MENTORING AND POLITICAL EDUCATION PROGRAMME
Unless a general election has been called, the window for applications for Cohort 13 of the FWN mentoring programme will open on March 27th 2024 and will close on April 20th 2024 with a start date in late May. For any questions please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mentees in Cohort 12 finish their programme at the end of February 2024. Cohort member, Jessie Cunnett, describes the group as, "amazing, empowered, intelligent, feisty women — sharing ideas, energy and inspiration for a better future". Nearly 20% of Cohort 12 is going for selection to become parliamentary candidates.
ABOUT THE PROGRAMME
The FWN Mentoring Programme launched in 2011 on International Women’s Day and since then has gone from strength to strength. Nearly 300 women have now completed the Programme: each of the twelve cohorts, has received mentoring as well as taking part in organised training and networking activities over a period of ten months.
The Programme includes time spent developing the core skills required to be effective in public and political life, visits to Parliament and Labour HQ, sessions on networking and skills development and a residential weekend in Northern College, Barnsley. Some events will be a one hour virtual training session and others in person. Everyone will have a mentor, central support and regular contact with others in the cohort. Many mentees combine the programme with a full time job or study as well as family demands.
A half-day induction, a day in Parliament, a speed networking evening, a half day visit to Labour HQ and a 30 hour personal skills workout in Northern College are compulsory.
There’s a wide range of other events tailored to the needs of each cohort including media skills, debating, public speaking, speech writing, networking and campaigning. There is no charge for joining the programme though you need to formally agree to commit time and there are some travel costs. Mentees living outside of London can apply for a travel bursary.
The Programme has already delivered some incredible results for its participants and the Fabian Women’s Network. Mentees have been elected or selected or shortlisted as Parliamentary candidates, and as candidates for the London and Welsh Assembly with brilliant support from other mentees. 80 women have been elected into local government positions and subsequently promoted into cabinet positions, and a large number of women have gone on to become school governors and trustees on the boards of charities. Some have formed their own charities. The majority of mentees have gained increased confidence to go for promotions or taking up new opportunities; becoming more politically active locally, chairing meetings, writing for their local newspaper or other media. Many report that their lives have been transformed.
We are committed to regularly evaluating and improving this scheme. So far we have published four academic evaluation reports with the support of Unison.
Read each one below.
Every mentee starts at a different place on their journey through political or public life and achievements therefore vary from person to person. We have found that everyone achieves significantly and for some women it’s life changing immediately and others it takes slightly longer. We celebrate women speaking out at their local CLP as much as those addressing the party conference for the first time. We enjoy hearing questions during the Fabian conference and messages from those about to speak on Women’s Hour. Voice training and practice with speaking out are part of the programme.
Most mentees are promoted at work faster than they have expected and a significant number have found new jobs using the powerful network we have created. Encouragement and support with preparing for the recruitment process is readily available. We have mentees who have moved into senior roles in political offices, in local and central government, in the public sector and in charities.
Our alumni network includes women who work in the shadow cabinet’s offices, the Home Office, the Department of Education, the Ministry of Justice, City Hall, NHS England and the TUC. We have headteachers, AI specialists, business leaders, doctors, anaesthetists, probation and prison service workers. Some are working overseas in the UN, for DfID or in overseas charities.
Ten FWN women are CEOs of charities, including Get Further, The Difference, Age UK London, WasteAid, Action for Stammering Children, Criminal Justice Alliance and The Young Camden Foundation. There are also directors at The Diana Award, Wipro and Nesta.
As well as those who have been elected as Councillors or MP, a number have significant voluntary roles as trustees or chair of charities and our speed networking events create opportunities for mentees to learn how to be selected onto a Trust. The Women in AI was launched by three mentees and is now a thriving movement.
We encourage and celebrate achievements at every stage of a mentee’s journey.
Becoming a councillor
Over the last 12 years the route from the mentoring programme to being elected as a local councillor has proved very popular. A few women have joined who have already been elected. They have been great role models and very supportive. A few women have already set their sights on being elected. The majority of mentees have seen others take up this incredibly important role and been attracted by it. It’s a huge influential achievement which impacts positively on a large number of people.
To date 80 mentees have been elected as councillors all over the country – that’s over a quarter of mentees – reaching nearly one million constituents. They have one MP already and a number of women en route to Westminster – including three who’ve recently been selected as Labour parliamentary candidates. Many of them are trailblazers who were encouraged by their peers and their mentors to seek public office.
Peymana Assad, Councillor in Harrow, was the first publicly elected official of Afghan origin. Rehana Ameer, was the first Indian-born woman elected to the Court of the Common Council in 950 years of the City of London Corporation’s history. Favour Ezeifedi is the first African Deputy Labour Leader in Watford Council. In Redbridge at one stage all the women councillors had come through the mentoring programme.
On the programme there’s a lot of support available for mentees wanting to follow this route: we have a publication produced by mentees. Some of our mentors have been councillors. We have a Councillor WhatsApp group where other mentees share advice to those considering the route as well as those already elected.
This group is also helpful for those elected wanting to be promoted to cabinet positions and for sharing good practice.
Finding their political voice
One of the aims of the mentoring programme is to hear more women's voices in public and political life. We want to hear them and see them both speaking out and in writing.
Many women apply to the mentoring programme with a strong interest in becoming more active in public and political life. A few of them are practised in debating. Some of them already hold public office. The majority of those accepted onto the programme want to increase their confidence in speaking or writing.
In the course of the programme mentees are encouraged to express their views through public speaking events, debates and exchanges with others on their cohort or former mentees. We give particular opportunities- with support- for mentees to pitch and write articles.
Voice training is critically important for us all. Dealing with the Media training is important for those who are going towards profile roles and these skills are transferable to other stressful situations like job interviews.
We have seen a number of mentees on Sky News, BBC News, ITV News, Times Radio, LBC, Politics show, Sunday politics and Radio 4. Mentees' voices can be heard at conferences in the UK and internationally - including on Fabian panels at the Labour Party conference. There's regular articles from mentees on the Fabian Society pages, on Labour list, Huffington post and in the Guardian. Other mentees have published books, plays or written film scripts
Many of those had never spoken out before and realised they had found their political voice.