by Leila Thomas, CEO and Founder, Urban Synergy

Happy International Women’s Day? I’m never quite sure if this is a day to celebrate or commiserate.

As we inch towards a more equitable society, ONS figures show that women still earn 7.7% less than men, and according to research by the Runnymede Trust* for Black Caribbean women that figure rises to 18% .

The Runnymede Trust also reports that “75% of women of colour have experienced racism at work, and 61% report changing themselves to ‘fit in’.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is ‘inspiring inclusion’, and as ever, the charity I founded in 2007 – a Dynamic Planner partner – will be celebrating the female role models and mentors who make us a beacon of progress, optimism and, on so many occasions, joy.

Help us create the “C-Suite” excellence of tomorrow

For those who don’t know Urban Synergy, we’ve worked tirelessly with some 27,000 young people aged 9-24 to help them access education, degree apprenticeships, and work.

Active across London and the UK, we connect those young people to inspirational role models (such as Parris Small, a Software Engineering Analyst at Goldman Sachs, shown) in the form of mentors who they can relate to, who help the young individuals gain access to education, internships and work experience.

Then when they’re ‘work ready’ we connect them to companies that want to nurture and employ the next generation, particularly in the communities in which they operate.

In other words, we help young people write their own futures. We couldn’t have done it without the support of people like Ben Goss, CEO of Dynamic Planner, who was one of our founding role models, mentors, and corporate board members as part of his passionate support for inclusive business.

Today his company has the pick of Urban Synergy’s raw talent, young people who are bright, unique and hungry to succeed.

As Ben argued in the FT in February, Diversity and Inclusion is a supply and demand issue, and on the supply side, the continued challenge is that too few people from diverse backgrounds see financial services as a career path for them.

In his own right, Ben can today celebrate that his highly successful team is made up of 45 per cent women and non-binary colleagues.

This team speaks 27 different languages, and 43 per cent are non-white, while 10 per cent are LGBTQ+ and 21 per cent identify as neurodivergent.

A trailblazer role model

If you follow Urban Synergy on LinkedIn and Instagram, you will see our many female role models, mentors and their mentees. Like us they are inspired by trailblazers such as Ben who make their workplaces more inclusive and accessible.

You’ll also see the mentors who helped young women like Perrine Beckley shown in this image make it to Oxford University with confidence.

That’s when the joy kicks in. So often we learn that an Urban Synergy mentor is being invited to a young person’s graduation, or that the individual they’ve supported has been offered an apprenticeship or a job where they can build a career.

We’re lucky enough to be celebrating the 30th birthdays of four young men who began their journey with Urban Synergy in 2009. Their teachers at Deptford Green School feared they were at risk of exclusion and would fail to reach their true potential.

You can see their stories in this short video. Today they hold these roles:

Gavin Kamara – SEO Manager at CMC Markets
Kofi Siaw – Vice President at HSBC Innovation Banking
Chad Orororo – Sound Fx Editor/Sound Designer (Freelance)
TJ M.Jaiyeola – Relationship Manager at Transaction Network Services

So yes, turn on the news, and you can see that the three evils of war, racism and poverty are ever present in this world. However, on International Women’s Day, we certainly have something we can all celebrate.

If you would like to experience the joy of becoming a mentor, or want to partner with Urban Synergy to make your business more sustainable and attract young people to financial services, contact us.. You can also donate here.