Board Chairs of the Future - mentoring scheme: end of scheme report

Evaluation report for a mentoring project to develop a pipeline Board Chairs of the future for public bodies in Scotland from groups currently under-represented at Board Chair level. This covers the iteration of this project which ran from August 2019 to November 2020.


This report considers the iteration of the mentoring project for potential Board Chairs which ran from August 2019 to November 2020.

This report is drawn from the responses to an end of project survey and feedback gained from each workshop and other analysis.


The Scottish Government is committed to addressing under-representation of people with protected characteristics on the Boards of public bodies in Scotland, and to seeing Boards benefit from a wide range of diversity and talent. Work to achieve more diverse boards has had notable success in the percentage of women on boards. Women now make up 50% of all appointees. Improving the diversity of Board Chairs has been slower to change, as we continue to improve the diversity of members it is anticipated that a more diverse talent pipeline for Chair positions will naturally develop however this project aimed to assist the pace of change.

Data on Board Chair diversity as at 30 November 2020 is in Appendix B. A discussion of the data is at Appendix C.

Outline of the process

Board Chairs were approached to nominate talented existing Board members, particularly from groups currently under-represented at Chair level (using the Census 2011 results as a benchmark): women, disabled people, people from an ethnic minority background, young people and LGBO people. A number of Board Chairs volunteered to act as mentors for the scheme. Other Board Chairs were recruited by direct approaches.

The demographic profile of mentees shows that there was a good representation from groups with protected characteristics which are currently under-represented in the Boards of Scotland's public bodies[1].

The next step was to match mentors (Chairs) and mentees (members). This matching was done on the basis of participants' location and where possible, individuals were matched with someone from a public body in a sector different to their own public body (for example a Chair from a justice sector Board being matched with a Board member from a health sector Board). Twelve mentoring relationships were established for this iteration of the project.

Once the matching process was completed, introductory emails were sent to all participants with contact details for the person they had been matched with in order for introductory conversations to take place and electronic copy of the mentoring manual was shared with participants.

A workshop was held to bring together those involved in the project and to formally introduce them to the scheme. Participants were asked why they wished to be a part of the scheme, to begin thinking of the skills and knowledge they wished to develop whilst being part of the scheme, and to discuss the strategies required to be an effective Board Chair.

To support the project, manuals were developed for mentors and mentees using the lessons learnt from the pilot project. These bespoke manuals were developed by Robert Boyter from the Scottish Government's Public Appointments Team with input from Duncan Wallace, Public Appointments Adviser with the Ethical Standards Commissioner who is also a mentoring coach.

Pace of the scheme

Board members and their mentors (Board Chairs) met at regular intervals. The frequency and structure of these meetings was purposefully left to the mentor and mentee to agree what worked for them (for example, whether face to face, virtual or by telephone). Some chose to develop whole learning plans, some had the opportunity to shadow Board activity as part of their learning. Each mentor/mentee relationship developed their own style which was driven by the learning needs of the mentee.

A catch-up workshop was held in February 2020. This workshop was an opportunity for participants to discuss the skills, tactics and insights that make an effective Board Chair of a public body in addition to practice development.

The Covid pandemic and the response to this has impacted on the project. Some mentoring partnerships were paused temporarily in order to concentrate on the work of individual Boards. As a consequence, the length of the scheme was extended from August 2020 to November 2020.

To support the scheme, two virtual coffee sessions were held in June 2020 and September 2020. This allowed mentors and mentees to get together informally, to check in with each other, to have a space to discuss how things were going and to share experiences, as one mentor described, in a 'safe space'.

To bring the project to a conclusion a workshop took place in November 2020. This allowed participants to review how things had gone and to reflect on lessons learnt and change in relation to chairing and leading organisations in the future post-Covid. It provided a space for thoughts on how the project had gone and any lessons learnt.


Number of mentees: 12

Number of mentors: 12

Start of the scheme: 1 August 2019

Conclusion of the pilot: 26 November 2020



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