How you can Step Up in 2021

Today’s guest blog comes from Saida Bello, solicitor and previous participant on the Stepping Up leadership Programme.

In the last 12 months, our City and indeed our entire country have faced huge challenges. We are still navigating our way through the COVID-19 pandemic and responding to the health inequalities that have been exposed, as well as dealing with the fallout of Brexit and the Black Lives Matter protests. For many of us, there is a great deal of uncertainty.

In such challenging times, the importance of diverse thinking and inclusive leadership has never been more necessary. Research has repeatedly found that embracing diversity of thought leads to financial benefits, increased innovation and greater creativity in organisations. The government report led by Baroness Ruby-McGregor Smith in 2017 estimated that embracing diverse in the workplace could add up to £50 billion to the UK’s economy.

In 2018, I was a participant on the city-wide “Stepping Up” leadership programme alongside more than 40 other participants who made up the first ever cohort. I am really pleased to let you know that applications are now open for Cohort 4.

Stepping Up is a multiple national award-winning programme that is open to all under-represented groups.  This includes women, black and minority ethnic groups, anyone who identifies as LGBT+ and applicants with disabilities.

Diverse leadership programmes such as Stepping Up are not about giving preferential treatment to people from under-represented groups. Instead, they aim to give people from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to contribute to the prosperity of both our city and our country.

The programme offers both personal and professional development through workshops, learning sets, mentoring, coaching and a range of experiences.  It offers many benefits, including access to qualifications in management and leadership and support to develop skills for interviews, presentations and building professional networks.  

Evaluation of the programme has demonstrated its impact, with more than 60% of participants progressing in their careers and more than 93% feeling more confident about their career prospects. However, the benefits extend beyond the participants and into their  teams and organisations, as the programme promotes greater understanding of diversity and inclusion, as well as  how to support staff from under-represented groups. 

Thanks to my participation on the Stepping Up Programme in 2018, I have recently secured a role as Head of Diversity and Inclusion in the Civil Service. This role will enable me to continue to promote the benefits of inclusion at the heart for our institutions. 60% of my peers on Cohort 1 have also enjoyed career success as a result of Stepping Up.

I encourage you all to Step Up in 2021, whether that be as a participant, a mentor, a consultant, a sponsor or as an ally of the Stepping Up programme.  I am counting on managers and senior leaders across the city to Step up in 2021 and support their staff to enrol on this successful leadership programme.

By Stepping Up in 2021, we can continue to create “a city of hope and aspiration where everyone can share in its success”.

Applications for the Stepping Up programme close on 26 February 2021. To find out more, please visit