MD2232 Women in Leadership Sponsorship Initiative

Type of decision: 
Mayoral decision
Date signed: 
15 February 2019
Decision by: 
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

Executive summary

This decision seeks approval to establish the GLA’s first Women in Leadership Sponsorship initiative to address the limited proactive support to help women progress into positions of senior leadership across the GLA Group. Women across the GLA group are underrepresented at a senior level and a gender pay gap has also been identified; this is even more pronounced for women facing multiple barriers (such as black and female, disabled and female, those with caring responsibilities etc). This initiative aims to support women to break down the barriers that are causing these disparities.

Sponsorship involves the sponsor using her or his experience to support and guide the individual in furthering their own career. Formal schemes such as the one proposed are found in many large private sector organisations, but are not common across the public and third sector. Candidates demonstrating significant potential will be paired with senior sponsors from across the GLA group. A set of tools, guidance and learning materials will also be developed. The toolkit will be published to support other organisations across all sectors in the capital to establish and manage similar programmes.

Through the proposed initiative, the GLA Group will be leading by example and taking steps to make sure its workforce is representative of London by removing barriers to women progressing in their careers. The publication of the toolkit will support London’s employers to follow the Mayor’s lead.

The initiative will also tie in with the Mayor’s #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign, marking the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act. The year-long campaign is celebrating the achievements and progress made by women in London and highlighting the work that is still to be done to reach gender equality.

The initiative will be launched by the Mayor in March 2018. It is anticipated that applications will be sought in June, with the first GLA Group cohort commencing in the autumn.


That the Mayor approves:

1) the establishment of the Women in Leadership Sponsorship Initiative, including the development and publication of a supporting toolkit and guidance; and

2) expenditure up to £273,000 to fund this work.

Part 1: Non-confidential facts and advice

Introduction and background

One hundred years after the 1918 Representation of the People Act was passed, women remain under-represented at all levels of government in the UK, are less likely to vote than men, and are consistently under-represented at senior management and executive levels in most sectors. [1] London was at the forefront of the suffrage movement.  In the coming centenary year, under the #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign, the Mayor and GLA want to celebrate the progress made by women in London, highlight what is still to be done, and set out the Mayor and City Hall as a beacon for gender equality.


All GLA Group organisations acknowledge the significance of the recruitment and career progression processes in delivering a workforce that reflects London’s diversity at all levels. A diverse range of existing initiatives are in place across the Group to ensure that recruitment practice is open, transparent, targeted and inclusive, and to encourage and to ensure equality of opportunity in career progression. However, change is not happening fast enough – in the last 20 years the gender pay gap in London fell by only half a percent (from 15.1% in 1997 – 14.6% 2017[2]).


The Mayor intends to launch sponsorship as a flagship initiative as part of the Centenary Campaign to improve the number of women taking up leadership roles, particularly women who face multiple barriers to progression within the workplace.  This initiative aims to complement existing activities underway to address the limited proactive, structural support that women face to progressing into positions of senior leadership across the GLA Group workforce. It will also develop and promote the tools that will support other organisations in the capital to address their own evidence based issues of underrepresentation.


It will help to develop the necessary pipeline of well-prepared, confident and ambitious women that is essential to achieving gender parity in the workplace within the GLA Group.  Sponsors go beyond the traditional social, emotional and personal growth development support provided by many mentors. It is a targeted, explicit activity focused on advancement and using the sponsor’s position of influence to help further the career of the candidate.  It aims to support the development of a ‘pipeline of talent’ through formal, structured, HR-approved activities within organisations, in place of relying on informal networks or informal processes which are open to bias.


The design and development of the initiative will be procured from an external provider via competition managed by TfL Procurement.  The work will comprise of:

  • The development and implementation of a Women in Leadership Sponsorship Initiative across the GLA Group supported by a toolkit and guidance.
  • Publication of the toolkit and guidance to support other organisations in following the Mayor’s lead.

In order to ensure a quality product and develop the understanding of how to promote its use, engagement will be carried out with HR Specialists from public and private sector organisations of different sizes to identify the proposed contents and structure of the toolkit and to test materials as part of the review process. The toolkit will need to be adapted by each organisation to address the specific need that it is addressing.  It is anticipated that the toolkit will include case studies and examples of good practice, guidance and templates to support setting up and running a programme, learning materials to support the participating sponsors and sponsees, and evaluation materials to support the baselining and measurement of the impact.  The toolkit will be adaptable and following the evaluation process, consideration will be given to how it will be used to support the development of individuals from other underrepresented groups in leadership positions.


The initiative will be launched by the Mayor at an event on 16 March in London’s Living Room. It is anticipated that applications will be sought in June, with the first GLA Group cohort commencing in autumn.


Consultants will be procured to develop the GLA Group Women In Leadership Sponsorship Initiative.  A detailed specification will be prepared to include the following activities to be delivered by the consultancy:


  • Research into sponsorship
  • Developing the programme by facilitating input from all the GLA Group
  • Preparing the toolkit and the baseline measures
  • Setting up and running the initial programme for an estimated GLA group cohort of 28-35 sponsees and the same numbers of sponsors – this includes application and selection process, training of both sponsors and sponsees,
  • Running the recruitment and Selection process for the first cohort
  • Refining the toolkit to reflect learning and prepare it for publication
  • Running the evaluation of the initiative


A procurement exercise will be carried out supported by TfL Procurement.  As this is a novel activity, before the procurement exercise is carried out, the cost of delivering the initiative can only be estimated.  It will depend in part on the delivery model proposed in the bids from suppliers. 


The set-up costs will include:









Estimated cost


Administration (including Launch Event catering and costs of the administration of the initiative)





Research activity – looking at models that have been used elsewhere and identifying potential measures





Developing the programme by facilitating input from all the GLA Group





Preparing the toolkit and baselining measures





Setting up and running the initial programme for an estimated GLA group cohort of 28-35 sponsees and the same numbers of sponsors – this includes application and selection process, training sponsors and sponsees





Recruitment and Selection process for first cohort





Administrative support to run the initial cohort (within the GLA, part-time)





Refine the toolkit to reflect learning and prepare it for publication





Evaluation of the initiative





Sub total





          Contingency (10%)





Estimated Total






The profiling of the spend is estimated and will depend on the timing/duration of the procurement.  Therefore, approval of £273,000 is sought. These costs are based on a consultancy day rate of £2,000.


The training costs are based on an estimated 5 days design time, and approximately 9.5 days delivery.  This is based on training required for programmes of a similar scale.

  • Sponsees

1 day kick off training for candidates

3 x 1 day follow up sessions for candidates

1 day end of programme review.


  • Sponsors – 4.5 days

2 days kick off training for sponsors

3 x ½ day follow up sessions for sponsors

1 day end of programme review.


These costs set out in the above table do not include (and will either be covered under existing budgets or will be approved separately):

  • The project and contract management of the initiative to the point of evaluation will be covered within existing resources at no additional cost to the GLA.  At that point, consideration will need to be given to the longer term approach to managing and administering the ongoing activity.
  • Any costs within individual functional bodies to support and input to the development of the initiative
  • Room bookings or other venue costs – assumed this will be met within GLA Group estate
  • Costs incurred in developing a video for the launch event which will be met from the already approved #BehindEveryGreatCity budget
  • Marketing costs for promoting the launch of the toolkit. 

[1]  Centenary of the Women's Vote campaign: Opinion Research, GLA Intelligence, July 2017

[2] ONS, 2017

Objectives and expected outcomes

This initiative aims to:

• Increase the number of women in leadership roles across the GLA Group, and more widely across organisations in London;
• Raise the profile of sponsorship as a model that enables women to take on more senior roles, particularly in the public sector and civil society.
• ensure the GLA Group leads by example as champion of women in leadership and gender equality in the workplace.

The programme will be set up and run across the GLA Group workforce, and the toolkit will incorporate a methodology for baselining and measuring the impact in delivering these objectives.

The evaluation of the initiative will also include an assessment of how the initiative could potentially be used to support the development of individuals with other protected characteristics, should an under-representation of these people also be identified.

Equality comments

Addressing gender equality and inclusion at senior leadership levels across the GLA family are the drivers behind this programme, ensuring that the GLA Group workforce reflects the diversity of London.

A gender pay gap has been identified across the GLA Group Functional Bodies. The gap ranges between a median range of 0.04% and 35.1% and Mean - 8.29% and 33.3% (2016 data). (This excludes MOPAC and OPDC where the gaps are negative. However as small organisations they are at risk of significant variation from a small number of staff changes in future.)

This reflects the under-representation of women across all sectors in wider society in the UK:

• In 2017 UK was ranked 46th in the world with 208 women elected to government in 2017. This means that 32 per cent of all MPs are women. 210 peers (26 per cent) in the House of Lords are women.
• Women make up just 33 per cent of local councillors in England and just 15 per cent of local authority leaders in England are women.
• Across London councils, 36 per cent of councillors are women.
• In the current London Assembly, ten of the 25 Assembly Members are women.
• Women make up 68 per cent of the voluntary sector workforce, but are under-represented at the very highest levels of leadership.
• The Davies Review: Women on Boards (2015) noted the proportion of women has risen to 23.5% on FTSE 100 boards and 18% on FTSE 250 boards, and that there are no longer any all-male FTSE 100 boards.

Intersectionality and unconscious bias: the concept that women with multiple layers to their identities (black and female, disabled and female, those with caring responsibilities, etc.) face multiple barriers to securing work and progressing in their careers will also be addressed by this programme of work. The mechanisms of self- and peer- nomination will seek to address the unconscious bias that can hold women back in the workplace and hopefully remove the multiple barriers they face.

This initiative will focus on supporting women with multiple barriers to progress in the workplace and will contribute to addressing the identified issues of pay inequality across the Group. For example, while the gender pay gap as whole is 14.6 % in London – the pay gap for BAME women can be up to 30% (depending on the ethnic groups the woman belongs too) with a similar gap between women with disabilities (depending on impairment or disability); this is reflected is the GLA Group pay gap data.

In addition, all of the Functional Bodies will be publishing gender pay action plans in spring 2018 to work towards addressing issues of pay inequality in each organisation. In testing sponsoring in the public sector at scale, the intention is that other public sector and civil society organisations will benefit from the creation of the tool kit and the ’lessons learned’ by the GLA as it is rolled out.

Women are underrepresented at senior leadership level across all sectors in society. It is hoped that the ‘ripple effect’ of this innovative approach in the public sector will be felt across all sectors and by women in all categories.

The table in appendix 1, which is extracted from the Mayor’s Annual report 2016/17 shows the comparative representation of women and men who earn up to £60k and those who earn £60k or more. With the exception of OPDC (shown on an above/below £40k split), where the numbers of staff are small, all the functional bodies show an under representation of women at a senior level ranging from 12-69% more males than females.

Other considerations

Key risks and issues - A full risk register will be developed for the project to ensure that the risks and issues are identified and managed. However, key risks include:

(a) Legality of the initiative to ensure it remains positive action but does not become positive discrimination - Legal advice has been received and will continue to be sought to ensure that the initiative remains within legal boundaries and this risk will be fully mitigated once the design of the initiative has been completed within this advice.

(b) Timescales are tight to secure a suitable consultancy who can develop and deliver the innovation we are seeking and deliver a model which can be implemented across all sectors (not just private sector) – advice is being sought on the best route to market to ensure a robust contract is put in place

(c) The initiative doesn’t align with other activities being delivered in this area – discussions are being held both with in the GLA and across the group to mitigate this.

(d) Insufficient take up – initial soundings indicate that there is a strong appetite for this activity and this will need to be managed through a robust selection process to ensure the most appropriate candidates are selected.

Links to Mayoral strategies and priorities

- This initiative is the GLA flagship initiative which is part of the Mayor’s “Behind Every Great City” campaign.

- The Mayor is committed to being a proud feminist at City Hall and to making the GLA a model employer. He wants to lead in challenging the underrepresentation of women in senior roles and to encourage London organisations across all the sectors to support employee development opportunities amongst women.

- This initiative aims to position the GLA as a leading edge organisation, influencing the public discourse on women at work, and raising the GLA Group’s profile as an innovative and inclusive employer for female talent.

- Diversity and Inclusion strategy: The Mayor will focus on tackling unfair pay, employment gaps and giving workers good work-place rights. The Mayor will work with employers and others to challenge discrimination and ensure employees are treated fairly, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, faith, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.

- Good Work Standard: The Mayor wants to make London the best place in the world to work and a fairer place to live. He is proposing a compact with employers, called the Good Work Standard, which will promote: fair pay and the London Living Wage, excellent working conditions and diversity in the workplace.

Impact assessments and consultations.

The impact assessment is covered in the equality comments above and will be an integral part of the activity

Financial comments

Approval is sought for expenditure up to £273,000 to establish the Women in Leadership Sponsorship Initiative, including the development and publication of a supporting toolkit and guidance. This decision also requests to delegate authority to the Executive Director of Resources to approve the contractual documentation for the provider from this budget, once the procurement process has been completed.

The expenditure up to £273,000 is expected to be spent as per the table under section 1 of this MD and the profile spend it estimated to be as follows;

• 2017/18 - £4,500
• 2018/19 - £194,000
• 2019/20 - £50,000
• £24,500 contingency to be utilised if required over the 3 financial years.

The Corporate Contingency budget is to fund the expenditure up to £273,000 over the 3 financial years.

Activity table



Establish the initiative in the GLA Group

Jan-Jun 2018

Procure and commence contract managing consultants

Jan-Mar 2018

Manage the Launch Event

Mar 2018

Applications for first GLA Group Cohort

Jun 2018

Confirmation of participants

Sep 2018

First Cohort commences

Oct 2018

First cohort ends (TBC whether duration is 6 months or a year)


Mar- Sep 2019

Review and evaluation (dependent on end date)


Mar - Sep 2019

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