In this instalment, resident blogger Dami Fawehinmi interviewed the founder and CEO of Girls Talk London and BYP Community Achievement Award winner, Vanessa Sanyauke. Girls Talk London is dedicated to creating a space, events and support for womxn to create their own futures in a range of industries. Vanessa’s story teaches us to be fearless when creating your own platform, understanding the power of your voice and knowing you can grow and be amazing!
Tell us about your journey.
I am a Responsible Business, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant and Founder and CEO of Girls Talk London. I did not set out to become a business owner or to work in the corporate sector. I initially wanted to become a Doctor and studied Biomedical Science with the plans to then move onto graduate medicine. However, I knew deep down this was not for me, and I took some time to find out what I wanted to do. I ended up after graduating from university completing various contracts at JP Morgan, Barclays and HSBC and it was whilst working in JP Morgan’s Corporate Responsibility department that I discovered my passion for business and community. I then ended up completing my Masters degree at Royal Holloway, University of London in Sustainability and Management, which gave me the springboard to work with businesses and communities. In 2008, I also set up my first social enterprise, The Rafiki Network, which won lots of awards and supported over 2,000 young people in London with mentors and career workshops. This led me to advising the Prime Minister on youth policy as well.
What inspired you to set up Girls Talk London?
I set up Girls Talk London in 2013. At the time, women only made up 12.5% of roles on FTSE 100 boards and I wanted to do something to address this, as I feared that if young girls did not have access to senior leaders who could be role models, then we would have no future talent pipeline to increase this number in the future. In addition to this, I had always wanted to do something to support girls but I just was not sure how so I started out doing events which was the first step for me and then we just grew from there.
How were you able to acquire support for GTL?
Initially we started facilitating panel events in 2013. I would ask successful female friends and colleagues to speak at our events, so I tapped into my personal network from then. When we started to grow as a network and community online and in person, it was then easier to get businesses and brands to work with us as we had both the data and a successful track record.
What was it like working with companies such as Cosmopolitan, Facebook and more?
It has been a joy; we have worked with over 25 businesses and brands on various projects and events and I never take it for granted. I am extremely grateful for all the champions that we have within these businesses and their support and belief in our work and mission.
What was the best event you have hosted?
Hands down our first Black Girls Tech Summit in 2019. It was magical to have over 100 black women in the room so ambitious and ready to take on the world! Everyone who attended commented that the vibe and energy in the room was electric!
What are your hopes for the future of Girls Talk London?
I want to work with more businesses and brands, I want to grow our community of women but for me I want to expand globally to do more projects and events. For me, our future is digital and global reach.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
You can, you will and just watch!
What do you believe will drive change in the Black community?
Action and less talk.
What is your biggest failure?
I got a place to study medicine at Queen Mary, University of London at the age of seventeen, but I did not get the grades to take up my place due to personal issues and basically not being focused. This was a big lesson for me, I had to change my environment, focus and understand hard work and effort gets you results.
What is your biggest success?
Girls Talk London, everything the organisation has done and is.
What three pieces of advice would you give young black professionals wanting to enter the career support industry?
Do not enter this career support industry for fame or ego. It is hard work and you have to be prepared to do the work and be in this for the right reasons because you will not last long.
Do not take no as the final answer, it means not right now. Keep pursuing businesses and brands for support.
Think about your unique selling proposition. This sector is saturated so how will you stand out?
How do you seek out opportunities relating to your field?
Developing relationships is key, focusing on delivering excellent work and networking.
Would you like to add anything?
Thank you for this opportunity to highlight my work, keep rocking BYP and Kike!
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