Dame Sharon White, the first ever female chair of John Lewis Partnership, has been named the UK’s most influential black person.
White topped the 2023 Powerlist, an annual list that aims to provide professional role models for young people of African and African Caribbean heritage. Other prominent black Britons on this year’s list include the actor, writer and creator of I May Destroy You, Michaela Coel, the actor and writer Sir Lenny Henry, and the rapper Stormzy.
White made history in a previous post as chief executive of Ofcom, when she became the first woman – and the first black person – to lead the media regulator. She was also one of the most powerful women in Whitehall, when she was responsible for overseeing spending cuts as second permanent secretary at the Treasury.
The 55-year-old welcomed the accolade, saying it was an “incredible honour” to receive this year’s Powerlist award.
“My hope is that we can take the serendipity out of social mobility – everyone should have the chance to be who they want to be in life, with their background as a source of pride, not a disadvantage,” she said.
Among those featured for the very first time on the list are the Bank of England’s chief financial officer, Afua Kyei, and its senior adviser Tangy Morgan, as well as the chair of the UK Cyber Security Council, Claudia Natanson.
The actor Idris Elba, the Manchester United football star Marcus Rashford, who fought Boris Johnson on food poverty , Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling, the Vogue editor Edward Enninful, David Lammy MP, the model Munroe Bergdorf, and UK Cyber Security Council chief, Simon Hepburn, were also named this year.
The Powerlist is selected by an independent panel of judges led by its chair, Dame Linda Dobbs, a judicial commissioner and retired high court judge. The businessman and winner of the first series of The Apprentice, Tim Campbell, was also among the judges. First published in 2007, it is now distributed in schools, universities and corporate organisations.
“The Powerlist continues to be the leading showcase, acknowledgment and reminder of the amazing individuals of African, African Caribbean and African American heritage we have in the UK and I would like to hugely congratulate each and every one on the list,” said Michael Eboda, chief executive of Powerful Media, the organisation that published this year’s list.
“Dame Sharon White totally deserves to be recognised as the UK’s most powerful black Briton on the Powerlist 2023,” he added. “She is an example of true excellence and this is evident throughout her valuable input and work as chair of John Lewis and her academic and professional journey to date.”
Last year’s list included Jacky Wright, the London-born corporate vice-president and chief digital officer at Microsoft US who was given the top spot, and Lord Woolley, the former CEO of Operation Black Vote. The Oscar-winning British actor Daniel Kaluuya was also a new entrant to the list.
Unlike many others, the Guardian has no shareholders and no billionaire owner. Just the determination and passion to deliver high-impact global reporting, always free from commercial or political influence. Reporting like this is vital for democracy, for fairness and to demand better from the powerful.
And we provide all this for free, for everyone to read. We do this because we believe in information equality. Greater numbers of people can keep track of the events shaping our world, understand their impact on people and communities, and become inspired to take meaningful action. Millions can benefit from open access to quality, truthful news, regardless of their ability to pay for it.