By Hannah McCormack
Manpreet Gill has always possessed a strongly rooted belief system when it comes to representing women, ethnic minorities and working parents.
As a Civil Servant, Policy and Economics lead, working for Ofwat, the 42-year-old has long been passionate about creating opportunities within the workplace that will provide a mind-set shift for young people, to show them what is possible for their futures, which is why she is such an ardent advocate of Shadow Boards and the benefits they create.
For Manpreet, her application to the UK Boardroom Apprentice programme was based on her core values and purpose. As a working parent herself, it was important for her to be able to represent and advocate for women, ethnic minorities and working parents, all too aware of the very real danger of individuals discounting opportunities for themselves, for some nondescript reason and not considering positions being right for them, she wanted to do her bit by taking positive action to help address this, and allowing a wider variety of individuals to see themselves reflected on boards.
She explained: “I think representation is really important. I think often people get imposter syndrome because they don’t see themselves reflected. They might not realise it, but subconsciously it feeds into that syndrome.”
As a working mum and after her five-year career break, she spoke of the challenges she had to overcome: “There was no government returnship for me to join to help me regain the confidence to re-enter the professional workplace. I had to be my own cheerleader and I was coming back into a non-junior role, while having to learn ways of working for myself. I know all too well this can create imposter syndrome, from my experience, I have realised that there is a skilled but untapped talent pool that needs to be explored.
“I think my purpose was representing younger people, people of colour, women, parents and perhaps those that have had a career break like me. So I wanted to represent, because there is an incredible power in that.”
Boardroom Apprentice is a unique board learning, development and placement programme which enables those who would like to serve on a public or third sector board to learn and gain the experience that they need to take that step.
It seeks to enable a wider diversity of individuals to play their part within boardrooms, allowing those without board experience to enhance their knowledge and understanding through in-depth learning and support. Manpreet feels the best solutions come from diversity of thought, so benefits are very real.
Speaking about why she applied to the UK Boardroom Apprentice programme, she said: “At the time one of my graduates had asked me about getting more access to strategy in the organisation I work in and I realised there wasn’t a very good platform available for a whole range of people and junior people to get involved in strategy. So I had this idea of setting up a shadow board in my organisation.
“I wanted to apply for UK Boardroom Apprentice because it felt like the programme was based on the same values and purpose as I was motivated by, so when I came across it, it really spoke to me and I went for it.”
Originally from West London, having been brought up there in a working class background, now living just on the other side of the M25, Manpreet was placed with the London-based Theatres Trust where she is apprenticing and participating on the executive committee, attending council meetings and also has the opportunity to attend the charity committee meetings.
Boardroom Apprentice prides itself on the support system for those taking part in the programme, ensuring that everyone feels welcome and comfortable in their new role.
“It’s been lovely being with the organisation because what’s been evident to me is they hold such high ethical values and are great advocates for the Trust. It’s been lovely working with the trustees – they’ve been warm, open, I’ve learnt lots from them already and lots of them have shared things about their journey and that’s been super interesting.
“I’m apprenticing on the executive committee, I attend the council meetings and I’m also going to be joining the fundraising committee, so I’ve had access to lots of different forums and I’ve learnt a great deal from them all. I have been able to ask questions outside of these forums to my boardroom buddy, who has been invaluable to me in the experience .”
“I think timing is a challenge – balancing things with a busy family, full-time job, learning, and also being on the board itself, that is a challenge. But what I would say is it’s really worth going the extra mile.
“You get so much from it, so you might have to challenge yourself on your own timekeeping, doing things in your own time at the weekend, maybe late at night after you’ve put the kids to bed, but I’d say it’s really worth it.”
For those thinking of applying to Boardroom Apprentice, this is Manpreet’s advice: “Just do it. Go into it wholeheartedly and soak it all up and take from it as much as you can because it will really add to you as a person, as an individual.
“It’s worth feeling uncomfortable because you realise all the value you can get from actually expanding your comfort zone.”
Applications for the programme are open to people of all ages, from 18+, and all backgrounds and abilities.