List celebrates ethnic minority role models in business


One hundred ethnic minority executives, 50 future leaders and 15 advocates in the UK, Ireland, mainland Europe, the US and Canada have been recognised as outstanding role models by the ethnic diversity organisation EMpower.

Topping the list of ethnic minority executives is Karen Blackett, WPP UK Country Manager and Chairwoman of MediaCom UK. Claudine Adeyemi, an Associate at law firm Mishcon de Reya LLP, heads the list of Ethnic Minority Future Leaders and David Tyler, Chairman of Sainsbury’s, is the first person to be awarded top place in the inaugural EMpower Advocates list. The EMpower Ethnic Minority Role Models 2018 are presented by the FT.

Karen Blackett [pictured] was recognised for her energetic work to increase diversity in the media industry.  During the five years she was CEO at Mediacom the percentage of  ethnic minority employees rose from 11% to 20%. She also launched an apprenticeship scheme for 18-24 year olds at MediaCom and an initiative called Inclusion@MediaCom, an internal programme which has covered authenticity, the ‘glass wall’ holding women back at work and mental health and wellbeing. She has also contributed to raising diversity issues externally, for instance, as president of industry charity NABS, she helped to organise their Diversity Panel and she is currently co-chair of the Advertising Industry Diversity Taskforce. In 2015 she was appointed as one of four external advisors to help diversify the Civil Service, championing race.

Claudine Ayedemi led the sub group for ethnicity and social mobility within Mishcon de Reya LLP’s Diversity Committee.  She is also a mentor to startups on the firm’s tech incubator, co-leads the Women in Law series and has organised and hosted events at the firm – from insight days for BAME school leavers to launch events for The Student Development Co’s initiatives. Claudine founded The SDC which focuses on providing career related support to 16-24 year olds from less privileged backgrounds, around 85% of whom are BAME. As part of this she developed a mobile app called Career Ear to provide further support. She is also an active senior member of The Law Collective which provides support to black aspiring lawyers and puts pressure on the industry to tackle racism.

David Tyler has been recognised for the visibility he has given diversity issues and his role as co-chair of the Parker Review looking into the ethnic diversity of UK boards.

EMpower points out that:

  • the FTSE 100 currently has only five ethnic minority CEOs
  • the Parker Review found in 2017 that, of the 1,050 director positions in the FTSE 100, only 85 were held by people from ethnic minority backgrounds
  • UK citizens from ethnic minorities make up 14% of the population but only account for 2% of director positions.
  • Fifty-one of FTSE 100 companies have no people from ethnic minority backgrounds on their boards.
  • Barely 3% of the most powerful, prominent 1,000 people in Britain are from ethnic minorities

Suki Sandhu, EMpower Founder, said: “Role modelling is fundamental to ensuring equality of opportunity and more inclusive workplace cultures. Those who have achieved personal success have a responsibility to inspire the next generation of ethnic minority leaders, and those featured on our lists are more than living up to it. Through these lists we hope to encourage individuals and businesses to stand up and work together to drive change in our society and workplaces – doing so will inspire the diverse leaders of tomorrow.”

Karen Blackett added: “Talent should be recognised in all forms and I am grateful that this list shines the light on a number of amazing executives who are game changers.”

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