Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
7:30 PM 13th March 2017

15 Diverse Teen Students Chosen To Launch 'Junior Board' In Leeds

Charlotte Sweeney OBE
Charlotte Sweeney OBE
Award-winning, Harvard recognised Diversity & Inclusion expert and author Charlotte Sweeney OBE launched the 'Creating Inclusive Cultures' Junior Board today with 15 teenage students from diverse backgrounds in Leeds. The Junior Board is a Senior Leadership Programme designed to give young people from diverse backgrounds direct experience with board level leaders within high profile organisations including DWF, Pinsent Masons and Direct Line. It will be a pilot programme launched initially in Leeds in partnership with non-profit social enterprise Ahead Partnership, as part of Sweeney's 'Creating Inclusive Cultures' initiative.

It will see the participating young people attend three sessions at the offices of DWF, Direct Line and Pinsent Masons. The final session will see them meet and interact with senior leaders from over ten companies directly. The fifteen candidates aged 14-15 have been selected from several Leeds secondary schools and will take part in three specially designed sessions that will give them access to a large employment pool in the Leeds City Region.

The programme has two main purposes:

Future diverse talent -Sharing their perspectives with senior leaders as well as increasing their awareness and confidence. It will also enable the students to gain core employability skills around leadership, resilience, team-building and communication, as well as prepare them for employment
Employers - They will be introduced to diverse talent and gain insights from the future workforce, so they can consider how their culture, practices and processes need to change to attract and retain talent.

Charlotte Sweeney OBE said: "I dedicated much of my life to championing universal social mobility and the benefits of a diverse workforce in business, so I'm delighted to launch the Junior Board as part of my CIC programme. After the successful launch of the pilot in Leeds, my plan is to roll out across the UK's regions. With the release of the recent Baroness Ruby McGregor Smith report, it is clear the huge economic case for change for a truly Diverse and Inclusive workplace. My mission is for the Junior Board to create further opportunities for young people from diverse backgrounds to get into business."

Stephanie Burras CBE, Chief Executive of Ahead Partnership, said:
"We're thrilled to be working on this pilot with Charlotte to give more young people the opportunity to make their voice heard at the top level. Our future workforce are a precious resource that businesses know they can learn well from - and this project is sure to develop the candidates' confidence and other key employability skills for the future."

There are few people who can also include being recognised by Harvard University with a Global Leadership Award, a book 'Inclusive Leadership' that is a 'manual for inclusion' as well as an OBE for services to Diversity in their resume, but then Charlotte Sweeney is far from average. A thought leader in her field with a peerless reputation, Charlotte's track record includes working for Blue Chip companies in the Financial Services sector for 25 years (Barclays, Barclays Capital, HBOS and Nomura International), before creating her own consultancy.

Driven by a pure desire for justice and fairness in a society which becomes increasingly divided, Charlotte's early years were spent growing up in a working class community in West Yorkshire. Charlotte's specialised work through 'Creating Inclusive Cultures' in large-scale change programmes with a focus on inclusion, engagement and wellbeing for over 15 years, meant that when UK Secretary of State Dr. Vince Cable needed an independent review on the Voluntary Code for Executive Search firms in relation to getting more women onto boards, Charlotte was the woman he called on. 'The Sweeney Report' is now widely referenced.

"Charlotte Sweeney advised me and my department when we made a push to increase the representation of women on boards during the Coalition Government. In particular she produced a good, forensic, analysis of recruitment consultants and designed a Code of Conduct to improve practice. Overall we made genuine progress on the diversity agenda and Charlotte was a key factor," said: the Rt Hon Sir Vince Cable, Former Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.