Monday 20-03-2017 - 14:48
Nishant Kumar is the Academic Enhancement Manager at University of East London Students’ Union. In 2015, she took part in our Aspiring Women Leaders Programme. We caught up with her two years on to find out her thoughts about the course, what she learnt then and how she continues to use that learning to shape her career.
It’s been almost two years since you were on the course, has the learning had a lasting impact?
Short Answer – yes. Longer answer - this course gave me the opportunity to recognise and shape my own leadership style. Whenever I have any sort of self-doubt, I follow two steps;
- Go back to the soul searching questions I asked myself during the course and see whether my core beliefs and values have changed.
- Contact the ladies who were part of my action learning set. Nothing replaces the advice of some very talented women who have been on a similar journey like yourself and can empathise with the difficulties of being a woman in the workplace. Over the past two years, they have been a valuable resource for discussing ideas, problems and solutions whilst being supportive and caring.
What has been the most useful thing you've learnt, and how has that impacted your leadership journey since the course?
It's okay to have weaknesses - no one knows or has all the skills to be a leader.
Constantly focusing on what I perceived as my weakness constantly eroded my self-confidence.
I have learnt to recognise and improve my strengths and use my instincts rather than moulding myself to what I thought others expected of me. Focusing on my strengths gave me the confidence to be who I am as well as helping me shape my current role at UELSU.
Why do you think a leadership course designed specifically for women is so important?
I found that a leadership course designed specifically for women provided a safe space for women to open up and be honest about their fears and passions.
Being open about your aspirations, I found, can put you in a vulnerable position, but sharing these with women who face similar hardship and have dreams like yourself creates an incredibly empowering feeling thus eradicating that vulnerability.
I have been to a number of leadership courses with a mixed audience, I can honestly say that I never had a similar experience to the one provide by the Aspire Women Leaders programme.
The course explores how sexism manifests in the workplace, has this helped you to navigate the multiple and intersecting oppression you face in the workplace as a Black Disabled Women? If so, in what ways?
I have and occasionally do face issues of sexism, or been depicted as the 'angry black woman' just for being passionate or having the need to justify the flexibility of working from home due to my disability and childcare needs.
The course helped me navigate such situations but also gave me the opportunity to help others around me by creating trainings or conversations with an officer, a university colleague or even a manager to see the advantages of empowering others through small steps such as, not holding key meetings outside the core hours of a member of staff who works part time or benefits from flexible working hours.
I am lucky that I work for a diverse organisation that are supportive and give me the opportunity to help shape the policies that affect me as an employee but also as a black disabled woman.
What advice would you give to other aspiring women leaders who are thinking about whether to apply or not?
Just do it! It will be the start of the most amazing adventure and experience in self-discovery and achievement.
But make sure you do the prep work and ask yourself the hard questions about your values and beliefs.
Are you interested in joining our Aspiring Women Leaders programme? You can find more information online here.