UK CEOs line up in drive to extend leadership diversity

Odgers Berndtson partners with charities to increase access to youth leadership initiative across under-represented groups

Odgers Berndtson is partnering charities for the first time to further widen access to its youth leadership talent initiative, CEOx1Day. They include the Social Mobility Foundation, disability charity Leonard Cheshire, Hire STEM Women and Girls In Science.

The new partnerships come as the firm today announces the CEOs line up for UK CEOx1Day 2020. Twenty-three CEOs will take part, from organisations ranging from Asos, ITV, Sainsbury’s, NISA Co-op and Visa to Cancer Research, Barnardo’s, BBC Children in Need, The Cabinet Office and TSB Around half the CEOs are themselves from under-represented groups by gender, ethnicity and disability.   

CEOx1Day is now open for applications from any young person studying at a university in the UK. Successful candidates will spend a day, one on one, shadowing CEOs from some of the most successful and best-known companies and organisations in the world.

Visa, TSB, Standard Chartered Bank and The Royal Mint head a notably strong representation from banking and financial services, where three of the four participating CEOs are women. This is significantly over-representative of leaders in the sector and illustrates their determination to help drive change.

Debbie Crosbie, CEO of TSB said: “It’s really important to show young people, and particularly those from less privileged backgrounds, the exciting opportunities and pathways that are available in financial services. It’s also a unique opportunity for me to connect with a young, talented individual and hear his/her views on our business.”

Business leaders from ethnic minorities and with a disability taking part include Javed Khan, CEO of Barnardo’s, Pam Maynard, CEO of Avanade, a leading digital innovator, and Neil Heslop, CEO of Leonard Cheshire, who lost his sight when young.

Neil Heslop said: “I am delighted to lend my support to initiatives like CEOx1Day, which I hope will help boardrooms represent the diversity of the modern world. We need more disabled leaders and there are still too many barriers preventing disabled people from rising to the most senior positions.”

“A strong sense of purpose is vital for leaders and organisations today,” said Kester Scrope, chief executive of Odgers Berndtson, himself one of the CEOs taking part in the UK programme. “Our firm is passionately committed to driving equality of opportunity and diversity in all its forms, and we’re proud to demonstrate this increasingly through CEO for a Day.”

This will be the third year that the UK firm has run CEOx1Day and the initiative is now also running across many of Odgers Berndtson’s international network of 29 countries, including Australia, Canada, South Africa and Singapore. In Europe, Finland, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands are taking part.

The UK, however, is breaking new ground by working with external partners. Mark Freebairn, who leads CEO for a Day in the UK, said. “This has always been about widening access, and we’re proud that in the UK around half our winners to date have come from less well-represented groups. Now, with help from our partners, we’re challenging ourselves to raise that still further.”

The firm is able to call on support also from some of the previous UK winners of CEO for a Day. Among this year’s partners, for instance, is Girls In Science, a charity dedicated to encouraging and supporting young women in science careers. It was set up by Lakechia Jeanne, who studied biomedical sciences and was a winner in the 2017 UK CEO for a Day.

Learn more about the programme