“Transformational”: a year on FWN’s mentoring programme

Ahead of the next round of applications for our mentoring programme, we hear from former mentee Joy Allen on her experience of the scheme.

I have always had a passion for politics, but my public sector career involved working in politically restricted posts where I was expected to be party neutral. However, after years of frustration I took the bold decision to leave the public sector in 2012, and once I had made this decision I felt euphoric and liberated and free to pursue my political ambitions. I knew immediately that this was the right choice. The timing could not have been better, and I was selected in June 2012 to stand as a county councillor and elected in 2013.

Soon after election, I applied for a place on the Fabian Women’s Mentoring Programme. For someone who had experienced a famine of political debate I was hungry to expand my horizons and eager to explore opportunities to develop my political skills. I was delighted when to be offered a place on the 2014/2015 intake, I can honestly say the last year has been transformational for me, both personally and professionally. I felt the variety of participants’ ages and backgrounds were one of the best aspects of the programme, which became evident during our interesting and insightful group discussions and it goes without saying that our prescribed tasks benefited from this great diversity.

Personally, I really enjoyed the regular exposure to leading politicians (both male and female) from both the House of Commons Demand the House of Lords, alongside parliamentary candidates who were Fabian Women mentoring graduates. These engagement opportunties helped demystify politics and politicians and gave many participants on the programme the confidence to consider getting more involved in politics and opportunities to roles in public life.

The additional Fabian networking opportunities really enhance the formal mentoring programme and enables past and present cohorts to mix together and build upon existing networks and friendships.

I would describe my personal experience as political enlightenment. The mandatory weekends were challenging and intensive but absolutely invaluable and very enjoyable – not to be missed! So much so that towards the end of the programme I realised that I wanted to live and breathe politics full-time and took a huge decision in December 2014 to leave my full-time job to pursue my political ambitions locally, regionally and nationally.

I have recently been offered place on a PhD programme at Durham Business School to study gender, politics and leadership and I have against the odds, secured a highly sought after Cabinet position.

I cannot speak highly enough of FWN’s Mentoring Programme and would not hesitate in recommending this to any woman considering a career in politics and public life.

Joy Allen is a councillor on Durham County Council. She tweets @joy4bishoptown.

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Applications for places on the fifth cohort of our mentoring programme will open for Fabian members next week. Details will be posted here.

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