Career Progression a women in Higher Education (HE) Management initiative 2002 -2004

Brief description

Lincoln’s Women in HE Management Initiative aims to encourage and equip increasing numbers of women managers and supervisors to develop career progression paths leading to senior management roles. The project was initiated by the Vice Chancellor as a positive action approach to increasing the representation of women in the University’s key management teams. The University used money from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) 'Rewarding and developing Staff in HE’ initiative.

The key features of the initiative which is designed to increase the capability and confidence of the participants are:

  • a series of seminars by senior managers from within and outside the University
  • the award of six career development fellowships during 2003 and 2004
  • an intensive leadership skills for women managers' course
  • a mentorship scheme for senior/middle-ranking women
  • an action learning group amongst the women fellows

Contact: Mike Cook -


The University’s senior management team was frustrated at the continuing gender imbalance in its senior management and decided that positive action was needed if it was to see equal numbers of women moving through into senior positions. The senior management group included only 17 women among the total of 69, whereas women were slightly in the majority across the workforce as a whole.

Key features

The initiative is unusual in that it operates at a number of levels, from inspirational seminars open to all staff to an intensive fellowship programme which provides training and support for six women in middle management jobs.

The seminar programme was launched by the Vice Chancellor. His personal involvement was seen as an important endorsement of the programme as a whole. The seminars, about one a month, run over lunchtimes, with lunch provided. They are delivered mainly by women but the events are open to men and women and have been very well supported, with attendances approaching a hundred. Several presenters have talked about their own careers and how they have combined the demands of their home and their professional lives.

The intention is for up to six career development fellowships to be awarded each year of the two year programme. In the first year fellowships were awarded to three senior academics, two administrators and one middle manager. The fellowships provide:
• access to £1K to spend on external development/activity which is likely to be beneficial to their career
• a place on the high-profile leadership skills for women managers' workshop
• access to personal career support via a local mentorship scheme and an action learning programme for the women fellows

The leadership skills for women managers workshop was bought-in from Capita . It was adapted from one of their generic courses and comprises a two-day intensive workshop with a half-day follow-up event three months later. The mentoring provided for the fellows was intended to provide personal support and coaching and a one-day training event was run for the fellows and their mentors.

Lincoln already operated an action learning group for senior staff. This had proved its value in providing a supportive group of colleagues who offered each other constructive advice and encouragement and it was decided to extend this provision to the women fellows.

General information on the programme is available on a website which is regularly updated. This has been particularly useful as a 'notice board' as several of the dates published in the initial handout had to be changed. All eligible women staff are regularly sent personalised invitations to the programme of seminars.

Impact and benefits

The impact of the initiative on the University has been significant. Senior staff’s personal support and drive has given the initiative a high profile. The immediate feedback from participants has been enthusiastic. They welcome the

  • opportunity to focus on career direction
  • benefits of having a mentor unrelated to immediate workplace
  • enhanced networking opportunities
  • importance of dedicated funding for own development
  • catalyst


The career progression of the women fellows will be followed and they will be asked for their views on how they have benefited from the scheme.

The future

It is hoped that this scheme will pave the way for more activities to increase the number of women recruited to the top posts. The programme has gained considerable momentum within the University and has secured funding to run for a second year.