The concept of the Fabian Women’s mentoring and political education programme was quite straightforward. Fabian women with experience of political and public life would support other Fabian women on their journey into politics and public life. In addition to one-to-one mentoring, we would arrange some educational events and visits to give an authentic experience and to instil confidence that “yes, you can sit on the green benches, in the Council Chamber, in the boardroom or wherever decisions are being made.”
Now, four years after the launch we have 100 journeys to recount with 40 mentors to thank. On top of that, thousands of others have been affected as these 100 inspirational women move into positions of influence, positions of power, speak out on platforms at home and abroad, write out to the world, and talk to other women on the doorstep.
What distinguishes this programme from other mentoring programmes is the women we attract as participants and the peer mentoring they provide to each other, not just across their own cohort but across all four. These are women who share values, share experiences, find their political voice, develop skills in a safe shared space and then inspire others to do the same. No-one pays and no one is paid but everyone involved gains so much from each other. Together they build collective confidence. You may be 21 or 58; you might live anywhere in the country; from any ethnic background, from any sector but you must be a Fabian woman to apply.
Dr Rosie Campbell in her evaluation of 2011-2013 Cracks in the Glass Ceiling analyses how the programme developed over the first two years. “The women call themselves space invaders. They have been given access to political spaces traditionally occupied by men and have begun to realise that this is somewhere that they too are entitled to be.” Yvonne Roberts in the Observer highlighted how the programme has given women keys to the gates of power and her article in its turn encouraged women with an even wider range of skills to apply and find their political voice.
As we celebrate 10 years of the Fabian Women’s Network and four years of the mentoring programme we have even more to be proud of, as participants are selected, elected, promoted, and captured on screen, in print and in social media. With these foundations, now is the time to work together to propel many more Fabian women into power.
Christine Megson co-ordinates the Fabian Women’s Network mentoring programme
The Fabian Women’s Network celebrate their tenth anniversary on Tuesday, 10 February 2015 from 18:00 to 20:30 at Royal Society of Chemistry, London W1J 0BA. For more information click here