The #PowerofThree: in conversation with Claudine Adeyemi

The #PowerofThree: in conversation with Claudine Adeyemi

Claudine Adeyemi_headshotThree things about Claudine: she’s a property disputes lawyer, a keen Arsenal fan and the founder of non-profit organisation The Student Development Co. Claudine has already achieved more than many people of twice her age and has been recognised for her work in both a professional and an entrepreneurial world.  The SDC is an organisation which provides career related support to young people from less advantaged backgrounds through a range of initiatives. When we met at last year’s Precious Awards (where she was the winner of the award for Young Entrepreneur of the Year),  I was keen to hear her story and learn more about what motivated this extraordinary young woman, who decided she wanted to be a lawyer aged just 11, to give back to others.

 Here’s what we discussed.

When I was younger, it was a case of knowing a bit about certain professions and wanting to be something like a lawyer or a doctor. It was an aspiration, even though I didn’t really know what it meant, other than seeing lawyers on TV at 11. I deliberately chose my GCSEs and ‘A’ levels on the basis that I’d be studying law.  I then started to find out about the kind of other skills that would be helpful to me in a legal career – like debating, arguing, persuasive writing. As I grew up, I worked out that the decision I’d made as a child was a good one.

I left home aged 16. I won a local newspaper’s Student of the Year award in 2007 and met Camila Batmanghelidjh, through whom I was supported with a key worker from her then-charity Kids Company, who in turn connected me to a barrister as a mentor. I ended up getting  4 As at ‘AS’ and ‘A’ Level and I then obtained a 2.1 in Law from University College London.

A mixture of things led me to develop The SDC.  Growing up, although I’d always wanted to be a lawyer, due to my ethnic and socio-economic background,  I just didn’t know any – or even know anyone who could connect me to any lawyers. Initially, I set up a group called Young Black Graduates in 2012 to get young black people to network and share ideas and contacts. There was a huge emphasis at the time on young entrepreneurship, rather than on getting into corporate roles and careers. So I wanted to provide a platform to help other young people get into careers and transition from studying. Getting support from Kids Company has left me with a sense of duty; I want to give something back and pay it forward where I can.

I set up The SDC in early 2014. Our three aims are to support, develop and create. We want to support young people in their careers, develop their employability skills and create opportunities, either as volunteers with us or with experiences at our partner companies. We started out by targeting young people from ethnic minority groups, but now we also tackle wider social mobility issues.

The partner companies include law firm Mishcon de Reya, The Telegraph media group, PwC and Sky. We have set programmes, such as The Skills Insight Programme, which is aimed at school leavers, where our partner companies run events for our school leavers to learn about career options in companies such as theirs.  It’s really about widening career choices and providing access to new ideas – many people think that these roles and even the corporate office buildings are outside their reach. Or we work with companies who have existing outreach programmes and we participate by connecting people and companies. We’re really just trying to do what we can to overcome barriers to change.

We’re run by young people (including eight volunteers) so we can resonate with the user base. We currently work with c. 150 direct users, who attend our events and workshops or benefit from 1-2-1 support and we connect with hundreds more via newsletters and social media, our website and blog.

My hope is that The SDC becomes a national organisation, still run by young people, which can support more young people. And I want to focus on making it into something that can be handed over and can be sustainable. I’d also like to move towards registered charity status and it becoming a more prominent organisation and not just a project. Social mobility in Britain is a huge issue.

With my own career, it’s early days yet, as I only qualified about eighteen months ago. At the moment, I’m focusing on learning everything and getting to grips with my specialty area. Long term, I want to progress as far as I can but currently I’m just enjoying being in the career I’ve wanted to be in for such a long time. I have a few unofficial mentors who I meet for a coffee. And I’m a mentee on the Law Society’s mentoring programme; my mentor is a lawyer at another firm. I think it’s so important to have a mentor, be it in a structured way or more casually, to provide support and guidance.

Looking back, I’d try and encourage a younger me to have more confidence in her own abilities and in herself.  I’d tell her to stay focused and persevere. I encourage young people to research and learn about different career possibilities – there are so many options. I always suggest that they start by working out what they enjoy and then seeing if there’s potential for a career in that direction.

Yes, I’m a huge Arsenal fan! I love going to matches and I love swimming too.


Sponsors: would you like me to interview and profile some of the key women in your organisation? If so, let’s talk – please contact me for an exploratory chat.


Mind the Gap: Explaining the UK #GenderPayGap

Mind the Gap: Explaining the UK #GenderPayGap

Gender pay gap_coin stackAs part of my continuing look at the gender pay gap, here is a sponsored article from employment law specialists Nationwide Employment Lawyers , who share an overview of the reasons behind the UK gender pay gap and the recently announced plans to challenge it.

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For years, the imbalance of pay between men and women has been a serious, but often ignored, employment issue. Finding ways to correct the difference is a discussion which encompasses wider forms of the employment disadvantage facing women.

The history of the gender pay gap

In 1970, the Equal Pay Act was legislated so that women would receive equivalent pay to men on condition that they perform the same job for the same employer. However, several loopholes have allowed employers to avoid accusations of unequal payment. This includes legal requirements that allow an employer’s payroll to be the only acceptable source of information for supporting claims of unfair payment.

This same data is also considered the only viable means of determining whether certain kinds of work was performed by women at all, allowing employers to allege that assistance from male employees has occurred, thus rendering female workers’ claims void.

Needless to say, access to such data has resulted in employers generally showing greater concern for their own interests, often refusing to reveal certain information in accordance with their legal rights. Furthermore, employers were (until recently) under no obligation to monitor the difference in pay between male and female employees, effectively allowing them to ignore the possibility of equal pay being denied to workers.

Pay discrimination can be obvious if men are directly paid less than women without excuse, but underpayment is often hidden through crafty guises like different job titles and/or descriptions for female employees.

Although women can bring their concerns before an employment tribunal, the tribunal payment change of 2013, which now calls for all claimants to shoulder the majority of fees themselves, has led to a decrease in such cases due to financial concerns. This has certainly led to many women being failed by the UK legal system.

How the pay gap is recorded

The pay gap is often dismissed as exaggerated or even a fabrication, but research by the Quarterly Reports of tribunal records found that 12% of all tribunal cases launched between 2012/13 involved claims of unequal pay, wholly nullifying any notion of falsehood.

Gender pay gap statistics are generated through comparisons of the opposing average hourly rates between male and female employees. The national population and all UK employment sectors are taken into account when determining this figure.

One common excuse for the pay gap is that greater numbers of women are working part-time, which makes for lower overall female earnings. However, this ignores the fact that official figures monitored by the Office for National Statistics do not take into account part-time wages when recording results for the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. These figures focus solely on the mean average full-time wage between genders, which takes into account the pay of higher earning employees to generate an accurate and fair overall sum.

Negative affects on women

Recent UK studies reveal that the pay gap harms women by affecting their lives in various ways:

  • Mothers are affected by the pay gap as less finances are available to support children, especially single mothers or those without a partner in employment. The result of this can be physical and/or mental exhaustion due to longer hours being required to compensate;
  • Maternity and pregnancy discrimination is interwoven with the pay gap, as the level of full-time pay for maternity leave is being increasingly reduced. This has been defended on the grounds that it seeks to support women wanting less maternity leave, but it is increasingly seen as being forced on all women. This is a huge contrast to men who can now receive financial support for undertaking shared parental duties.

Occupational segregation

One area of concern is the effect of occupational segregation, which involves unfair treatment of gender based roles. Men are paid greater amounts in jobs where they mostly work with other men, while women are paid less in roles where they work mostly alongside other women.

The single gender assessment of certain kinds of work is known as horizontal segregation. Stereotypical ‘horizontal’ roles for women include manual catering or cleaning work, and basic cashier and retail roles. This restricts female achievement and contributes to archaic attitudes to gender that regard female roles as somehow less valuable than men’s.

The opposite of this is vertical segregation where women work in positions alongside men –  but find opportunities for reaching greater positions restricted, due to gender related constraints causing them to be under-represented in high-paying occupations, adding to pay-gap statistics. It is necessary to abolish attitudes associated with both forms of occupational segregation in the quest to make pay equal.

Steps to solving the gender pay gap

 One way UK employment law is helping reduce the pay gap is by altering the law: as of 26th March 2016, businesses with a staff of 250+ employees will have to release information on the pay and bonus differences between their male and female workers.

All concerns outlined here, along with many others, need to be addressed and rectified before female employees and those close to them are free from the pay gap harm they experience.

Learn about how employment solicitors can help gender issues in the workplace.





This is a sponsored post from Nationwide Employment Lawyers . If you’d like to discuss how the Gender Blog can help support your business, please contact me


On the refusing of a marriage licence …

On the refusing of a marriage licence …

… for a mixed race couple.

Yes, really.

In Louisiana.

In 2009, just in case any of us thought that we’d entered some weird space-time continuum and were back in 1959.

The full story is reported here in “The Guardian”, but can be summarised with this extract – my use of bold:

“A Louisiana justice of the peace said he refused to issue a marriage licence to an interracial couple out of concern for any children the couple might have.

Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa parish, said it was his experience that most interracial marriages did not last long.

“I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way,” Bardwell said. “I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else.”

Bardwell said he asked everyone who called about marriage if they were a mixed race couple. If they were, he did not marry them.”

The bit about the bathroom usage immediately reminded me of a wonderful (and recommended) book I read a few months ago called “The Help”, set in Mississippi in 1962, about a group of maids who work with one white woman to tell their stories (“black women raise white children but can’t be trusted not to steal the silver”) as part of the then burgeoning civil rights movement. In the book, it is very much the norm for “the help” to have their own toilet/washroom facilities and one employer feels societal pressure to build such an arrangement for her maid in a corner of the garage, rather than risk her family being contaminated by sharing the same facilities within the house.

Doesn’t it come across that this attitude lingers on in Louisiana, 47 years later? Quite incredible that permitting people of a different race to share your urinating environment is viewed as a mark of racial tolerance …

And how can it even be legal for anyone to refuse to marry two people on the grounds of race? Will watch the outcome of this story with interest.



When I was in India last year, I met and got chatting to a lot of women at the annual NASSCOM IT Women’s Leadership summit in Bangalore.

One of my abiding memories from those conversations was the number of times that the phrase “My mother-in-law says …” came up – and never in a good way, but always in a “blocking me from doing something new and different” kind of context.

I blogged about this at the time and wrote that it seemed to me that marriage in India seemed to be not so much about the man that you marry but about his mother, based on the women who said things like:

“Oh, my husband is lovely and very proud of me for [getting promoted at work/achieving my second degree whilst working full time/winning an award/etc] but his mother is very difficult and thinks I should be at home all the time just like she was …”

So spotting this news story tucked away in a tiny corner of a UK newspaper made me wince:


It’s a clever headline, but the story behind it, as reported here in the Times of India, is quite thought provoking, confirming as it does the low status which women in India endure even today and which has now been ratified by the Indian Supreme Court.