Inspirational Women 2020: City leaders

Brummell's 2020 list of the City's most Inspirational Women showcases 10 of our most remarkable past recipients

People 23 Nov 2020

Baroness Helena Morrissey
Margarita Skarkou
Selina S Sagayam
Dr Miranda Brawn Esq

In recent years, the City of London has undergone considerable positive change, to become a place where creativity, diversity and ambition can really shine. For more than a decade, Brummell magazine has celebrated pioneering women at the forefront of change in the City, through our annual Inspirational Women feature.

These pages highlight the women who inspire others with their infectious attitude for overcoming challenges, and who prove innovation and determination are key to business success. Not only are these women successful in business, they are creating new ways of working and thinking to tackle issues, such as gender equality and diversity, and are taking responsibility for ‘firsts’ within their companies and beyond, to be innovative thought leaders in their respective fields. In this issue, we pay tribute to Inspirational Women by showcasing 10 of our most remarkable past recipients, and find out how their lives and careers have changed over the years, and the most important things they have learned along the way.

Baroness Helena Morrissey DBE (pictured above)
Non-executive director, St. James’s Place Wealth Management, and lead non-executive director at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

Brummell Inspirational woman, 2012

Married with nine children, Morrissey has more than three decades of experience in financial services, including 15 years as CEO of Newton Investment Management, stepping down in 2016 after 15 years, having seen the firm’s assets under management grow from £20bn to £50bn, and profits quadruple. In 2010, she founded the 30% Club, resulting in representation of women on FTSE 350 boards rising from less than 10% to over 30%. She also chairs the Diversity Project, and is a trustee of gynaecological cancer charity, Lady Garden Foundation.

She was appointed a Dame in 2017 and entered the House of Lords in September 2020. She considers one of her biggest achievements to be her first book, A Good Time to be a Girl, which was described by Forbes magazine as one of the five most empowering books for women in 2018. She also posts career dressing advice on Instagram and is one of LinkedIn’s ‘Top Voices’.

Her biggest learning is how hard it is to really overcome ‘groupthink’. ‘People subscribe to the principle of diversity of thought – until there’s disagreement,’ she says. ‘That just makes me more determined to keep challenging, and to keep highlighting the dangers of shutting out dissenting views.’

Virginie Maisonneuve,
Founder, MGA Consulting

Brummell Inspirational woman, 2010

Maisonneuve has over 30 years’ experience in global asset management working in Asia, Europe and the USA. Acknowledged as an expert in China, she introduced one of the first China equity funds to US investors in the early 1990s.

Since being featured in the list in 2010, she has grown a lot as a leader, and is currently heading consulting group MGA, focusing on supporting asset management teams and firms in the global financial ecosystem to pivot towards sustainability. In her latest investment role as CIO at Eastspring in Singapore she was overseeing over US$220bn across all asset classes. Before this and after Schroders, where she was head of global equities, she was managing director, CIO-Equities at PIMCO.

During the past 10 years she has supported groups such as the International Crisis Group (UK) and the Future of Finance at the CFA Institute as an advisory council member. She has also supported diversity and sustainability via her roles as chair
of the CFA UK Women’s Network and as a founding member of the Bloomberg Women’s Buy-side Network in Singapore.

Her biggest achievement during this period has been cultivating a growth mindset to succeed in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world, learning to combine focus and purpose with a multifaceted approach to leadership. 

She believes, ‘Innovation and sustainability are critical to creating meaningful impact for stakeholders in the asset management ecosystem.’

Gina Miller
Co-Founder, SCM Direct, and Campaigner

Brummell Inspirational woman, 2016

Miller launched her fifth business, SCM Direct, in 2009, as a disruptive digital investment manager founded on ethics, honesty and transparency.

Campaigning-wise, since featuring on the list in 2016, 2017 and 2019, she has brought and won the two most significant UK constitutional court cases in the Supreme Court for 400 years. She also drafted legislative text for two EU directives that came into force in 2018, granting millions of investors and pensioners the right to see all their fees and charges in one total number.

During the first Covid-19 lockdown she launched, a free and secure digital memory box service enabling people to leave messages to loved ones. She also campaigned for the UK government to bring in emergency provisions that would update the 1837 Wills Act to make it easier for people to make their wills using video conferencing and digital signatures.

In addition, she is campaigning for the government to bring forward the Online Harms Bill in 2021, and establish an online regulator so that social media and online fundraising platforms cannot act with impunity. Her autobiography, Rise: Life Lessons in Speaking Out, Standing Tall & Leading The Way was published in 2018.

She proves that ‘one person, one voice can create change by maintaining a laser-like focus and having tenacity’.

Margarita Skarkou (pictured above)
VP and Founder Member, sustainability and ESG at Barclays Ventures

Brummell Inspirational woman, 2019

Skarkou leads strategy development and investments at Barclays Ventures, with a focus on ESG – sustainability, clean growth tech and healthy ageing in particular. In addition to sitting on the Next Generation (NED) advisory board, she has been part of the Global Thinkers Forum development committee and Barclays’ Green Banking Council. She is recognised as a Woman Future Leader by McKinsey, Rising Start by Target Jobs, Barclays Future Leader and Young Leader by the president of the Hellenic Republic for her work at the Greek Economic Forum.

Since featuring on the list in 2019, she has been reading a lot of non-fiction and working on a couple of exciting start-ups, initially as a mentor and more recently as co-founder, focusing on wellness, sustainable fashion and fast-evolving consumer spending/purchasing patterns. Her biggest achievements during this period include working on a partnership between Barclays Ventures and Innovate UK on healthy ageing and developing a sustainability and clean growth investment strategy.

The past year has been about resilience and learning to deal with ambiguity and curve balls in a more constructive way. ‘I’ve been incorporating positive habits and behaviours into my day,’ she says. ‘I hope I have also learnt how to be a more effective remote manager, leader and mentor.’

Selina S Sagayam (pictured above)
Partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher London office

Brummell inspirational woman, 2018

Sagayam is dual-qualified, having started her legal career as a barrister, and is regarded as one of the leading public M&A advisers in the UK for her work on hostile, competitive and recommended takeovers. Prior to joining Gibson Dunn in January 2007 as partner in the international corporate practice, she practised in a leading international law firm for 11½ years where she made partner in 2004. Her numerous accolades include being named in the London Top 50 Women section of Super Lawyers UK 2013.

Since featuring on the list in 2018, she became a trustee of the charity Refuge, one of the major charities in the UK providing support for women and men experiencing domestic violence or abuse, as well as chair of its Nomination & Remuneration Committee.

At an executive level, her biggest achievement during this period is establishing and co-chairing Gibson Dunn’s environmental, social and governance practice in the UK.

Her biggest learning has been trusting in, and acting on where her instinct has led her. ‘Like many leaders and senior professionals I have typically relied on data, hard evidence, logic and rational analysis to support my conclusions,’ she says. ‘However, the role of intuition in leadership and business has a major role to play, particularly in high-speed change or times of crisis.’

Dr Miranda Brawn Esq (pictured above)
Founder, The Miranda Brawn Diversity Leadership Foundation

Brummell Inspirational woman, 2015

Brawn is an inspirational global business leader and diversity and inclusion expert with 20+ years of transformational leadership experience. Her portfolio career includes being a lawyer, success coach, international public speaker, self-help author and social entrepreneur, working with top tier global companies, universities, schools, non-profits and governments across both public and private sectors. Most recently, she has been working with the Cabinet Office and 10 Downing Street providing business, diversity and equality advice to assist with the economy post Covid-19.

Since featuring on the list in 2015, in 2016 she launched The Miranda Brawn Diversity Leadership Foundation (, making UK history by delivering the first diversity leadership lecture event aimed at 14 to 21 year olds from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background, which is now an annual event. Inspiring the next generation of diverse leaders to become a success with the aim to eliminate the diversity gap, Brawn considers establishing the charity to be her biggest achievement, having helped thousands of young people to date and awarded over 200 scholarships.

Her biggest lesson has been realising how her own contributions to issues she cares about have inspired many others to be brave and follow, by speaking up and/or taking action. ‘We all have the responsibility to do something,’ she says.

Bronwyn Curtis OBE
Chair of JPMorgan Asia Growth and Income plc

Brummell Inspirational woman, 2011

Curtis is an economist whose career spans financial markets and media. She is chair of JPMorgan Asia Growth and Income plc and a non-executive director of the UK Office of Budget Responsibility, Pershing Square Holdings plc, BH Macro plc and the Scottish American Investment Company. Her previous executive roles included positions at HSBC Bank plc, Bloomberg LP and Deutsche Bank. Her other current appointments include the Advisory Board at Imperial College Business School, trustee of the Centre for Economic and Policy Research, the Australian-UK Chamber of Commerce and The Times shadow MPC.

Since being featured on the list in 2011, Curtis re-evaluated her goals after losing her husband at the end of that year. Other trustee and board roles she has taken on include the UK Office of Budget Responsibility, which is tasked with providing independent forecasts for the UK Treasury and evaluating the fiscal measures of the government.

Her biggest business achievement during this period has been steering the JPMorgan Asia Growth & Income fund to being one of the best-performing funds in the sector.

Her biggest learning has been becoming more resilient. ‘I’m more positive and I have learnt to deal with unexpected challenges in my personal life and others which are out of my control (think Covid-19). The outcome is that I now have a variety of different and really interesting board positions.’

Emma Sinclair MBE
Co-founder, EnterpriseAlumni, and Business Advisor, UNICEF

Brummell Inspirational woman, 2014

A serial entrepreneur, Sinclair is the youngest person in the world to have floated a company on the London Stock Exchange – doing so at 29. She now co-leads global software company EnterpriseAlumni, powering the corporate alumni networks of some of the world’s largest companies, and in 2016, was awarded an MBE for services to entrepreneurship.

Since being featured on the list in 2014, she co-founded EnterpriseAlumni, and is proud to count companies from Citi and JP Morgan to LinkedIn and Google as customers. She also became Unicef’s first business mentor, went on her first trip to Zambia with Unicef, and launched their first crowdfund to finance innovation labs in refugee camps in Jordan.

She considers her MBE to be her biggest achievement during this period, but another key achievement came in 2018, when EnterpriseAlumni became the first company in the world to have gender balance in its shareholders at a scale, something Sinclair describes as ‘infinitely harder to pull off than I anticipated.’

Her most valuable learning is acknowledging that building a business is very hard, and that it is imperative to find ways to decompress or risk wearing yourself out.

‘Now is the ultimate moment to recognise the importance of survival skills, persistence and resilience given a challenging 2020 and a likely challenging 12 months ahead,’ she says. ‘But equally, a moment to recognise the value of self-care.’

Julia Streets
Founder, Streets Consulting, Host of DiverCity Podcast

Brummell Inspirational woman, 2013

Since founding Streets Consulting in 2007, Streets and her team have advised hundreds of FinTech firms, ranging from early stage start-ups to some of the world’s largest financial institutions. Prior to this, she was global head of communications and served on the executive committee at Atos Euronext Market Solutions, and was European head of marketing and sales development at Instinet.

Streets is a founding member of the PowerWomen Network, is a mentor for Accenture’s FinTech Innovation Lab and The Investment Association’s Velocity programme and has also mentored for SWIFT’s Innotribe Scheme, CyLon and Startupbootcamp’s FinTech and cybersecurity cohorts.

Streets launched DiverCity Podcast in 2017, discussing diversity and inclusion (D&I) in financial services. The show has amassed listeners in more than 50 countries and has been named one of the world’s most influential D&I podcasts. She is also a conference speaker and host, appearing on many global financial conference stages – and screens – including Sibos, Women in Payments’ global symposia, Trade Tech (FX, Fixed Income and Equities) and was listed in the Global 100WFinTech Directory this year.

Her biggest learning is that we cannot take D&I progress for granted. ‘We need diversity of thought, skills and people. We must design products and services fit for a diverse customer base. Inclusion will power us to a successful future.’

Sue Langley OBE (pictured above)
Non-Executive Chair Gallagher UK, Senior Independent Director UKAR (Northern Rock Asset Management and Bradford and Bingley), Lead Non-Executive Director for the Home Office, and Trustee for Macmillan Cancer

Brummell Inspirational woman, 2017

Langley is the Alderwoman for the City of London Aldgate Ward, and has previously held senior positions at chair and board level at the Department for International Trade (DIT), Lloyd’s of London, Lloyd’s Asia, Lloyd’s Japan, and the Hiscox Group. She began her City career at PricewaterhouseCoopers, where she was a principal consultant working with a range of FTSE 100 companies.

A founding member of the government’s Women’s Business Council, she has received countless accolades, including the FS Women in the City Achievement award, and an OBE for services to women in business in 2015.

Since being featured on the list in 2017, she has focused on supporting social mobility, which she is passionate about, and considers getting elected as Alderwoman for the City of London Aldgate Ward as her biggest achievement during this time. ‘I literally wore out a pair of shoes, but in 15 days and from a standing start I managed to take 75% of the vote,’ she says.

Her biggest learning is to ‘be open to new ideas, never give up and don’t be afraid to ask. You never know where life will take you…’

Shot on location at The Royal Exchange, City of London