Inspirational Woman: Pavita Cooper | Director, More Difference

Pavita Cooper

Pavita is founder of More Difference, a talent and career insight business that works with organisations and individuals to accelerate talent.

Pavita is recognised as a leading talent and diversity expert; she has over 25 years’ experience as an executive talent leader across a range of multi-sector global blue-chip organisations, including Shell, Barclays and Lloyds Banking Group.

Pavita has acted as an advisor to CEOs, executive teams and business leaders across sectors that include financial services, energy, consumer, professional services and luxury goods.

Having led in-house Board level appointments and promotion processes, she understands that organisations need fresh and innovative thinking for their ongoing talent challenges. Pavita combines her deep technical expertise with an ability to frame insights in a direct but compelling style.

Pavita is a passionate advocate of greater diversity across the C-Suite and committed to accelerating the progression of “hidden” talent: women, ethnic minorities and leaders from less traditional backgrounds. She is a regular speaker on women in business, increasing ethnic diversity and the acceleration of diverse talent in the pipeline to the C-Suite and Boardroom. Pavita believes in the power of giving back; she mentors young people from ethnically diverse and socially disadvantaged backgrounds and regularly speaks at inner city schools across the country.

Pavita is a Steering Committee member of the 30 Percent Club, she sits on CMI Board of Companions as well as chairing CMI Race. Pavita serves as a Trustee of Kids Out. In September 2017, Pavita was awarded Women of the Year at the Asian Business Awards. Most recently, Pavita was appointed by the Home Secretary as a Commissioner on the Board of the Equality & Human Rights Commission.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

Having spent 25 years in a range of global corporate roles leading the talent, leadership and diversity agenda; I made the decision to set up my own company More Difference – in order to drive change from the outside-in. I am a passionate advocate of greater diversity across the C-Suite, committed to accelerating the progression of “hidden” talent: women, ethnic minorities and leaders from less traditional backgrounds. Today I work with range of organisations, advising on talent and diversity issues, including how to build a diverse culture. I am a regular speaker on women in business, increasing ethnic diversity and the acceleration of diverse talent in the pipeline to the C-Suite and Boardroom.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, not really. Like most people I found something I loved and applied myself. I was “spotted” by a senior manager early in my career; I was offered a stretch prmomotion which gave me the opportunity to lead a lead large team. I definitely grew in confidence as a result.

During my career, I have always ensured I identify a powerful career mentor; someone whose ambition for me is greater than my own.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Bizarely, the challenges came at the end of my corporate career. I had my children much later in life, by which time I had already achieved significant success. I couldn’t find a way to resolve the demands of a demanding corporate role with my desire to raise my young family. I felt I had no alternative but to step down; this was in part my motivation to set up an organisation to change the context for working parents.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I am a passionate advocate of mentoring and have mentored others during my entire career – it’s something I urge others to do. However, mentoring isn’t enough to  accelerarte the progression of minorities – greater sponosrhip is needed; advocacy in key promotion meetings.

What do you want to see happen within the next five years when it comes to diversity?

I would like to see less focus on the “why” we are doing this to the “how”; this is getting better – I definite;y get less questions on the business case! Secondly, a shift from a shopping list of diversity initiatives to building inclusive leadership cultures.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

To level the playing field; women still face many obstacles when it comes to navigating their careers, these include: unconscious and conscious bias, assumptions about their confidence, ambition and ability and most critically an outdated model of how and where work shoukd get done. They are still operating in a world created by men for men.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I am very proud of my work with the 30% Club, we have produced some really powerful research around what it takes for women to progress in the pipeline. Also, the work I have been involved in raising awareness of the barriers facing BAME leaders in the workplace.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I have recently joined the Board of the Equalities and Humanities Commission; we have just launched our Is Britain Fairer report – I am feel very privileged to be shaping and delivering this important work that will impact all parts of society. My parents came to the UK as immigrants in the 60’s; their own challenges had a profound impact on me; I am committed to making the UK a place where everyone can participate and be treated fairly

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