Charlotte Steventon (2)

October 13, 2020

Posted by Home (ENG)

Let’s celebrate black leadership.


October is Black History Month in the UK, an event that has been celebrated nationwide for more than 30 years. It is an apt time to reflect and learn about the contributions of influential black leaders past and present who are experts in their field. Here are just a few…


Tessa Sanderson – Olympian

“Tessa by the age of 16 had already won her first javelin championship. By 1976 she had earned her spot in her first Olympics Games. Meanwhile, she also participated in the Commonwealth Games – in the heptathlon, an event with seven elements (100-metre hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200 metres, long jump, javelin throw and 800 metres), and in 1981 she became the top British woman heptathlete. Tessa’s biggest moment came in 1984 when she won a gold medal for Great Britain at the Olympics in Los Angeles. This made her the first British woman to win Olympic gold in the heptathlon, and the first black British woman to win an Olympic gold medal”.[1]


  1. Paul Stephenson – Activist

“Paul resided in Bristol, and witnessed the racism that many Caribbean immigrants were experiencing. The Bristol Omnibus Company, for example, refused to employ black or Asian drivers. Inspired by the work of civil rights activists in the United States, Paul called for a bus boycott, which lasted 60 days. On 28 August 1963, the same day Dr King gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, the bus company announced it would hire black and Asian drivers. Paul didn’t stop there. In 1964 he was refused service at a pub because he was black. In protest, he decided to stay until he was served. He was arrested, and the trial received media attention, forcing Britain to confront its racism. In 1965 the Race Relations Act was passed, making racial discrimination illegal in public places, and Paul’s work helped pave the way for it”.[i]


3.Edward Kobina Enninful OBE – Editor

Enninful is a ground-breaking figure in modern black history. “He was confirmed as the new editor-in-chief of British Vogue on 10 April 2017. Although the magazine is almost a century old, he is its first black, and first male, editor. Prior to this, Enninful was fashion and style director at W Magazine before making the unusual transition from stylist to editor. Aged 18, he was the youngest fashion director ever for an international publication, i-D. He also holds an OBE for his services to diversity in fashion”.[ii]

  1. Magnus Djaba – CEO & Global president

Magnus Djaba is a successful and innovative business leader. “He is the global president of the world’s most famous advertising agency, Saatchi & Saatchi. Renowned for campaigns such as T Mobile’s “Life’s for Sharing”, he also helped to establish Kevin Bacon as the face of EE. Since Djaba joined as London CEO in 2011, revenue at Saatchi & Saatchi has grown by 50%”.[2]


  1. Baroness Lawrence – Activist

“Baroness Lawrence tirelessly campaigned for police reform after her son, Stephen, was murdered at a bus stop in South East London in 1993. She was awarded an OBE in 2003 for services to community relations and appointed Baroness in 2013. In April 2014, she was named as Britain's most influential woman in the BBC Woman's Hour power list”.[iii]


  1. Aderin-Pocock – Space scientist

“Aderin-Pocock is a space scientist and space educator. She is also an Honorary Research Associate of University College London's Department of Physics and Astronomy. Since 2014, she has co-presented the long running astronomy TV programme The Sky At Night. In 2013, she was named on the UK Power List as one of the UK's most influential black people”.[iv]


  1. Sam Gyimah – Politician

Gyimah has had an impressive career in modern politics. Following his name being added to the Conservatives' A-List, he was selected as the prospective parliamentary candidate for East Surrey and elected at the 2010 general election. He then became a minister for education and played a key role getting bills through parliament. Before his political career, he worked at Goldman Sachs and was an entrepreneur. He studied PPE at Oxford, where he was elected the first black president of the Oxford Union in 50 years.[v]


Lets not forget…

Although these individuals have hit great heights, it is vital to remember that overall, ethnic minorities are still heavily under-represented at management level. A Business in the Community (BITC) report, Race at the Top: Revisited, found just 54,900 of the 3.9 million managers, directors and senior officials in the UK are black.[vi] This means that black employees hold just 1.5 per cent of top management roles in the UK private sector, a figure that has increased just 0.1 percentage points since 2014.[vii] According to the report, there has been even less progress on black representation in the public sector, where the number of black employees in leadership roles remained static at 1 per cent over the same period.[viii]

In this time of celebration, it is important to recognise that as society, we must do better. We must improve our diversity and inclusivity.