Earlier this month 18 employees took part in a speed mentoring event organised through Santander UK’s Ethnicity@Work network.

The mentees, from Isban, Produban, Geoban and Santander UK, were split into three groups and took part in three sessions of 20 minutes to allow all mentees to have the opportunity to talk to mentors, including Sigga Sigurdardottir, the network’s executive sponsor and Andrew Pearson, managing director of Isban UK.

It’s the third speed mentoring event this year and the fifth event of the network which was only set up on 1st February.

The network is drawing on approaches it has seen work with regard to gender, such as initiatives around resilience at work. “There is a big crossover,” says Nicky Hand,  ‎Senior HR Business Partner at Isban UK who organised the speed mentoring event and is a founding member of Ethnicity@Work. 

Nicky adds that BAME women face ‘a double whammy’. “They face the same ceiling as women or BAME people, but they face it in two ways,” she says.

The network, which has 220 members, provides a voice for ethnicity discussions in the organisation. “We are trying to level the playing field so everyone feels they have a fair chance of reaching their potential,” says Nicky.

Although the bank has good representation of ethnic minorities in the organisation as a whole compared to its competitors, it feels that more could be done to help them progress to senior levels.

The speed mentoring sessions are a practical step towards achieving this. Not all those who took part in the speed mentoring session were members of the network, although they are now. They can also be signposted through the speed mentoring session to ongoing mentoring support provided by Santander or to, for instance, support for women in business.

During the event information was given about what makes a good mentor, what people should look for in a mentor [for instance, someone who will challenge them] and how they can find one.

Nicky says feedback has been positive, with one common problem identified being lack of confidence among those taking part. “It is important that this acts as a recognised platform and voice for ethnicity,” she adds, saying it can be hard for people to talk about racial issues because they are particularly sensitive.

The network is a voluntary network and run by people who have day jobs. “It’s very refreshing and collaborative and it is important for people to feel included.”

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