Skip to main content

Equity in Leadership Programme


The logo of the White Rose university consortium of the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York


The White Rose Equity in Leadership Programme is a novel pilot initiative developed by the White Rose Consortium, in collaboration with the University of Leeds, Sheffield, and York.

The purpose of the programme is to take an equity-based approach to supporting career progression opportunities for global majority talent, with the aim of diversifying leadership in higher education, both in academia and professional services.

The pilot programme is taking place between May and December 2024.


Why is the Equity in Leadership Programme important?

A stark absence of ethnic diversity persists within senior leadership positions across the UK Higher Education sector. According to staff statistical data from Advance HE (2023), just 6.5% of UK global majority academic staff held senior leadership roles, while only 12.2% occupied Professorial roles. Similarly, the representation in senior leadership within professional services stood at 7.7%.

At University of Leeds, data is comparable to national average with global majority staff at 8% across grade 10/Professorial roles (senior roles).

Recognising and embracing the value of inclusive leadership that prioritizes diversity is crucial for unlocking the full potential of the workforce and fostering positive change. As noted by the Harvard Business Review, diversity not only enhances financial performance but also boosts innovation and decision-making within employee teams.


What are the benefits of the Equity in Leadership programme?

Participants in the programme will benefit from bespoke career support, informed by their own identified needs and aspirations.

The University believes that true leadership extends beyond individual success—it encompasses the collective advancement of all members of our community. The Equity in Leadership Programme is designed to foster a culture of inclusion and empowerment, where the benefits of equity extend beyond those traditionally underrepresented in leadership roles.

Equity in leadership is not just a moral imperative - it is a strategic advantage that benefits teams, organizations, and society as a whole. These benefits include but are not limited to - diverse perspectives, increased engagement, stronger relationships, enhanced performance, improved culture, better decision-making and trouble shooting.

By investing in equitable leadership practices, we create stronger teams, more resilient organizations, and a better world for future generations.

How can I be considered as a participant in the next cohort?

Recruitment for the next cohort of participants for the Equity in Leadership programme will begin in September 2024.

Structure of the Programme

The six-month programme will consist of three in-person training days, co-designed and facilitated by Leyla Okhai, CEO of Diverse Minds, an award winning, experienced practitioner. Each workshop will be followed by a networking event.

There will also be online masterclasses between sessions that will be peer led focusing on the development of hard skills that have been identified as areas of focus by participants of the programme. A celebration event will be hosted in December to honour the alumni of the programme.

Workshop one: Values, influence and networking

- Values and Culture
- Power and Influence in Leadership
- The value of networking
- Mentoring, Coaching & Sponsoring Impacts

Networking event with Senior Leaders from the University of Leeds

Workshop two: Communication, change and personal branding

- The nature of communication
- Leading challenging conversations successfully
- Ideas for change
- Boundaries in the workplace
- Building a Personal Brand
- Your Personal Development Plan

Networking event with Senior Leaders from the University of York

Workshop three: Imposter syndrome, recruitment and resilience

- Standing in your Power: Confidence and Imposter Syndrome
- Career Skills: Networking, CVs and interview skills
- Resilience and wellbeing
- Your personal board
- Letters to yourself

Networking event with Senior Leaders from the University of Sheffield

Optional: Peer led online Masterclasses

Masterclass one:

Finance and budgeting

Masterclass two:

Strategy and planning

Masterclass three:

Recruitment and People management

Additional Supportive Relationships

The roles of sponsors, mentors, and coaches is integral to the success of the programme.

The Equity in Leadership programme aims to create a robust support system that empowers global majority leaders to thrive. These relationships not only facilitate individual growth but also contribute to a more inclusive and equitable organisational culture, driving systemic change and fostering a diverse leadership pipeline.

Each of these roles brings unique value, helping participants navigate their professional journeys, overcome challenges, and achieve their full potential.


Sponsors are senior leaders who actively advocate, using their influence to create opportunities and open doors that might otherwise remain closed. In the context of race equity, sponsors play a critical role in addressing systemic barriers by:

  • Promoting visibility and providing access to high-impact projects and roles.
  • Endorsing and supporting during performance evaluations and promotions.
  • Helping to break down institutional biases and fostering a more inclusive culture at the leadership level.


Mentors offer guidance, wisdom, and advice based on their own experiences. They provide a safe space for mentees to explore their professional goals and navigate challenges.

Mentorship is vital for race equity because:

  • It provides tailored support and encouragement, helping mentees build confidence and resilience.
  • Mentors can offer insights into navigating the unique challenges faced by global majorities in the workplace.
  • It fosters a culture of learning and growth, where diverse perspectives are valued and nurtured.


Coaches facilitate the participants' self-discovery and growth through active listening, questioning, and feedback. Coaches are important because:

  • They help participants identify and overcome personal and professional obstacles.
  • Coaches assist in setting and achieving ambitious career goals, ensuring participants have the tools and strategies needed to succeed.
  • They provide an objective perspective, helping participants to refine their leadership styles and enhance their effectiveness.

Training for Managers

A distinctive feature of the programme is the learning and development opportunity for managers to champion inclusivity. The Equity in Leadership Programme has committed to providing tailored training for managers, equipping them with necessary skills and insights to serve as inclusive advocates to drive a cultural shift towards meaningful change. During the pilot programme this training as well as a resource library, will be made available to line managers of participants, but the strong aspiration for the future is that resources and training will be made available to all line managers.

A note on terminology

The University recognises the importance of racial and ethnic terminology and understand that individuals use different terms to identify and represent themselves. In keeping with the commitment to co-creation for this programme, the Equity in Leadership Programme team asked all participants to vote on the term that they felt best represented them. The term "global majorities" received the most votes, as it provides a more positive perspective compared to the othering narrative of "minority groups."

The University of Leeds Equality and inclusion Unit (EIU) is developing a race and ethnicity terminology resource, which will be published soon. Additionally the EIU will be leading work within the University through staff and student consultation to develop a shared terminology.