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Interview with Professor Azrini Wahidin (Sociology)

We spoke to Azrini Wahidin, Professor in Sociology, about INspire, a programme designed to support leaders who face well documented barriers getting into top leadership positions.

 

What has been the benefit for you of taking part in this programme? What attracted you to it, what have you got out of it?

The INspire programme provides an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the environment in which one wants to lead and the different approaches to leading. A programme such as this will support the direction of travel of enhancing the culture and environment that we belong to. The programme provides a space to learn and support others who have similar aspirations and ambitions.

Research has shown that having a sponsor makes a significant difference in terms of career progression, and for me this has really enhanced the programme. I was really lucky to be paired with Chris Hughes, who has made meaningful introductions and been a really useful port of call for advice and steerage. I’m now involved in several working groups, which has increased my visibility and embedded me into the systems and processes at Warwick. Thus, having sponsors incorporated into the programme is of real value. I’ve gained a better understanding of operations and strategies at Warwick – this is my fourth year at Warwick, and two of them have been during COVID, so this has been a really productive programme on many fronts.

"There are only a handful of universities in the country running a programme like this, so the very fact that Warwick has recognised that there is a systemic issue is a step in the right direction."

I also believe that it is important to support a programme such as this in order to bring about change. The change is to create a HE landscape that is inclusive, representative, and more diverse at all levels. Moreover, I also believe that we have a collective responsibility, to develop the leadership and talent pipeline.

A programme such as this demonstrates a commitment to support the removal of barriers that are systemic within the HE sector where women and BAME academics are not proportionately represented in leadership positions. Progress in terms of appointments of women to VC roles are due to increasing awareness in universities, according to Professor Barnes. ‘People have been gender-blind in the past and bringing the issue to the fore has helped,’ she says. Similarly, progress must be made for other groups.

 

How did the programme work for you and how did you work with your sponsor?

The course content was well thought out and relevant. The guest speakers that came, including the internal speakers, supported the course content. Their experiences corresponded with some of my own experiences as an Associate Dean or Head of Department. The programme was very comprehensive and well structured.

Chris Hughes and I have had discussions about my career progression at Warwick, and how we can translate that knowledge and experience into a tangible way forward.

 

"The key thing is that the blockage within the talent pipeline must be pushed along, and real change has to be made to diversify the landscape of leadership."

Overall, what are your reflections on the programme?

First and foremost, I want to thank Kulbir and Rob for putting on a programme such as this. There are only a handful of universities in the country running a programme like this, so the very fact that Warwick has recognised that there is a systemic issue is a step in the right direction. The benefits of a programme such as this will support the next REF 2028 submission in terms of environment and enhance our Race Equality Charter and Athena Swan submission. It will enhance the research, learning, and teaching culture and in turn benefit all of us – all staff, all students – because we are enhancing and developing a more inclusive and representative culture at all levels.

The real success of the programme will be evident when we see the programme bear fruit with persons from BAME communities in senior management positions.

The key thing is that the blockage within the talent pipeline must be pushed along, and real change has to be made to diversify the landscape of leadership. It is a really good programme, and I would like to see it rolled out and become mainstream, so this won’t be an exception, it becomes part and parcel of the suite of programmes that are available for staff – not just at Warwick, but across the sector.

 

Find out more...

Read more about Warwick's commitment, progress, and areas for improvement on social inclusion in our Report on Progress. Celebreate staff contributions to making Warwick a better place to live, study, and work on our Social Inclusion Award pages. And, discover more of the work we are doing to increase staff and student diversity to maximise creativity and innovation on our Projects page.