The National Diversity Awards

2019 Judges

Celebrating Unity in Society

Fiona Daniel

Fiona is passionate about inclusion in business and the development and progression of all individuals. She specialises in mentoring and supporting BAME professionals in the workplace be that in the private, voluntary or public sector.

Her passion and advocacy for BAME inclusion led her to establish the HSBC UK Embrace Network in 2012. She is dedicated and vocal in her passion to drive for more inclusive behaviours to be demonstrated to all and works tirelessly for the implementation of a holistic approach to include systems, processes and behaviours and has successfully driven inclusion in her own organisation.

She is a highly sought after speaker, panellist and thought leader, who has consistently demonstrated her commitment to drive change. She is open to sharing her passion, creativity, ideas and practical real solutions to make impactful change.

Paul Sesay | The National Diversity Awards | Founder & CEO


Paul Sesay is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the National Diversity Awards, Excellence in Diversity Awards, The Diversity Group and events company I Spoil U Media Limited since 2006. Paul’s business acumen has mainly been with a social focus.

With over ten years worth of experience within the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion sector, Paul has worked with some of the largest organisations in the world on their diversity and inclusion profiles. He has also worked within local communities to help people from various backgrounds to achieve and empower disadvantaged groups throughout the UK. Paul’s initiatives have helped many thousands of organisations and individuals get recognised for their hard work and dedication to diversity.

Cathy Earle | Nielsen | HR Director, UK & Ireland

Cathy is the Human Resources Director for Nielsen UK & Ireland responsible for HR, Learning & Development and the UK apprenticeship programme. She is also a member of the Executive team and chairs the UK & Ireland Pension Committee.

A strong advocate for the value of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and the richness of talent that it brings, she founded and is now executive sponsor of MOSAIC (Multi-national Organisation Supporting An Inclusive Culture) a diversity and inclusion employee resource group focused on cultural inclusivity. She is also a member of the Nielsen Cares Global Council, a corporate social responsibility programme which connects employees to social causes and communities, promoting voluntary activities across diversity and inclusion, education, hunger and nutrition, and technology.

Charlene White | British TV News Anchor for ITV News


Charlene is a Journalist and Presenter who’s worked in print, TV and radio as a reporter, producer and broadcaster – both in the UK and abroad – for over 15 years. She can currently be seen presenting across ITV News, including News At Ten and Evening News at 6.30pm. She also regularly writes pieces online for The Guardian Newspaper, hosts award ceremonies, galas and events for corporate clients as well as acting as a mentor for various youth charities and social enterprises, a patron for Bowel Cancer UK and a school governor.

Ash Palmisciano | TV Actor Emmerdale

Ash Palmisciano is best known for playing Matty Barton in Emmerdale. He is the first transgender actor to play a transgender character in Emmerdale. Ash has also worked for the RSC and was the first transgender actor to appear on the RSC stage. Other credits include Summer In London at Theatre Royal, Stratford East and Boy Meets Girl for the BBC. 

Roland White | Microsoft | Global Director for Diversity & Inclusion, GSMO


With Diversity and Inclusion being a core pillar to Microsoft’s strategy of “Empowering every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more”, his team is accountable for overall strategic leadership, partnership and subject matter expertise to business leaders and HR Business partners, embedding the strategy and implementation of diversity and inclusion programs in all countries outside of the US, alongside measuring the impact and ultimate ROI. Every person is diverse, and it is their inherent and acquired characteristics that bring value to an organisation. It is not just about those visible aspects of race, gender, age and so forth, but those invisible aspects of sexual orientation, identity, religion, social, industry or economic et al. It is only by creating an environment where difference is not only accepted, but embraced and encouraged, that employees will be enabled to innovate and reach their maximum potential, as individuals, as a corporation and society as whole. On a personal level, Roland is an openly gay leader, partner, father and an individual that embraces the challenges of mental health on a daily basis.

Heather Melville OBE, CCMI | PwC Director & Head of Client Experience

Heather Melville OBE, CCMI is an established Banker and currently the Director for Strategic Partnerships and Head of Business Inclusion Initiatives of Royal Bank of Scotland. Heather has over 30 years experience in financial sales and marketing roles in a variety of global organisations and is recognised as an innovator in the field. Her achievements include the sale of the first global payments licenses for major Asian & US Banks. In September 2016, Heather was appointed to the Board and as Chair of the Advisory Committee for ‘CMI Women’ at the Chartered Management Institute. Heather is also the Non Executive Director for Enterprise Enfield, a Government backed social enterprise.

Heather is a Diversity and Inclusion leader and the Founder and Global Chair of RBS Focused Women’s Network. She has been recognised in the Financial Times, in the 2016 Upstanding 100 BAME Executive Power List, 2017 EMpower 100 Ethnic minority leaders as well as the 2017 HERoes Top 50 Champions of Women in Business.

Asif Zubairy | ITV | Commissioning Editor, Entertainment

Asif is currently Commissioning Editor, Entertainment for ITV. His entry into TV followed stints as a junior feature writer for IPC Magazines, news agency court reporter and News Editor for The Voice newspaper when it started in 1982. He started in TV as a researcher in 1984 and since then has worked in every programme genre including Factual, Sport, Religion and Childrens’. As a producer, he’s worked on some the world’s biggest formats: ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, ‘Big Brother’, ‘The Biggest Loser’, ‘Australia’s Got Talent’, ‘Dancing on Ice’, ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ and ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’. He’s been Director of Programming for the Paramount Comedy Channel, Director of Original Programming for Walt Disney Branded Television and Head of Entertainment for Australia’s Nine Network.

 Funke Abimbola MBE |  Senior lawyer, business leader and diversity campaigner


Funke is a multi award-winning performance-driven Senior Executive offering 18 years’ comprehensive achievements across the not-for-profit, manufacturing, professional services, financial services, technology, biotech, healthcare and retail disciplines. Her experience has been gained within niche ventures, regional and national businesses and global, multinational organisations.

She has leveraged her business acumen across diverse cultures & economies and been recognised for business & operational leadership, change management, compliance & governance leadership in both full time & voluntary C-suite roles. She also has proven success in relationship-building & stakeholder engagement (including working closely with UK Central government), leading productive, engaged teams & driving impactful corporate & societal change.

She is ranked by the Financial Times as being a top 15 minority ethnic leader across the UK, US, Ireland & Canada, a top 20 influencer in British Society (Debretts 500 directory) and one of the top 100 most influential leaders of African/Afro-Caribbean descent in the UK (2017 and 2018 Powerlists). She provides regular media commentary on a range of topics including business and diversity and feature regularly across a number of the BBC's TV and radio channels.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May awarded her 'Point of Light' status in 2016, recognising the positive impact of her voluntary diversity work outside her day job.

In June 2017, she was awarded the M.B.E. (Member of the Order of the British Empire) by HRH Queen Elizabeth II for services to diversity in the legal profession and to young people.

Jake Graf | Writer/director/actor, trans advocate


Jake Graf is a writer, director and actor based in London known for ‘The Danish Girl,’ ‘Headspace’ and ‘Colette’.

Aiming to elicit positive change and understanding through the medium of film, Jake has written and directed 6 award winning LGBT themed films. The last, ‘Headspace’ went viral, amassing 4.5 million hits. All are used as educational tools in universities, media events, and hospitals worldwide.

Jake’s latest film, ‘Dusk’, has won 11 Best Short Film awards so far, and the feature length version is in development.

Jake is an active and visible member of the transgender community, speaking internationally on trans issues, particularly in relation to film and media. He is a patron for the Mermaids Charity, working with transgender children and their families, and an ambassador for the British LGBT Awards, Ties for Love, and the BeingMe campaign.

Hannah Graf MBE | British Army | Officer


Hannah is a Captain in the British Army. She commissioned in 2010 and since that time has commanded soldiers across the world including in Germany, Canada, Kenya and Afghanistan. Hannah is also a transgender woman and her personal story of transition captured the imagination of the nation in 2015. A true advocate for equality, she used her public profile to promote a realistic portrayal of transgender individuals in the UK, becoming an inspiration to many.Outside the Army she acts as Patron for the charity Mermaids and is an ambassador for LGBT Sport in Wales. Her work in diversity has won her several accolades including Cosmopolitan Woman of the Year, an honorary fellowship from Cardiff University and an MBE in the 2019 New Year’s Honours List. She is also Stonewall’s  2019 Transgender Role Model of the Year.

Tunji Akintokun MBEPwC | Director and Head of Sales, UK


Tunji is multi-award-winning leader and former Senior Vice President of sales at NSC Global, a professional and managed services organisation operating in over 100 countries. He previously held several senior leadership positions at tech giant Cisco during his 18-year career at the company.

Passionate about diversity in the workplace, science & technology (STEM) and social mobility, Tunji resides on the boards and councils of several organisations including Grant Thornton, techUK, Teach First and Regital.

Tunji has founded two social enterprises (Your Future, Your Ambition & Aspire2Achieve) that aim to educate, excite and motivate young people globally in considering careers in science and technology.

He supports many diversity, STEM and social mobility causes through his Ilesha Charitable Trust, making impact and long-term donations. Tunji is a patron of the autism charity CASPA.

In the Queen’s 2018 New Year’s Honours List, Tunji received an MBE for services to young people from ethnic minorities in Science & Technology.

Ruth Carter | Daily Telegraph | Managing Director of Telegraph Events

Ruth Carter has forged a highly successful international career in the commercial events industry, where she has held senior executive roles in leading media organisations including UBM, Ascential and Informa. She has grown companies into significant and highly respected global businesses and personally launched operations into China, South East Asia, India, the Middle East, Europe and North and South America.

Ruth is currently Managing Director of Telegraph Events, a division of the Daily Telegraph, where she leads their vast portfolio of award-winning consumer and business events including the Ski and Snowboard Show, The Telegraph Festival of Business and the Telegraph Whisky Show.

She is passionate about her role as Non-Executive Director of Generation Success, the not-for-profit organisation which provides events, training, mentoring and work placements for highly talented, but less advantaged, young people.

She is a regular speaker at events, reflecting not only her long-standing involvement with international business development but also her passion for growing and developing talented individuals around the world. Ruth holds a degree in music from Trinity College of Music, London.

Vanessa Vallely | WeAreTheCity | MD


Vanessa is one of the UK’s most well-networked women and has provided keynotes on a variety of career related topics for over 400 companies worldwide. Vanessa is also one of the UK’s most prominent figures in gender equality and often provides guidance and consultancy to both government and corporate organisations who are seeking to attract, develop and retain their female talent.

At the height of her successful 25 year career in the financial services, Vanessa launched the award winning in 2008 as a vehicle to help corporate women connect and grow professionally and personally. now has over 60,000 members and in 2013 launched a sister site in India.

Vanessa is the also the -founder of UK wide diversity forum Gender Networks. Gender Networks (formerly The Network of Networks) brings together diversity leaders from over 120 firms to share best practice. Vanessa is the author of the book “Heels of Steel: Surviving and Thriving in the Corporate World” which tracks her career and shares 13 chapters of tips to succeed in the workplace.

Over the past seven years, she has been named Women in Banking & Finance’s Champion for Women, Financial News Top 100RisingStar, The International Alliance for Women Top 100 Women globally & Brummells Top 30 London Entrepreneurs. In 2015 Vanessa was in GQ UK’s Top 100 Connected Women and the Evening Standard’s 1000 Most Influential Londoners. Vanessa is a regular guest on TV and radio and also sits on the Government Digital Services advisory board.

Vanessa is also the Pearly Queen of The City of London, a tradition that has been in her family for over 100 years. She is an avid charity worker and sits on the board for Cancer Research UK as one of its Women of Influence.

Keynotes and workshops include The Power of Profile, The Power of Social Media, The Big Brand Theory, Speed Networking, Speed Mentoring, Pay it Forward Manage Your Career. Vanessa is also available as a panellist, facilitator and leadership development programme host. All talks can be tailored towards specific audiences.

Dr Yvonne Thompson CBE

Has worked for the last 35 years, in the Communications, Marketing and PR industry. During this time she has advised corporates, public sector, educational establishments and government, as a campaigner supporting women and minorities in business, and championing equality and diversity, particularly in the workplace.  

In 2003 she received a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for her work with small business, women and minorities.  In 2005 from London Metropolitan University, and in 2015 from Plymouth University she received doctorates for work in Global Diversity and Enterprise. 

In 2015 she published her first book, “7 Traits of Highly Successful Women on Boards” promoting greater gender diversity in corporate board rooms.

Noting the similarities in inequality between race and gender, and working with future leaders in corporates she contributed to the recently published Parker Review for Minorities on Boards.

Simon Green | Bridgend Coalition of Disabled People | Chair

Simon Green has twice been a shortlisted nominee for the Positive Role Model Award for Disability, and has now been invited onto the Judging Panel for the prestigious National Diversity Awards. Describing the 2013 and 2015 ceremonies as ‘life changing’, Simon has continued to carry out his phenomenal work in the diversity arena.

Simon has a neurological condition called Neurofibromatosis and has been a wheelchair user since 2003. Chair of Bridgend Coalition of Disabled People and Trustee for Disability Wales, Simon’s main work over the last decade has been to raise awareness about the effects of hostility and hate crimes against the disabled community.

Simon is also passionate about many other issues that effect disabled people and all strands of equality, he said ‘I cannot wait to read about the great work being done across the UK to raise awareness and improve the lives of many different diverse groups.’

Supported Charity for 2019

National Diversity Awards

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