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Improving representation of ethnic minority academics in senior leadership

Dr Margaret Kadiri, Physical Geography Teaching Fellow, has been taking part in StellarHE - a programme providing strategic executive development for diverse leaders in higher education. We interviewed her about the unique obstacles ethnic minority academics face in attaining senior leadership positions in higher education, and about what she has gained from the programme.

What personal career experiences, observations or goals motivated you to take part in the programme?

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 an ethnic minority professional. I was motivated to participate in the StellarHE leadership programme because it is uniquely designed to equip ethnic minority academics like myself with leadership competencies and strategies to navigate the particular career barriers that we face, so that we can develop and effect change.

Could you tell us more about some of the obstacles the programme has identified as hindering BAME academics in leadership progression, and what it does to address these obstacles?

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. 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 currently 19,285 professors in the UK are 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.

Margaret Kadiri0150

Dr Margaret Kadiri

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 competencies 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 to optimise opportunities and fully realise our leadership potential. To this end, it provides transformational leadership training, networking opportunities and targets capacity building.

Are there one or two key learnings from the programme that you’d be willing to share?

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.

Two of the many key learning points so far from the programme that I would like to share are 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.

How can other SGA colleagues enrol in StellarHE / can you recommend next steps?

Each year, the College funds a number of places on the 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.

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Margaret Kadiri

Margaret Kadiri

Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography

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