How mentoring supports inclusive progression

Post author image. Guest Editor
Learn about BITC’s Mentoring Circles programme which connects Black, Asian, and ethnic minority employees with mentors from other organisations, providing personal development opportunities and expanding professional networks.

Enabling every employee to feel rewarded and supported in their career progression can be a brilliant way of improving feelings of loyalty, improving retention, therefore reducing hiring costs, and building a fairer workplace.

Mentoring is a valuable method of delivering these improvements not only for the people involved, by boosting their confidence, developing their skills, and helping them maximize their potential. It can also support the growth of senior leaders by introducing them to different perspectives, ideas, and experiences1.

Business in the Community’s (BITC) research reveals that Black, Asian and ethnic minority people value mentors more than other ethnic groups2. They are more likely to want a mentor and more likely to value the impact of having one. Employees from Black, Asian, and ethnic minority backgrounds display high levels of career ambition but often feel a lack of opportunity for career progression in their workplaces3.

BITC’s Cross Organisational Mentoring Circles programme helps address this need. It connects Black, Asian, and ethnic minority mentees with mentors from other organisations. It provides personal development opportunities, expanding their professional networks and encouraging shared learning with peers and leaders from other participating organisations. Each ‘circle’ is made up of a mentor, and 8-10 mentees from a range of workplaces and job roles. Many mentees report growing self confidence and self-esteem, and value the opportunity to expand their networks. Mentees bring issues or challenges to the group and work and learn together, act and reflect on outcomes with a focus on personal development.

“Invaluable advice, support and networking opportunities from both mentor and fellow mentees on career to personal experiences in an inclusive, non judgmental safe space. I highly recommend this to everyone”

Feedback from a participant in BITC’s Cross Organisational Mentoring Circles.

Over the seven years that the programme has been running there have been numerous success stories. One mentor from audit, accounting, and tax consultancy Deloitte, was praised for creating “an open and honest space” throughout the sessions, helping mentees feel guided, motivated, and supported. In this instance, the mentee felt that they had been “not only mentored but also coached”, with the support helping them to take positive next steps within their organisation. Through these relationships, the concrete exchange of skills and ideas, and the unprecedented access to holistic personal support, and a space to talk, empowers mentees to discover, and rediscover, their own potential.

Since launching in 2014, BITC’s Cross Organisational Mentoring Circles programme has supported:

  • 67 unique participating businesses and other organisations, representing a range of sectors, locations, and sizes
  • 1,769 mentees, each benefiting from professional career and development support
  • 292 mentors, each gaining valuable skills, experience, and insights.

How your organisation can take action on race equality

There are many ways employers can drive progression in an inclusive way that supports organisational diversity, bringing benefits both to business, and wider society. BITC’s Race at Work Charter outlines five key actions* that every employer can take to ensure ethnic minority employees are represented at all levels. BITC’s Cross Organisational Mentoring Circles programme can help your organisation take tangible action to support ethnic minority career progression, the fifth call to action of the Charter.

Act now to get involved in 2022

BITC’s Cross Organisational Mentoring Circles runs for six months, with ‘Circles’ meeting monthly. Anticipating ongoing social restrictions, the programme is currently run in an online format, with plans to transition to a hybrid in-person and online format in the future. The ninth cycle of the programme will run from January to July 2022.

If you are interesting in joining the next cohort and are a BITC member and hold our ‘Race Deeper Support package’ please contact your Inclusion Adviser.

If would like to take part and are a BITC member but do not have a ‘Race Deeper Support package’, contact your Relationship Manager about increasing your engagement with us. Not sure who your Relationship Manager is?

If you are not a BITC member, but hold our ‘Race Deeper Support package’ and would like to be involved contact your Inclusion Adviser.

If you are not a BITC member but are interested in finding out about how you can get involved in this programme, as well as the other benefits of membership, complete our membership enquiry form to learn how you can join us.

*In October 2021 two additional commitments were added to the Race at Work Charter. Find out more about the Race at Work Charter.

what if everyone felt included?


  1. Eric Parsloe, The Oxford School of Coaching and Mentoring, available via The Open University,
  2. Business in the Community (2018) Race at Work 2018: The Scorecard Report
  3. ibid.