Role reversal for senior leaders

29 September 2023

As we draw towards the end of National Inclusion Week and look ahead to Black History Month, three senior leaders at Leonardo UK explain why they are taking part in a reverse mentoring programme in partnership with the Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers.

“I want to be challenged!” explains Iain Bancroft, Senior Vice President Electronic Warfare and Executive Sponsor of the Ethnicity Inclusion Network Group. “I want to understand the ways in which our current culture, policies and practices within Leonardo may impact upon the lived experience of our underrepresented groups. Through reverse mentoring, I will get the unique opportunity to understand the barriers and make positive changes to achieve this goal,”

Iain is one of three senior leaders from Leonardo – along with Leonardo Helicopters (UK) Managing Director, Adam Clarke, and Rob Armstrong, VP Mechanical Engineering (UK), Electronics – participating in a reverse mentoring pilot programme with the Association For Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers (AFBE-UK). Each one has been paired with a mentor who is an individual member of AFBE-UK, and will spend six months in regular dialogue learning about lived experiences, barriers to recruitment and how to use their influence to continue to increase inclusion across Leonardo UK.

Leonardo became an AFBE-UK member in early 2021, and has seen its partnership evolve through several programmes designed to promote better ethnicity balance, as well as understanding and inclusivity, among our workforce.

Through reverse mentoring, I’ll get the unique opportunity to understand the barriers that impact upon the lived experience of our underrepresented groups, and make positive changes.”

Iain Bancroft

“Since taking up my role with the Ethnicity Inclusion Network Group, I’ve had the chance to reiterate my long-held belief that we should make our workplace a welcoming environment, and one that encourages people to bring their whole selves to work and excel at what they choose to do,” adds Iain, who is being mentored by Yinka Falade, an Electrical Engineer at BP.

“That’s why I relish the opportunity to participate in reverse mentoring, leading the way for many more people to do the same. I want to increase the talent we attract, develop and retain from ethnic and cultural minority groups in order to create a better balance and representation at all levels across Leonardo. Most importantly, I want to help remove barriers and provide a voice for our ethnically and culturally diverse workforce, both now and in the future.”

Like Iain, Adam wants to “set the example from the top down. If I’m able to learn and appreciate different inclusivity challenges, this will set an example to others and help me determine approaches to future HR and recruitment policies.”

Ensuring we have an inclusive workplace is essential to attracting and retaining talent. This programme can only help me and my team understand better how to improve inclusivity.”

Adam Clarke

He hopes that participating as a mentee will benefit him personally by “understanding the challenges that those from AFBE face in both the workplace and outside, and hearing other perspectives to improve myself as a leader and manager. It should improve me as a person and consequentially improve our business’s inclusivity through a better understanding of the challenges someone from an ethnic minority faces.

“We have a significant amount of highly complex work within Leonardo Helicopters, so finding the best engineering talent in the marketplace is paramount. This programme can only help me and my team understand better how to improve inclusivity, and consequently help us solve our resourcing challenges.

“It’s a topic I have already discussed with my mentor – Dr Ikechukwu Onyegiri, a Senior Pipeline Engineer at TechnipFMC – and is one that we’ll continue working through in the coming months, taking into consideration that the challenges they themselves have faced during their career,” Adam explains.

Having been a mentor himself over several years – developing mechanical engineers working towards chartership and providing business mentoring – Rob believes the reverse mentoring pilot is “a great opportunity to be on the other side of the relationship”, after it was shared with him by a member of his team who is involved with Leonardo’s Ethnicity Inclusion Network Group.

“I'm a big believer in how diversity of thinking is a key ingredient of innovation,” says Rob, whose mentor is Emmanuel Oni, a Senior Project Engineer at SSE Plc. “I'm really interested to understand the perspectives of people with different life experiences and backgrounds, and hope this will be a really valuable opportunity for me to learn. For Leonardo to be even more successful, we must ensure we are attractive employer to as wide a range of talent as possible. Understanding, along with being engaged in the variety of their perspectives and life experiences a diverse team brings, is an important element of this.

I'm a big believer in how diversity of thinking is a key ingredient of innovation.”

Rob Armstrong

Rachel Ruxton, Leonardo UK’s Head of Inclusion and Diversity, is confident that the pilot will be the start of a long-running reverse mentoring programme in collaboration with AFBE-UK. “At the end of the pilot we will host a panel discussion to share learnings and experiences. My hope is that this sparks an interest in others across Leonardo UK to participate,” she says.

Ethnicity Inclusion network group

Ethnicity Inclusion network group

Leonardo UK's Ethnicity Inclusion network group supports the company in attracting, recruiting and retaining talent from ethnic minority communities that will create a better and fair ethnicity balance within Leonardo at all levels.