Brenda King

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Our Non-Lawyer of the Month is Brenda King MBE. Brenda King was born in London but received her secondary education in Barbados.  She attended Harrison College, Barbados; has a BSc in Statistics and Computing from University College, London in 1985 and has an MSc in Management Science and Operational Research from Warwick University. In June 2000 she gained the Advanced Certificate in Marketing Management Practice from the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

Brenda has an impressive record of achievement both in the public and voluntary sectors. She works in the area of change management and advises a number of government departments, blue chip companies, voluntary organisations and special interest groups on their diversity strategies. Brenda was a senior Consultant with Royal Mail Group for 15 years and during her time there she led many cultural change programmes including the ownership of Total Quality (TQ) by frontline staff and the design and development of Business Process Improvement (BPI) within the company. She has given presentations on TQ and BPI to a MBA group in San Francisco, the Strategic Planning Society, IIR conferences and external companies within the UK. She has acted as technical adviser to Governments on postal sector reform.

In October 2003 Brenda was presented with the European Federation of Black Women Business Owners’ ‘European’ Award for her work within the European Union. In the 2004 Brenda was awarded an MBE for her work within the African and Caribbean communities and in January 2005 she was appointed a Commissioner of the Women’s National Commission, an independent advisory body giving the views of women to the UK government. She is also an independent assessor for the appointment of people on Public Bodies.

Brenda is one of 24 UK representatives on the Brussels-based European Economic and Social Committee, producing non-political opinions for the Council of Ministers on draft legislation in the fields of employment, social issues, transport, education, health, structural funds and equal opportunities. She has been rapporteur or been the chair of drafting committees on a wide range of EU Commission proposals from "Fundamental Rights and Justice (financial aspect)”, "Poverty among women in Europe", "Admission of third-country nationals to carry out scientific research in the European Community" to "VAT on Postal Services".

Brenda was recently appointed as a member of Hays Executive Advisory Board focussing on inclusion.  Hays Executive is part of Hays, the FTSE 250 global leader in specialist recruitment and HR Services.

Brenda is the Director of ACDiversity which is an educational charity founded in 1990. One of ACDiversity’s key objectives is to create and implement programmes for the economic and educational development of British people of African and Caribbean heritage. The mentoring and enrichment programme starts with a weeklong residential summer school at Oxford University during August. ACDiversity's remit for the summer school is to provide a synthesis of educational and recreational excellence for the 13/14 year old students. The aim is to promote self-worth, ambition and academic achievement with the ‘sky’s the limit' approach.

The students’ other experiences include:
•      A day at the Royal Opera House where they  perform original songs they have written, alongside a professional opera singer
•      A day at the Bank of England.
•      Days at ITV, Clifford Chance, JPMorgan and the Houses of Parliament.

Students have at least a mentor each with mentors drawn from various private and public sector organisations including City law firms Baker & McKenzie, Clifford Chance, Linklaters and Slaughter & May. There mentors also from Price Waterhouse Cooper and investment banks such as Citigroup, JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs.

Below is our interview with Brenda:

BLD: Who is the person you most admire and why (dead or alive)?

BK:   My paternal grandfather Joseph King, who celebrated his 85th birthday last July.  He served during the Second World War and survived a torpedo attack, yet I only found out about this from a total stranger at Lords Cricket Ground in 1984.  He is very modest, can be outrageous and can have a very different but insightful perspective on various topics.  He is timeless which makes him everyone’s favourite granddad, uncle, great uncle, great granddad and father-in-law.  He is known as granddad Joe as he has banned his great grandchildren from calling him anything that makes him seem old.  Very importantly he is a great orator on the family history.

BLD: If you could rule the world for a day what would you change/do?

BK: There are two things I would change.  Firstly I would make parenting classes compulsory for everyone.  Secondly I make organ donations an opt-out choice as oppose to the current voluntary opt-in system.

BLD: If you were to choose another job/role, other than what you are doing, what would it be and why?

BK: I really enjoy what I am doing at the moment.

BLD: What are the greatest issues/challenges on diversity that needs to be tackled now?

BK: The greatest challenge is getting mainstream organisations to appreciate that their recruitment/selection procedures measure familiarity with middle-class institutions and customs rather than genuine intelligence, capability and creativity. The result is that many individuals who have been through the state school sector are excluded.

BLD: The most famous/interesting/challenging issues you have had to tackle to date.

BK:  Being stereotyped. The example I will give is when I decided to use my special passport in Brussels so I won’t miss my flight, as my meeting overran.  I never used the passport previously as I felt that due to my ethnicity it would slow me down not speed things up as it does for my colleagues.  Many friends had challenged me for not using the passport so after a year of receiving it I decided to use it.  The official spent ages examining the passport and even called a colleague to look at it.  People behind me in the queue, understandably joined other queues.  I tried to look as calm and as serene as possible but inside I felt a mixture of anger and extreme embarrassment.  Finally the official spoke and told me he felt that the passport was a forgery.  I thought I would be spending the evening in a Belgium jail!  I asked him why he felt it was a forgery, he explained and I provided my British passport.  Thankfully he accepted the British passport and the flight was delayed so I didn’t miss it.  I complained to the relevant UK Government department and raised the issue with the EESC.  At my request, I was issued with another passport which I haven’t used in over 2 years. Which I guess, means that I am not as courageous as I thought but I feel much more secure using my British passport. 

BLD: What are you most passionate/happiest about?

BK: Making a difference.

BLD: What makes you angry/unhappy?

BK: The fact that when it comes to the African Diaspora the only thing covered in schools is the human aspects of the slave trade.  The economic impacts are not covered and the sole focus on the 200 years between the 1650s and 1834 without placing it in the context of 7000 years of African civilization is demoralising for Black students. Let’s hope the bicentennial next year will prove a catalyst for change.

BLD: Please do let us about your family and background

BK:  I am the daughter of Jimmy and Mildred King.  I am the eldest of three children.  My brother, the academic one, works for UNDP and is based in Barbados. He is married to Keron and they have two children Ajani, nearly 9 years and Runako aged 3.  My sister Jenifer is an architect.  She followed my dad into the profession.  She has two children, Jaire aged 10 and a daughter, Jordane aged 8.  My partner’s name is Paul and we have no children.