The Fabian Women’s Network mentoring scheme has taken me on two journeys: finding my voice and finding a career. With time closing in on my existing role at a students’ union, I had little idea of where to go next, especially having come from a working-class family.
With relatively little social capital and some involvement with the Labour party, I had a limited understanding of what a career in public life could look like. All I knew was that I wanted to help people, but given that I was struggling to penetrate the opaque world of the third sector I was left with the option of a handful of graduate schemes and the civil service.
This uncertainty, matched with the growing division of the political sphere, made public life seem impenetrable. It was with this, that I applied for the Fabian Women’s mentoring scheme.
One year on, I am so grateful to the scheme, and the women I have met. I’m working for a fantastic organisation in the trade union movement in central London – an organisation that I never would have considered prior to the scheme.
The mentoring scheme is unique in the Labour party in that it is not predicated on factionalism. We all work according to the same values – collectivism, pragmatism, innovation, a belief in radical politics and a deep respect for the lived experience of others.
The programme of events is centred on allowing each woman to explore the skills, values, and knowledge needed to be successful in public life – whatever that means to her. The curriculum is flexible enough to allow each woman to self-direct her own learning but also share experiences and advice with each other. Mentees are encouraged to run their own workshops and events on the basis of their diverse skillsets and experiences.
For me, the best part of the programme has been my fellow mentees. Whether in coaching each other for public speaking events, developing ideas for real campaigns or offering feedback for job applications, we cheerlead each other.
I feel lucky to be surrounded by women much more experienced than me with very diverse roles in public life, from medical doctors and charity workers, to activists and lawyers. This programme made real to me the endless roles and organisations in public life and helped me understand where I might fit. It also made real to me the women in these organisations, making success in public life seem that much more achievable.
With every opportunity, I have been pushed out of my comfort zone. A year ago, I had a limited understanding of how the parliament or the Labour party, worked. Since then I have worked on writing a Private Members Bill and met with MEPs in Brussels – and each session has reshaped my understanding of the political world and the future of the left.
How has the scheme helped? Practically, it helped me find a job that I love, in a sector that I care about, and I’ve found a circle of women who are ambitious about making change and are fabulous friends.