How one woman is helping to build a more inclusive environment at Virgin Atlantic

Patrice Mantey
Image from Leon Csernohlavek
Clare Kelly
by Clare Kelly
1 January 2020

Patrice Mantey is both the joint venture senior manager at Virgin Atlantic and leader of the company’s reverse mentoring programme – an initiative that is ensuring more experienced executives are paired with, and mentored by, younger employees.

The cohort of mentors is currently made up of eight employees from across the business, each bringing a unique perspective with regards to religion, sexuality, race and ability. 

A main aim for Patrice and her fellow mentors is to expand the programme and ensure that more Virgin Atlantic leaders explore areas that are unfamiliar to them. According to Patrice, “This is important so that when change happens in the business, the implications to different underrepresented groups are better known and understood. Ultimately, the hope is that this scheme helps to build a more inclusive and therefore diverse organisation.”

Patrice became the company's first mentor at the end of 2018 and in early 2019 was recognised in EMpower’s Top 50 Future Ethnic Minority Leaders for helping to launch the programme.

“I was truly humbled to be included on the list, especially with the calibre of other leaders and the fantastic work that they have done in this space,” she says. “This was a pivotal movement for me and for the business as it was clear that our scheme was an amazing start. However, there is still so much more to do. It made me realise how much my small effort was able to contribute to something monumental. It encouraged embrace being an agent of change.”

This isn’t the first programme Patrice has helped to drive forward at the company – she arrived at Virgin Atlantic in June 2017 to lead finances for the Commercial Directorate and was soon nominated to head up the Talent Development Group for the Finance Department.

“The Talent Development Group had two key objectives,” she says. “The first was to ensure that, as a leadership team, we gave the right level of focus on reviewing individuals in our teams so that we were able to gauge performance, development needs and also have conversations about succession planning. The second objective was to set up the first Finance Apprenticeship Scheme. We had a really strong apprentice lead in HR and we were able to build the programme to satisfy the requirements for and able to utilise the apprenticeship levy. Our first apprentices have just started!For many people, this would be enough. For Patrice? Not so much. She also facilitates Virgin Atlantic’s women’s development programme, Springboard. 

“I love it!” she says. “The facts are clear – within organisations, women are under-represented at senior levels. There are a number of reasons for this, but one area that we can clearly work to develop is the confidence of women in all levels of the organisation. Springboard is our first step towards this. Over the course of four months, the four-day programme gives women a safe group in which to discuss and challenge themselves. The aim is to build assertiveness and confidence to better equip women in the organisation to be braver about pursuing opportunities at work and also in life.”

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