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.
With Diversity and Inclusion being a core pillar to Microsoft’s strategy of “Empowering every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more”, his team is accountable for overall strategic leadership, partnership and subject matter expertise to business leaders and HR Business partners, embedding the strategy and implementation of diversity and inclusion programs in all countries outside of the US, alongside measuring the impact and ultimate ROI.
Every person is diverse, and it is their inherent and acquired characteristics that bring value to an organisation. It is not just about those visible aspects of race, gender, age and so forth, but those invisible aspects of sexual orientation, identity, religion, social, industry or economic et al.
It is only by creating an environment where difference is not only accepted, but embraced and encouraged, that employees will be enabled to innovate and reach their maximum potential, as individuals, as a corporation and society as whole.
On a personal level, Roland is an openly gay leader, partner, father and an individual that embraces the challenges of mental health on a daily basis.
Cathy is the Human Resources Director for Nielsen UK & Ireland responsible for HR, Learning & Development and the UK apprenticeship programme. She is also a member of the Executive team and chairs the UK & Ireland Pension Committee.
A strong advocate for the value of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and the richness of talent that it brings, she founded and is now executive sponsor of MOSAIC (Multi-national Organisation Supporting An Inclusive Culture) a diversity and inclusion employee resource group focused on cultural inclusivity. She is also a member of the Nielsen Cares Global Council, a corporate social responsibility programme which connects employees to social causes and communities, promoting voluntary activities across diversity and inclusion, education, hunger and nutrition, and technology.
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 OBE, CCMI is an established Banker and currently the Director for Strategic Partnerships and Head of Business Inclusion Initiatives of Royal Bank of Scotland. Heather has over 30 years experience in financial sales and marketing roles in a variety of global organisations and is recognised as an innovator in the field. Her achievements include the sale of the first global payments licenses for major Asian & US Banks. In September 2016, Heather was appointed to the Board and as Chair of the Advisory Committee for ‘CMI Women’ at the Chartered Management Institute. Heather is also the Non Executive Director for Enterprise Enfield, a Government backed social enterprise.
Heather is a Diversity and Inclusion leader and the Founder and Global Chair of RBS Focused Women’s Network. She has been recognised in the Financial Times, in the 2016 Upstanding 100 BAME Executive Power List, 2017 EMpower 100 Ethnic minority leaders as well as the 2017 HERoes Top 50 Champions of Women in Business.
In 2017 Heather was recognised with an Order of the British Empire for her ‘services to Gender Equality’.
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 MBE | Senior Lawyer & Diversity Leader
Funke is a solicitor and senior leader for the world’s largest biotech company. Her team provides legal support to the organisation’s pharmaceutical operations in the UK, Ireland, Malta and Gibraltar. In addition, she also leads the financial compliance function for the UK pharmaceutical business.
Outside of her day job, she is a notable diversity campaigner, mainly focusing on campaigning for more gender equality, race diversity and social mobility within the legal profession and wider business community.
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 MBE |NSC Global| Senior Vice President
Tunji is multi-award-winning leader and Senior Vice President of sales at NSC Global, a professional and managed services organisation operating in over 100 countries. He previously held several senior leadership positions at tech giant Cisco during his 18-year career at the company.
Passionate about diversity in the workplace, science & technology (STEM) and social mobility, Tunji resides on the boards and councils of several organisations including Grant Thornton, techUK, Teach First and Regital.
Tunji has founded two social enterprises (Your Future, Your Ambition & Aspire2Achieve) that aim to educate, excite and motivate young people globally in considering careers in science and technology.
He supports many diversity, STEM and social mobility causes through his Ilesha Charitable Trust, making impact and long-term donations. Tunji is a patron of the autism charity CASPA.
In the Queen's 2018 New Year's Honours List, Tunji received an MBE for services to young people from ethnic minorities in Science & Technology.
Ruth Carter has forged a highly successful international career in the commercial events industry, where she has held senior executive roles in leading media organisations including UBM, Ascential and Informa. She has grown companies into significant and highly respected global businesses and personally launched operations into China, South East Asia, India, the Middle East, Europe and North and South America.
Ruth is currently Managing Director of Telegraph Events, a division of the Daily Telegraph, where she leads their vast portfolio of award-winning consumer and business events including the Ski and Snowboard Show, The Telegraph Festival of Business and the Telegraph Whisky Show.
She is passionate about her role as Non-Executive Director of Generation Success, the not-for-profit organisation which provides events, training, mentoring and work placements for highly talented, but less advantaged, young people.
She is a regular speaker at events, reflecting not only her long-standing involvement with international business development but also her passion for growing and developing talented individuals around the world. Ruth holds a degree in music from Trinity College of Music, London.
Vanessa Vallely | WeAreTheCity | MD
Vanessa is one of the UK’s most well-networked women and has provided keynotes on a variety of career related topics for over 400 companies worldwide. Vanessa is also one of the UK’s most prominent figures in gender equality and often provides guidance and consultancy to both government and corporate organisations who are seeking to attract, develop and retain their female talent.
At the height of her successful 25 year career in the financial services, Vanessa launched the award winning WeAreTheCity.com in 2008 as a vehicle to help corporate women connect and grow professionally and personally. WeAreTheCity.com now has over 60,000 members and in 2013 launched a sister site in India.
Vanessa is the also the -founder of UK wide diversity forum Gender Networks. Gender Networks (formerly The Network of Networks) brings together diversity leaders from over 120 firms to share best practice. Vanessa is the author of the book “Heels of Steel: Surviving and Thriving in the Corporate World” which tracks her career and shares 13 chapters of tips to succeed in the workplace.
Over the past seven years, she has been named Women in Banking & Finance’s Champion for Women, Financial News Top 100RisingStar, The International Alliance for Women Top 100 Women globally & Brummells Top 30 London Entrepreneurs. In 2015 Vanessa was in GQ UK’s Top 100 Connected Women and the Evening Standard’s 1000 Most Influential Londoners. Vanessa is a regular guest on TV and radio and also sits on the Government Digital Services advisory board.
Vanessa is also the Pearly Queen of The City of London, a tradition that has been in her family for over 100 years. She is an avid charity worker and sits on the board for Cancer Research UK as one of its Women of Influence.
Keynotes and workshops include The Power of Profile, The Power of Social Media, The Big Brand Theory, Speed Networking, Speed Mentoring, Pay it Forward Manage Your Career. Vanessa is also available as a panellist, facilitator and leadership development programme host. All talks can be tailored towards specific audiences.
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.’
Multi award winning Dr Miranda Brawn has a background as an investment banker and barrister having been one of the first women of colour on the trading floor in the 1990s. She is the Director of Legal and Transaction Management where she manages the legal risk for derivatives and regulations at Daiwa. Throughout her career, she has negotiated deals and legal contracts exceeding £5 trillion pounds. Outside of her day job, she is the Founder and CEO of the award winning Miranda Brawn Diversity Leadership Foundation blazing a trail for the next generation while helping to close the diversity gap across the globe. Her Foundation made UK history by launching the first race diversity lecture aimed at schoolchildren. Miranda has been named as one of the UK’s leading diversity champions and is a regular media expert on television and radio which include TV shows ranging from ITV’s Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast to Sky’s Sunrise News and BET’s Black Girls Rock across the globe.
Miranda's impressive list of credentials, dedication, hard work and commitment to finance, law, diversity and equality has earned her respect and admiration throughout the UK and on a global basis where she has regularly been named as one of the most influential persons by various annual “Powerlists”. These include Top 30 Global BAME Business Executive Leaders Powerlist (Financial Times), Top 100 Women in European Finance (Financial News) Top 30 Diversity Champions in the City of London (Brummel Magazine) and UK’s Top 10 inspiring females changing Britain (Metro) to name but a few. With a refreshing and diverse background, Miranda is an international public speaker, board advisor, equality commissioner and patron to a number of organisations, charities and governmental bodies.