Vanessa Sanyauke is the Founder and CEO of Girls Talk London, an award winning organisation that has engaged half a million women around the world and directly impacted 1,500 women & girls in the UK.

Vanessa SanyaukeVanessa is also a speaker, presenter and writer based in London. Vanessa has over a decade of experience advising FTSE 100 businesses on Diversity, Inclusion and Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives and policy. Vanessa has worked with over 50 businesses that include The Bank of England, UK Parliament, Facebook, O2, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Barclays, State Street, Salesforce, Vodafone, BT, Ericsson, Allen and Overy, Lloyds Bank, Bauer Media, UBS, RBS Legal, Rabobank, Reed Smith and CMS Cameron McKenna. Vanessa has also been an adviser on Youth Policy to the former UK Prime Minister David Cameron and The former Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

In 2018 Vanessa was listed on the 2018 EMpower 50 Ethnic Minority Future Leaders List, presented by the Financial Times and as a Changemaker on the 2018 Evening Standard 1000 most influential Londoners list. That same year she won an award at the 2018 European Diversity Awards for Best Community Project for setting up the pan-industry project, Step into STEM.

Vanessa is the Host and creator of business podcast “The after work drinks club” which is a top 100 iTunes global business podcast which interviews and features discussions with influential people of business and popular culture.

Vanessa is also the Host and Creator of Girls Talk, an online panel talk show for millennial women that has been viewed by over half a million people worldwide.

She is a sought-after Presenter and Speaker on business, women’s issues and popular culture featured on BBC Radio One and hosting the Penguin Living and Virgin Books ‘Live.Life. Better’ Podcast.

Her speaking engagements have taken her across the globe at institutions such as The Southbank Centre, Glitz Africa She Summit, UN Women UK, Cosmopolitan Self-Made Summit, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Google UK, City Hall, Institute of Directors and Women in Research UK.

Vanessa is a regular visiting lecturer and speaker on Social Entrepreneurship, Corporate Social Responsibility and Diversity and Inclusion for London School of Economics, City University London, Kent Business School, Brunel University and Kings College London.

Vanessa has written and featured in publications such as The Guardian, Stylist, The Telegraph, LOOK Magazine,, Confederation of British Industry and Entrepreneur Country. The 16th April 2017 Edition of The Style Magazine Sunday Times Supplement listed Vanessa as one of 10 people changing the workplace for women in the UK.

During her final year at Brunel University in 2008, Vanessa started her first social enterprise, The Rafiki Network, an award-winning organisation that provided mentoring & training services for over 2,000 young people in London. In April 2010 until January 2014 she was a Trustee of national youth volunteering charity inspired. In 2011 she was presented with a Peace Award from The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson for her contribution to the well-being of people in London and was Co-Chair of the Spirit of London Awards Select Committee in 2012 producing their biggest ever show at London’s 02 Arena.

After completing a Masters in Sustainability & Management at Royal Holloway, University of London in 2012 she started Girls Talk London and began working for The Brokerage CityLink as a Senior Programme Manager. The 9th March 2015 issue of Look Magazine featured Vanessa as one of the most inspiring women in the UK and in June 2015 She was named as one of 67 Changemakers in the UK at The Southbank Centre as part of their annual Festival of Love. During the same month she was also invited to become a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. In December 2015, Vanessa was nominated for a Digital-IS award for Best Online Presenter.

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

I am the CEO and Founder of Girls Talk London, which is a social enterprise that connects women and girls with FTSE 100 businesses via bespoke programmes and events to help them develop the skills and confidence to succeed in the workplace. To date we have engaged half a million women around the world and directly impacted 1,500 women & girls in the UK. I am also a speaker, presenter and writer based in London with over a decade of experience advising FTSE 100 businesses on Diversity, Inclusion and Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives and policy.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I initially was pursuing a career in medicine at university when I realised that I wanted to become social entrepreneur and help people with their careers and life.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Yes, getting people to believe in my vision for the programmes I have set-up has been challenging and especially getting executives to understand the importance of diversity and inclusion to their bottom line. I have overcome this by not giving up, getting internal champions to advocate for me aswell.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest achievement has to be setting up and delivering Step into STEM, our seven month mentoring programme for females aged 16-18 who want to work in Technology which is funded by O2, BT, Vodafone and Ericsson. To date we have given nearly 150 girls mentors and we won a European Diversity award for Best Community Project in 2018. What really makes this my biggest achievement is where our mentees end up as we currently have mentees studying Technology based subjects at Oxford University and MIT and they have credited the support of their mentors in helping them get there!

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I am persistent.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Seek a sponsor to open up opportunities for you.

Keep being curious.

Hold the door open for someone else who wants to enter the Tech space, you will learn a lot from them.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Yes, because there are still small numbers of women working in Tech. We need to create a talent pipeline of young women who have the skills to succeed and enter the Tech sector. We need more mentoring schemes and work experience opportunities to prepare them.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

Invest in training and development such as MBAs for female staff and sponsor them for opportunities at Senior Level.

There is currently on 15% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Make every Tech company have a 50:50 spit for gender balance on their boards and if not achieved fine them big bucks! Change starts from the top and we need more visible female role models in Senior roles in tech.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I would recommend attending events and conferences to get connected and learn new skills aswell as reading books and blogs in your sector.