First Black women in the boardroom initiative

woman in boardroom with slogan overlay
Woman in the boardroom: Miranda Brawn

A scholarship programme to increase the number of Black women in top roles in British companies and society opens today (1 March).

Lambeth equality commissioner Dr Miranda Brawn, a former vice chair and patron of Brixton’s Black Cultural Archives, said the first “Black Women on Boards” scholarship and an innovative “reverse mentoring” programme would celebrate International Women’s Day, 8 March.

The Miranda Brawn Diversity Leadership Foundation’s “Black Women on Boards” (BWOB) initiative includes a scholarship for full-time student leaders who are from a Black African and Caribbean heritage, including mixed race backgrounds.

The foundation will also launch new diversity leadership scholarships for “LGBTQ+” and “Disability” for 2021/2022 which will be open for applications from members of all races – Black, white and Asian.

The foundation website has further information and the scholarship application process opens on the first day of International Women’s Month – 1 March 2021. The process will close on 31 July this year. 

Miranda Brawn said the new initiative is designed to tackle to the lack of Black female directors at FTSE350 and Fortune 500 companies – the 350 largest UK and 500 largest USA companies.

The number of female directors at FTSE100 (the 100 largest UK) companies has increased by 50% in the last five years and, mostly white, women now hold more than a third of roles in the boardrooms of Britain’s top 350 companies, according to the Hampton-Alexander review.

Data from BoardEx, which collects information on senior executives, reveals that only around 3% of female board-level roles are held by women of Black, Asian or minority ethnic heritage in the UK’s 350 largest listed companies.

Recent research also highlights that, for the first time in six years, there are no Black chairs, chief executive officers or chief financial officers in the UK’s 100 largest companies..

“This data shows the scale of the challenge for companies to increase social and racial equity,” said Dr Brawn, who has worked as financial executive, lawyer, and board advisor, and is founder and president of the Miranda Brawn Diversity Leadership Foundation.

“There has been good progress promoting white women to the boardroom and in senior management positions.

“However, there is still a lot more work to be done to make sure that we include women from all ethnic backgrounds.

“This is the rationale for launching the ‘Black Women on Boards’ scholarship.

“We have also launched an innovative reverse mentoring programme, initially to cover business, finance, law and politics.

“This will complement our existing mentoring programme by allowing diverse students and our alumni leaders to act as mentors to senior leaders.

“Mentors will share their perspective and experiences and in doing so inform those making leadership and business decisions to help increase diversity, equity and inclusion.

“These will be leaders at the top of their profession who are CEOs of global organisations, judges, managing directors, board directors, members of parliament and so on – everyone can learn from each other.”

“For this year’s International Women’s Day, I would like to dare everyone to ‘choose to challenge’ with action not just on 8 March, but every single day.

“With collaborative efforts, we can increase the number of Black and mixed-race women in the boardroom and in senior management leadership roles.

“We all have a role to play in making a difference and pushing for progress.”