The National Diversity Awards 2014 Winners

Direct Line GroupJennifer Thomas | Direct Line Group Head of Internal Communications & Experience

Jennifer entered the world of communications within the IT industry, but then moved onto financial services. With over 20 years’ experience in PR, starting at Lloyd’s of London, she advanced her career within the insurance sector to Head of Financial Communications and more recently as Head of Internal Communications & Experience at Direct Line Group. She is also a leading diversity champion within Direct Line Group. Through her role as Chair of the Gender & Working Families strand, her aim is to move diversity and inclusion up the boardroom agenda and encourage businesses to see the benefits of a truly diverse workplace.


Andy Woodfield | PwC Partner

Andy is the Lead Partner for the International Aid Development Consulting Practice in PwC. Working primarily with the Department for International Development (DFID) and other international donor organisations, they use the Global network of PwC member firms and associated subject matter experts to improve the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable in the world.

Andy is also the sponsoring Partner for the firms inclusive business network - GLEE @PwC. This is an inclusive business network for gays, lesbians and everyone else, it’s open to everyone including clients and those in extended networks and you don't have to be gay or lesbian to join it, you just need to be passionate about valuing and exploring difference as something we all have in common.


Dr Yvonne Thompson CBE 

For the last 30 years, Yvonne Thompson, as an entrepreneur has worked  in the Communications, Marketing and PR industry. During this time she has advised corporates, public sector, educational establishments and government, developing a stellar reputation as being an activist and a campaigner for supporting women and minorities in business, as well as tirelessly championing equality and diversity, particularly in the workplace.  

In 2003 she received a CBE in Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II Birthday Honours List for her work with small business, women and minorities.  In 2005 she received a doctorate for her work with women and minorities in small businesses and supporting entrepreneurs from London Metropolitan University, and in 2015 she received her second doctorate for work in Global Diversity and Equality from Plymouth University. 

In 2015 she published her first book, “7 Traits of Highly Successful Women on Boards”. A book promoting greater gender diversity in company board rooms.

Noting the similarities in inequality between race and gender, and working with future leaders in corporates, she is keen to further put the spotlight on the invaluable social impact that inclusivity, diversity and leadership skills bring to the empowerment and advancement of minorities across the UK and globally.


Paul Sesay | The National Diversity Awards Founder & CEO

Paul Sesay is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the National Diversity Awards, Excellence in Diversity Awards, The Diversity Group and events company I Spoil U Media Limited since 2006. Paul’s business acumen has mainly been with a social focus.

With over ten years worth of experience within the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion sector, Paul has worked with some of the largest organisations in the world on their diversity and inclusion profiles. He has also worked within local communities to help people from various backgrounds to achieve and empower disadvantaged groups throughout the UK. Paul’s initiatives have helped many thousands of organisations and individuals get recognised for their hard work and dedication to diversity.


Heather Melville OBE | RBS | Director of Strategic Partnerships

Heather Melville was appointed as the Director for Strategic Partnerships in 2013, a role that will see her leveraging her vast global client relationships together with her sector specialism, especially within the Retail and Textile industry.

A graduate of the IBM business school, together with a wealth of international experience secured over a 37 year career in the world of finance, with the last 7 years primarily focused on the SME client base, positions her in a strong place to meet the evolving global challenges of our clients.


Asif Zubairy  | ITV Commissioning Editor, Entertainment

Asif is currently Commissioning Editor, Entertainment for ITV. His entry into TV followed stints as a junior feature writer for IPC Magazines, news agency court reporter and News Editor for The Voice newspaper when it started in 1982. He started in TV as a researcher in 1984 and since then has worked in every programme genre including Factual, Sport, Religion and Childrens’. As a producer, he’s worked on some the world’s biggest formats: ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, ‘Big Brother’, ‘The Biggest Loser’, ‘Australia’s Got Talent’, ‘Dancing on Ice’, ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ and ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’. He’s been Director of Programming for the Paramount Comedy Channel, Director of Original Programming for Walt Disney Branded Television and Head of Entertainment for Australia’s Nine Network.


Funke Abimbola FRSA | Roche Senior Lawyer & Diversity Leader

Funke is a solicitor and senior leader for the world’s largest biotech company.

Currently the most senior black lawyer in her field, she is ranked by the Financial Times as being one of the top 20 BAME (black and minority ethnic) leaders internationally  (UPStanding100 2016 Powerlist) and one of the most influential leaders of African/Afro-Caribbean heritage in the UK (The Powerlist).

A multi award winning solicitor and diversity leader, she has received both national and international recognition for her legal and diversity work. She won the Gender Role Model Award at the 2015 National Diversity Awards. She is an experienced public speaker, speaking regularly about her personal journey to large audiences ranging from school children to senior professionals including regularly speaking in Parliament. She holds a number of board-level voluntary leadership roles across a range of different diversity organisations, including being a Committee member of a House of Lords-based diversity recruitment drive. She also appears regularly on BBC 1 as a news reviewer.

Funke is a proud working mother, an expert mentor and sponsor, passionate about the law, diversity, education and healthcare. She is a regular media commentator, a keen fundraiser for various charities (including Cancer Research UK) and has twice served as school governor and as a board director. She recently founded the Akindolie Medical Scholarship in memory of her father, Dr. Frank Olufemi Akindolie. This is a privately funded bursary and leadership mentoring initiative aimed at supporting future UK doctors from a minority ethnic background.

In October 2016, Funke was honoured with a ‘Point of Light’ award by UK Prime Minister Theresa May and the UK Cabinet Office, recognizing the outstanding positive impact of her voluntary diversity work in improving workplace diversity and in supporting the next generation of future leaders.


Jake Graf | Director, Writer and Actor

Jake Graf is a director, writer and actor based in London known for Dawn (2016), Chance (2015), The Danish Girl (2015), and Brace (2014).

Jake is an active and visible member of the transgender community, speaking internationally on trans issues, particularly in relation to film and media. He is a patron of the Mermaids Charity, which works with transgender and gender non conforming children and their families, an ambassador for The British LGBT Awards, and was also involved in Stonewall's successful campaign to include the transgender community in their political lobbying and campaigning.

Jake also aims to make change through the medium of film, and his first film, XWHY, which he wrote, directed, produced and starred in, was nominated for The Iris Prize. He used his own transition to depict the physical changes of the fictional transman in the film, which was a first, and garnered much critical praise.
Brace, his second screenplay, deals with issues of homophobia, gang violence, gender identity and self-acceptance. Both Brace and XWHY have been used as educational tools in universities, media events, and hospitals UK wide.

His third film, Chance was one of 5 films selected to take part in the British Film Council's pioneering project #FiveFilms4Freedom, in association with the BFI, to promote tolerance and understanding worldwide.

His fourth short Dusk touched on themes of disability and transphobia, won multiple Best Short Film awards and was released on Peccadillo Pictures' latest Boys On Film DVD, the only film in the collection with a female lead.

Jake's latest film Dusk, starring Duncan James and Elliott Sailors, is just launching on the international festival circuit. He has just written and starred in 8 part LGBT web series 'Spectrum', launching March 2017, is starring in upcoming LGBT drama series 'Different For Girls', and is currently writing his second feature film screenplay.


Tunji Akintokun | Cisco Director

Tunji is a Director at Cisco covering the mid-market customer and channel partnerships for Africa. Based in London he has held several leadership positions across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Russia and CIS during his 18-year career at the company.

Passionate about diversity in the workplace and encouraging more diverse talent in pursuing careers in Science and Technology, Tunji sits on several boards and councils in the UK including the education charity Teach First, techUK, Grant Thornton (Vibrant Economy Commissioner) and Raise Tech (co-chair) a professional network for people of colour in the UK tech sector.

As well as being a STEM Ambassador visiting schools, Tunji is also a patron of CASPA, a charity for autistic children and a non-executive director at Regital, a global digital marketing company.

He was the founder of the award winning social enterprise “Your Future, Your Ambition” which aims to inspire, excite and engage diverse talent in pursuing careers in Science & Technology (STEM).

Tunji holds a Master of Science Degree in Information Systems from London Southbank University and completed his executive education at both Wharton and Stanford Business schools.

He was a torchbearer at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics in recognition for his work in Diversity and STEM.


Simon Green | Bridgend Coalition of Disabled People Chair

Simon Green has twice been a shortlisted nominee for the Positive Role Model Award for Disability, and has now been invited onto the Judging Panel for the prestigious National Diversity Awards. Describing the 2013 and 2015 ceremonies as  ‘life changing’, Simon has continued to carry out his phenomenal work in the diversity arena.

Simon has a neurological condition called Neurofibromatosis and has been a wheelchair user since 2003. Chair of Bridgend Coalition of Disabled People and Trustee for Disability Wales, Simon’s main work over the last decade has been to raise awareness about the effects of hostility and hate crimes against the disabled community.

Simon is also passionate about many other issues that effect disabled people and all strands of equality, he said ‘I cannot wait to read about the great work being done across the UK to raise awareness and improve the lives of many different diverse groups.’


Dr. Rob Berkeley MBE | BBC | Senior Leadership Development Placement 

Award-winning busybody, recovering academic and reformed social reformer, Rob currently plies his trade advising the BBC on accountability. Impatient with injustice and exasperated by wasted potential, he volunteers on the boards of Baring Foundation, and Britdoc Foundation, has previously served on the boards of Stonewall, Equality and Diversity Forum and the Oxford Access Scheme, and been Chair of Naz Project (NPL) and BGMAG. He was Director of the Runnymede Trust 2009-14, and now leads the editorial team of community journalism platform, BlackoutUK.com. Alongside his academic writing on education, social justice and community organizing, he has presented and co-produced short form documentaries, and written for The Guardian and The Independent on racial justice. His current obsession with innovations in media technology and their potential for social justice means that he watches a lot of TV/film and calls it ‘research’. Dr Berkeley was awarded an MBE in 2015 for services to equality.