That was 2018…

Over the course of 2018 I have had the opportunity to think through what I most care about and how most practically I can make a difference. My passion is greater social mobility, which I see as a short-hand term for people having the opportunity to make progress in their lives.  Education is a key driver of opportunity to progress and being included is a pre-requisite for taking advantage of any opportunities so consequently education and inclusion became the principal themes of the year for me.

Alongside the work I do on a continuous basis with various organisation I have picked out a few highlights from 2018 – in no particular order.

In April I took part in one of Andy Woodfield’s Colour Brave car pool interviews – see above.  Andy and I go back a long way in PwC and have both played significant roles in pushing the firm’s diversity and inclusion agenda.  In this 18 minute clip (which summarises an hour long drive around central London) we explore some of the issues around ethnicity in the work place and why so little progress has been made in getting an equal share of opportunities for people from ethnic minorities. It is a subject close to my heart and I talk a little about my own experiences and the criticality of leading people in an inclusive way. 

At an NCS event at Kingston University

In October I was appointed a board member of the National Citizen Service Trust Royal Charter Trust. Around half a million young people have undertaken NCS in the last few years and the programme is currently taking around 100,000 participants per year (representing 1 in 8 of those of that 16-17 year old age group). It has proven benefits in building confidence in young people, increasing the aspirations of those from disadvantaged background and promoting greater levels of community engagement. 

In September I returned to my old school, Trinity School of John Whitgift in Croydon, to help them promote their bursaries. This assistance enables young students (like me age 11) to undertake journeys like the one I’ve been on for the last forty years. Trinity also kindly published an article about my NCS appointment.

In the Marshall Quadrangle (never allowed in as a pupil!) at Trinity

Also in October I was included by Green Park in their BAME 100 list of leading black and ethnic minority people in business. I’ve been included in various such lists before but this was the first recognition of this type since I left PwC.

In November I spoke at the launch of the Women Count report at the London School of Economics.  The event was sponsored by the recruitment consulting firm Perrett Laver.  The report draw attention to the extent of progress being made in relation gender diversity in boards, executive positions and senior academic posts in Higher Education. Actually the HE sector has got further than the corporate sector on this issue but it seems to do pretty badly in relation to ethnic diversity. I hope that next year we will be taking about a similar report, this time though flagging the lack of ethnic diversity in HE. 

Asian Media Group invited me to speak at the GG2 Diversity Conference – spoke on aligning strategy with culture on a panel with Sanjay Bhandari, interviewed by Clive Myrie of BBC. This is a subject that I would like to return to in 2019. We’ve tried rules, law changes, compliance and various forms of coercion to get people to accept diversity and promote inclusion, but it is probably good to recognise at this stage that sadly most of that hasn’t work. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” as they say. 

In June Julia Streets interviewed me and James from Janus Henderson about efforts to get greater diversity into financial services in particular. In November this was published as a podcast for DiverCity.   

This autumn Anthony Heath and colleagues from the Centre for Social Investigation at Nuffield College, Oxford, published a new book examining social progress in Britain since the second world war. I’ve been involved as an Advisory Board member at CSI for the last three years and as ever there is plenty of rigorous analysis from Anthony and the team looking at how well we are doing in key areas such as health, avoiding unemployment, eradicating poverty.  

In October the second annual Social Mobility Awards were held by my good friend Tunde Banjoko OBE, long standing CEO of the employability charity Making the Leap. I was pleased to act as a member of the judging panel and even more pleased that sponsorship has now been received to ensure that the awards will continue next year.

One of the great things about mentoring is that you get to celebrate the achievements of your mentees.  The advent of the KPMG black entrepreneurs award is a good example – it being the brain-child of my friend Olu Odubajo who convinced the firm’s managing partner that this was something that KPMG should support. It was great to hear the proportions from the young black entrepreneurs and to see three of them rewarded with a small cash prize but more importantly support and advice from the firm over the next year.

Another mentee of mine, Mandy Anukam, achieved a lot last year including representing the UK and EU and the youth versions of the G7 and G20 conferences in Canada and Argentina respectively.

In the first quarter of the year my old friend Binna Kandola published his new book, Racism at Work: the danger of indifference. This raises some really challenging and important issues about the very real barriers that still exist in the workplace for many people. The book explores the roots of stereotypes and prejudices and in particular challenges those who think the problems of racism are in the past.

This was also the year that I met Ifey and Emeka the founders of Chuku’s restaurant which I believe is going to be big in 2019 when they get to open their first permanent site after three years of successful pop-ups around London. I became an investor in the company and look forward to more of their great Nigerian-inspired tapas food later in the new year.

It is always a pleasure to discover a new outstanding school here in south London and that was certainly what happened when I was introduced to Bonus Pastor College and asked to speak at their annual prize giving evening.