investment Management said that “ultimately, mentoring changed my life.” He grew up in a difficult background surrounded by alcoholism, poverty, and was often excluded. Football was his savior – for a while. He realised he needed to have doors opened up – so started knocking on doors. Quite literally. One of whom Quintin Price influential fund manager for BlackRock, and turned out to be the opportunity he needed. He was encouraged to do some work experience, and go to university. His story was picked up by the media, and he was invited to Downing Street to speak about his work and become an advocate for social mobility. Reggie says that Quintin is something of a father figure to him and is in constant contact with the former BlackRock manager who he says never helped him financially.

Harvey Reid, Head of Premier Events, Barclays early experiences involved many support networks in relationships. He spoke about the relationship between networking and sponsorship and stewardship. "Stewardship is about leaving things in a better place than the way you found them and mentorship is about both giving and receiving.”

Jessica Garbett, Manager, Workforce Strategy & Culture Consulting, PwC set up and is chair of the social mobility network at PwC. She recognised both the challenge of getting in, as well as the challenge of getting on. Working in an entrepreneurial environment like PwC meant that they could harness the power of the organisation to deliver change. There are now 120 champions who play an active role in driving social mobility across the business, and that the reach of the programme goes as far as it can. Building supportive networks where everyone can collaborate and connect is key, as it ensures that people can deliver against the objective of enabling everyone to achieve their potential.

During the Q&A the panel spoke about the importance of vulnerability and understanding, as well as some of the more formal structures and frameworks. There still exists a taboo around backgrounds, which we need to break down, and Jess Garbett says that sharing stories is a key way to break this down. Knowing what is available is crucial, as you can’t do anything without that knowledge – it’s about giving people the tools they need to progress and excel. Anyone can mentor – wherever you are in your career. It’s about offering time and energy to change people’s lives.

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