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Paul Cleal OBE is Vice Chair of Kingston University and also sits on the boards of a number of great organisations, including Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and the National Citizen Service Trust. Before this, Paul spent 16 years as a partner for Big Four professional services firm PwC. As a young man with African heritage, born in 1966 and brought up in a single-parent household in Croydon, Paul faced many challenges growing up, including being attacked whilst playing football. Although he’s seen racial discrimination first hand, Paul believes socio-economic disadvantage is the biggest challenge to social mobility, because without money, second chances don’t come easily, and hard times are more difficult to recover from. Having received help and support throughout his life to achieve his list of incredible successes, Paul chooses to give back by mentoring young people, and believes diversity and inclusion need our full attention. In this conversation he explores ways we can address issues around education, equality and representation. One major concern Paul highlights is the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on organisations, as he worries they may put their social mobility and diversity strategies at the bottom of the pile while they focus on the immediate financial future. 
Melanie Richards is deputy chair of KPMG UK and has been a board member since 2012, working to set its strategic direction. She was recognised in the 2018 UK Social Mobility Awards for an outstanding contribution to social mobility, an experience that was unexpected, humbling and emotional. Though she’s proud of the award, in this inspiring conversation she explains how she’s not in it for the recognition - that it’s enough just to make a difference in the lives of others. Melanie explores the divide that still exists between the haves and the have nots, and says it’s everyone’s responsibility to shift the status quo. Remaining positive about the progress being made, she does add that the world has seemingly created a linear path for people to follow, and it’s time we move away from that, break out of our tired way of thinking, and put more emphasis on a person’s ability, rather than their background. Melanie is also an advocate for women’s equality, an area of the agenda she believes is making positive strides forward, and is hopeful for the future. She says the time for “good intentions” is over - that inclusion needs to be purposefully built into the structure of our organisations and communities.
David Martin is a corporate mergers and acquisitions partner at the Magic Circle law firm, Llinklaters, and also the company’s global head of diversity. David grew up in Pembrokeshire in south west Wales, one of the country’s poorest regions, and so his story of becoming a lawyer highlights perfectly the benefits of positive social mobility. He’s tasked with figuring out how to make one of the most socially exclusive careers historically into one that is inclusive. He says his firm is changing conventional perception, with a number of its young lawyers coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. In this fascinating conversation, David explains the specific measures he’s taking to encourage diversity. Highlighting the benefits of these measures, he explains how the company’s reverse mentoring scheme allowed him to experience the firm through the eyes of a visually impaired employee – the direct result of this led him to changing the office environment to improve her quality of life. Success for David is to see companies no longer needing diversity and inclusion schemes, and he says that’s the future he’s working towards.
Laura Hinton is head of people at professional services firm PwC. She’s responsible for setting and delivering the company’s ‘people strategy’ in the UK and is an executive member of the board. Laura implements her passion for diversity by working with global clients to support them with culture change, performance management and talent related challenges. In this inspiring conversation, she recalls her “unremarkable upbringing” on a council estate with no big expectation or ambition to live a different life, being told by her careers advisor to apply to supermarkets – and how her life changed when she decided to apply to university. Laura is a strong believer in role models and how large companies have a duty to invest in their communities and young people, and explains how PwC is evolving the conversation to focus as much on inclusion as diversity, to create a stronger and fairer workforce for the future.
Fiona Hathorn is the CEO of Women on Boards UK, an organisation which helps people achieve success at leadership level. With a network of 30,000 members, the organisation has helped more than 1,800 people onto boards. Her own board positions include a role as non-executive director at Spktral, a technology company which helps organisations to simplify the gender pay gap reporting process. Fiona says she charts a great deal of her success down to her parents. Because her father’s mother was the main breadwinner, he raised Fiona without the usual biases that suggest men should earn more and achieve higher positions than women. She’s carried this confidence and belief with her throughout her life, and wants others to know there’s no limit to their abilities by removing arbitrary barriers. Inspired and motivational, Fiona explores the power of community support in achieving social mobility, challenges the concept of meritocracy, and explains the importance of role models. In this conversation she empowers you to open your mind to a role in the boardroom, a place where you can make real change in an organisation, by setting its culture, strategic vision and environmental policies.
Anna Smee is the new CEO of Youth Futures Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation set up in 2019 to help disadvantaged young people find employment. Previously she was chief executive of national charity UK Youth. Anna’s approach to social mobility is simple; she believes all young people should be helped to reach their potential, with access to support, networks and opportunities to find meaningful employment. In this episode, Anna describes the pressures felt by disadvantaged young people to choose a career path without access to the kind of support many people take for granted. She talks about the importance of the social development journey as young people transition from childhood to adulthood, and argues that everyone deserves a fair chance in life, regardless of their background, gender or race. She sets out the ambition for Youth Futures Foundation in finding, funding and evaluating projects that really work, and points out that it’s not just about upskilling young people, there are policy and structural changes which need work too. She also talks about the importance of working in partnership to achieve lasting change, to improve youth employment opportunities so that she can look back in ten or twenty years’ time and see significant change for the better.
Professor Binna Kandola OBE is co-founder of Pearn-Kandola, a business psychology firm with a focus on diversity & inclusion in the workplace. Binna has been named one of the UK’s Top 10 Business Psychologists and has authored many books, notably a series which focuses on the unconscious, gender and race biases within organisations. In this in-depth and informative interview, Binna takes us through his career journey and what has motivated him to spend over 30 years in business psychology. He explains and discusses the unconscious, gender and race biases, which, as part of our natural experience, can be very damaging to our society if it leads to the wrong conclusions. Binna breaks down the stereotype of gender and race differences, and explains the benefit to organisations, which diverse groups of employees can make. To Binna, an improved state of social mobility, diversity or inclusion in our society starts with transparency and accountability. Responsibility will be crucial in delivering that.
Lucy Martin is a weather presenter for the BBC. She is the first visibly disabled weather presenter at the BBC, and took on the role after completing a programme to help disabled people to kickstart their careers. Lucy is a role model for disabled people wanting to pursue their passions, and an advocate for improved diversity in the workplace. In this in-depth interview, Lucy reflects on her experience of growing up with one arm and the impact it has had on her career. She recognises that although her experience has been positive, there’s still a lot to do – and explains why better representation of disability in the media is needed. Her vision for improved access for disabled people in the workplace is by achieving a level playing field, not through highlighting a person’s disability and treating them as ‘special’, but by firms being more inclusive so disabled employees can access the same opportunities as those who are not. 
Dame Martina Milburn is the chair of the Social Mobility Commission. Her vision for the UK is that we can “live in a society where people have choices about the way they want to live their lives”. In this episode, Martina discusses her career, starting in journalism, becoming head of The Prince’s Trust and then moving on to lead the twelve members of the Social Mobility Commission. Her career has given her first-hand insight into the difference charities make to individuals around the globe, stressing the importance of fee-free, high-quality education in improving people’s quality of life. While discussing the “gloomy” nature of this year’s ‘State of the Nation’ report, Martina describes the hurdles the SMC faces in making change happen – and says although its work may not produce instant results, action must be taken now to prevent further erosion of social mobility in the UK.
Jon Cruddas is MP for Dagenham, Rainham, South Hornchurch and Elm Park. During his time as deputy political secretary to Tony Blair, he helped introduce the minimum wage, and played a key role in improving a number of socio-economic issues in the UK. He’s also been hugely involved in trade union reforms and improving workers’ rights. Jon comes from a large family who benefited from being socially mobile, and believes the lack of social mobility has actually become worse over time, and says we're going backwards when it comes to access, life chances, and routes to equality. In this open and frank discussion, Jon delves into his own life and the road to becoming an MP, explores the problems caused by a lack of access for some to higher education, and shares his hopes for a national living wage and fairer tax justice.
Sir Ian Powell is the chairman of Capita and former senior partner at PwC. In this episode, he talks about why, when it comes to social mobility, it’s important for leaders to set the right example to create a motivated workforce. His mantra in all of his roles, he says, is simply to ‘do the right thing’. As the first member of his family to graduate, Sir Ian says he was lucky to be offered the chances he did, considering his background, and while he believes there’s more awareness of social mobility these days, he’s not sure much progress has been made to improve it over the years. Sir Ian also talks about his chairmanship of the charity PoliceNow, his work on the board of the Old Vic theatre, and his support of the charity Wellbeing of Women.
Carys Roberts is chief economist at the Institute for Public Policy Research. She heads up the IPPR’s Centre for Economic Justice, which was set up because they believe the UK’s economy needs fundamental reform. The centre offers radical and practical advice on how to achieve that reform. During this incredibly informative chat, Carys talks about the need for greater taxes on wealth, and why inheritance shouldn’t purely be a luxury of the wealthy. She explains the vastly different impacts that economic policy decisions have on people of all backgrounds in society, and shares her thoughts on how to tackle the UK’s race pay gap.
Sir Kenneth Olisa is the first black Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London, chair of the Shaw Trust charity and chairman of Restoration Partners. He has more than three decades’ senior business experience, and was knighted in the 2018 New Year’s Honours List for services to business and philanthropy. In this fascinating discussion, Ken talks about being brought up in a single-parent home in the backstreets of Nottingham, and how the kindness of strangers propelled him to his current position. A strong believer in always accepting help from others and in giving back, Ken says it's his responsibility as a role model to share his story.
Kwame Kwei-Armah is the artistic director of the Young Vic in London. An actor, writer and singer, he previously led the World Festival of Black Arts and the Center Stage in Baltimore. He received an OBE for his services to drama in 2012, and the Urban Visionary Award in 2016. In this in-depth conversation, he shares his early memories of racial injustice, from playground division to watching Roots and tracing his ancestry to find a name that “represents the tribe we originate from”; describes the challenges of changing the notion of theatre from high arts to popular pastimes so that everyone has access; and explains how telling stories through a “cultural lens” results in socially relevant productions that truly matter to the community.
Justine Greening is MP for Putney, Roehampton and Southfields. She has held a number of posts in government, including Minister for Women & Equalities and Secretary of State for Education. Upon returning to the backbenches in 2018, she established the Social Mobility Pledge, a scheme aimed at broadening social mobility and opportunity in Britain. In this in-depth conversation, she reflects on her own experience of “climbing up the career ladder” from a working-class background, describes education's role in “firing up children's imaginations” about the wider world, and explains how the social mobility pledge is helping to close the achievement gap by encouraging employers to value talent over connections.
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