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Working to increase diversity in leadership roles

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Durham inspires      
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Among her other roles, Monika Nangia, our Academic Registrar and Director of Student and Academic Services, continues to be a passionate advocate for diverse voices in higher education leadership positions.

Alongside Monika’s work at the University, she has been working on a sector-wide project that focuses on diversity within university professional services departments.

Academic Registrar and Director of Student and Academic Services Monika Nangia
Academic Registrar and Director of Student and Academic Services Monika Nangia

Dialogue caught up with Monika to find out more.

Could you give us an overview of the aims for your project?

This project is called "Diversity in Leadership: The Power of Storytelling" and is aimed at enhancing diversity in professional services leadership roles within UK universities.

I am doing this by shining a spotlight on the authentic stories of current senior leaders from minoritised ethnic backgrounds. The project focuses on four core areas: strategic recruitment, professional development, robust data management and storytelling.

By capturing the unfiltered personal accounts of senior leaders, I’m aiming to illuminate the realities of bias and barriers, as well as the power of mentorship and sponsorship.

Through these powerful stories told in their own voices, I intend to educate, inspire, and empower individuals to pursue their professional aspirations and foster a more inclusive leadership landscape within universities across the country.

Why is this topic so important to you?

This initiative not only illuminates the challenges people have faced, but also celebrates their triumphs, fostering a culture of inclusivity.

I believe that the storytelling Initiative is a beacon of inspiration and change. It's a project that holds a personal significance as it promotes the voices of those often unheard, creating a platform for senior leaders from minority ethnic backgrounds to share their journeys.

By highlighting these powerful stories, I would like to see some change in our organisations so we can start to dismantle barriers and empower individuals to pursue leadership roles, reflecting the rich diversity of our society. It's a step towards a future where everyone has the opportunity to lead and excel.

In the video you produced when you started at Durham, you talked about the importance of social justice. How would increasing ethnic diversity in professional services leadership roles help in this area?

When I started at Durham, I wanted to make an impactful change that enabled us as a University to become more accessible to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, including those from ethnic minorities. Although the demographic composition of North East England making this much harder to achieve, I think that by celebrating and promoting diversity, and valuing inclusive cultures, we can become a more attractive destination of choice to our local communities.

The storytelling initiative is crucial in enhancing social justice as it actively works to rectify imbalances in leadership representation. Bringing the experiences of minority ethnic leaders to the forefront can serve as a catalyst for institutional change, ensuring that leadership reflects the heterogeneity of our communities and promoting the principles of social justice.

Every voice has the power to be heard and make an impact, which is a vital step towards a more just and fair society.

As part of your work, you contacted leaders from minoritised ethnicities in professional services roles at all 142 UK universities to ask for their stories. What was the main theme that came through?

The insights shared by senior professional services leaders in higher education through the storytelling initiative highlighted a critical aspect of leadership diversity and the importance of nurturing a pipeline that ought to reflect the rich tapestry of the student body.

Their candid experiences around imposter syndrome and the lack of role models resonate deeply, underscoring the need for systemic change.

As our sector evolves, it's imperative to foster an environment where diversity is not just present but celebrated. I feel fortunate that at Durham I have the opportunity to thrive without the pressure to conform or overachieve simply due to my background. I would like to see this become a norm in our sector. The future of higher education depends on this inclusive approach to leadership development.

What are the next steps in your project?

Collect more stories!

The vision for this project is to create a transformative experience within higher education, where diversity in leadership is not just an aspiration but a reality.

It's about building a future where every leader can bring their authentic self to the table, and inspiring a new generation of students and professionals.

Through the project, I would like to start a national conversation aimed at dismantling barriers, celebrating differences, and cultivating a culture of excellence and inclusion that propels the sector forward.

More information

You can find out more about Monika’s project in a special post on the WONKHE website.

This project is part of a coalition - Higher Diversity Coalition - that has representation from the Academic Registrars Council, Association of Higher Education Professionals, Association of Head of University Administration, Universities Human Resources, Higher Education Planning Association, Association of Managers of Student Services in Higher Education, Society for College, National and University Libraries, Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, legal firm Shakespeare Martineau (Education), brought together by the recruitment firm, Gatenby Sanderson.



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