I was born and raised in London and have spent my whole career working in finance within the City, starting at the tender age of 18 years old. My career has progressed in an unconventional way from an operations analyst to hedge fund sales trader and now senior banking lawyer. Today, I have a portfolio career, which also includes board advisory for different types of organisations.
Over the years, I have been an international public speaker, given interviews for various media publications and television and radio shows, and have written articles on the topic of diversity and how this can help our workforce and overall economy. In 2003, I chaired a black networking group for the world’s number one US investment bank at the time. I wanted to redress the representation of black people in senior roles within the banking industry. At the time, the investment bank had just one female managing director of colour who became my mentor and sponsor. She helped me to become one of only a handful of vice presidents of colour within the bank.
Diversity has improved over the years, especially compared to when I first entered the City. However, we need to focus on speeding up the process in order to increase the numbers for gender and race and other strands such as social mobility, age, LGBTQ+, disability and so on. It was while speaking at a gender diversity event in UK Parliament that I decided to focus on a different approach to help instigate change.
I came up with the Miranda Brawn Diversity Leadership Foundation where the initial goal was to have more ethnic minorities across the UK workforce at senior levels. This has now broadened to include all forms of diversity strands. When I launched the Foundation in January 2016, it was initially to help raise awareness of and act upon the racial diversity gap via one self-funded scholarship. I was receiving hundreds, if not thousands, of emails from young people asking for mentoring advice and work experience. This gave me the idea to launch a diversity lecture to help educate and empower our next generation. There were lots of support for diverse employees once they had entered the workforce but not enough for those who were still at school or university.
The Foundation was born from my idea of innovative scholarships and a diversity lecture, which made UK history for being the first of its kind in 2016. Over the past four years, I have managed to gain significant support from some of the most powerful people across the UK including Rt Hon John Bercow MP and former Lord Mayor of London Dame Fiona Woolf, one of our patrons. Race diversity has become a topic that everyone in the industry is more comfortable to address now, however, we still have a lot of work to do.
My main argument for diversity and equality is that it was necessary to increase company profits while providing morale and fairness. That said, we also have to change the culture of organisations who promote diversity by making them more inclusive in order to keep talented women and minorities. Middle management diversity training is going to be key in order for this to work.
The Miranda Brawn Diversity Leadership Foundation has now helped approximately 50,000 young people, with 40 scholarships being awarded this year so far. The Foundation has helped our next generation of leaders across the UK workforce, including the City of London, to succeed in their educational and career choices while helping to close the diversity gap.
Last year, we launched additional scholarships for women’s empowerment, social mobility and age inclusion. We have also partnered with other charities and organisations because our motto is “Together We Can Change The World.” I have been very fortunate to be able to speak all over the world at various schools, universities and industry conferences with senior government officials. I also did a TED x Women Modena talk in Italy back in December 2018, where I discussed how we can change the world together by getting our next generation and men involved to help close the diversity gap. I was delighted at the positive response, including my first requested autograph as soon as I left the stage, which made me chuckle.
My mother was my first mentor and worked in the City for two decades from the 1970’s. Her invaluable experience and help has been key. This is why I encourage young (and older) people to get a mentor. It is useful to have someone in your organisation who knows the rules, who can be your sponsor to help and support you in order to rise up the career ladder.
One of the best pieces of advice I have been given from one of my first workplace mentors and a great friend, Mr Robin Saunders, who sadly passed away recently, was to treat your career like a marathon and not a sprint. He was a great leader who really cared about the progression of his mentees and employees at the bank. We need more of that today in the workplace as another form of helping to increase diversity in the workplace.
Next year the foundation will be five years old so we are starting to plan celebrations for this. I am also writing my first book, which is due to be published in late 2020. I look forward to seeing what the rest of 2019 has in store for me and to ensure that I leave room for some more magic.
Dr Miranda Brawn has spent more than 20 years working in finance within the City of London. She worked her way up the career ladder from operations analyst and sales trader to senior banking lawyer while blazing a trail to inspire the next generation of leaders to succeed. She is now head of derivatives on the legal side at an investment bank, and is the founder and CEO of The Miranda Brawn Diversity Leadership Foundation – a charity aimed at helping the next generation to succeed in their education and career while aiding diversity. Her upcoming book will highlight her journey in more detail and provide further tips for success.