Meet our Commissioners

The Social Mobility Commission exists to help create a country where the circumstances of someone’s birth do not determine their outcomes in life.

The SMC is a statutory, independent body comprising 12 outstanding appointed commissioners and a small secretariat. All are leaders in their field and drawn from a diverse range of backgrounds. Each Social Mobility Commissioner is appointed for a term of three years. The Commissioners draw upon their varied geographic, cultural, gender, racial, age, and professional experiences to monitor, influence, and progress social mobility.

AllCo-ChairsCommissioners
Co-Chair

Steven Cooper

Co-Chair

Sandra Wallace

Commissioner

Saeed Atcha MBE

Commissioner

Alastair Da Costa

Commissioner

Pippa Dunn

Commissioner

Sam Friedman

social mobility commissioner
Commissioner

Harvey Matthewson

social mobility commissioner
Commissioner

Jessica Oghenegweke

social mobility commissioner
Commissioner

Farrah Storr

social mobility commissioner
Commissioner

Jody Walker

social mobility commissioner
Commissioner

Liz Williams MBE

social mobility commissioner
Commissioner

Sammy Wright

Co-Chair

Steven Cooper

Chair of Experian UK, incoming CEO of Aldermore Bank & Co-chair of the Social Mobility Commission.

“I cannot stress enough the benefits to company performance and morale of providing real jobs, real wages and real progression for those from a wide socio-economic talent pool.”

Having left school at 16 Steven joined Barclays, where he rose from cashier to senior roles including CEO Barclaycard Business; CEO Personal Banking for UK and Europe; and CEO UK Business Banking. He also led on community investment and diversity programmes for the UK.

Steven was awarded an honorary doctorate from Herriot Watt University in 2019 for services to banking and social mobility, and in 2020, he was named Banking CEO of the year by Today Magazine.

As co-chair of the Social Mobility Commission, with particular focus on Apprenticeships, the Labour Market & the Economy, Steven is a passionate advocate for social mobility.

Co-Chair

Sandra Wallace

Partner and joint managing director for the UK & Europe at global law firm, DLA Piper.

“When I was starting on my legal journey, I was told that I wouldn’t become a lawyer because I didn’t go to the right university and I didn’t get the highest grades. Overcoming these barriers has not been easy. Employers have a role to play here. But you aren’t alone. Give this toolkit a go and let us know how we can further help your organisation with this important agenda.”

As co-chair of the Commissioners, Sandra’s role in promoting social mobility has been widely recognised. She has received the Birmingham Law Society Leadership Award, and has been recognised on the Powerlist 100 for British people of African, African Caribbean or African American heritage who have risen to the top of their profession. She has also been awarded Champion of the Year at the Social Mobility Awards.

Sandra was the first of her family of six to go to university, and through initiatives such as the Head Start UK programme she is actively helping to drive social mobility within the legal sector. Sandra has been instrumental in helping to develop our Employer Toolkit to help organisations increase socio-economic diversity within the workplace.

Commissioner

Saeed Atcha MBE

Founder & CEO of Youth Leads.

“Young people are a hugely untapped resource today. They are 22% of our population and 100% of our future. It’s absolutely in employers’ interests to take them very seriously – as potential customers, as future employees and simply because it’s the right thing to do.”

Having grown up in care, Saeed is acutely aware of how young people from disadvantaged backgrounds can be overlooked when it comes to learning valuable life skills and having a voice in their future. That’s why, at the age of 15, he set up Youth Leads which has supported more than 7,000 disadvantaged young Greater Mancunians to access volunteering opportunities and skills development programmes.

As well as being the SMC Commissioner with special responsibility for young people and vulnerable groups, Saeed is a trustee of youth employment charity Generation: You Employed, UK, a Non-Executive Director at social housing group Bolton at Home, an Associate Non-Executive Director at Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, an Advisory Council Member to the Care Tech Foundation and Vice-Chair of Governors at his former secondary school, Ladybridge High School in Bolton.

Commissioner

Alastair Da Costa

Partner and executive board member at leading intellectual property specialists HGF, Chair of Capital City College Group and board director at the London School of Economics.

“Further education is a Social Mobility engine that transforms lives for many, particularly those who come from challenging or socially deprived backgrounds, into talented and valuable members of the UK’s workforce. There’s more work to be done, but I am encouraged by how employers from the Professional Services sectors and other industries are beginning to look beyond universities, and engaging with further education to nurture a truly diverse talent pool.”

After studying law at Leeds University, Alastair embarked on a successful career in corporate law with an international law firm. In addition, as Chair of London’s largest further education group Alastair is a champion of alternative avenues for people to gain qualifications, vocational training & apprenticeships.

As a Social Mobility Commissioner has particular responsibility for adult skills and further education.

Commissioner

Pippa Dunn

Co-founder of Broody, which aims to help turn great ideas into successful businesses.

Pippa is Commissioner for Enterprise and Small Business, and previously, was chief marketing officer of EE, responsible for the £5bn P&L of the consumer business.

Pippa started off life as a lawyer before becoming a West End musical producer. She has also worked at NTL (now Virgin media), Coca-Cola and Orange in various commercial, product and marketing director roles.

Commissioner

Sam Friedman

Assistant Professor in Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

Sam is the author of Comedy and Distinction: The Cultural Currency of a ‘Good’ Sense of Humour and co-author of Social Class in the 21st Century.

His book with Daniel Laurison, The Class Ceiling: Why it Pays to be Privileged, was published in 2019. The book explores why it is that even when those from working-class backgrounds successfully enter Britain’s elite occupations, they face a powerful class pay gap.

He has worked on a project to analyse the 120-year database of Who’s Who – a unique catalogue of the British elite. This charts the shifting influence of Britain’s nine elite ‘Clarendon’ schools, including Eton and Harrow, and shows that while their propulsive power may have diminished over time, these schools remain extraordinarily successful channels of elite formation.

As a Commissioner, Sam has particular responsibility for data, insight and downward mobility.

Commissioner

Harvey Matthewson

Aviation activity officer at the British Disabled Flying charity Aerobility.

“It is only too easy for employers to underestimate someone’s potential because of their background or circumstances. I know from personal experience how important it is that companies take a little extra time to give people from all walks of life the opportunity to prove their ability.
I believe it is a complete waste and injustice for someone’s life to be predetermined by their parents’ income or standing in society. For me, improving social mobility is about allowing everyone to make the most of their potential, regardless of disability, race, gender or class.”

Born with cerebral palsy, caused by complications at birth, Harvey’s prospects for education and work seemed limited. Potential employers found it difficult to see beyond his disability. Yet Harvey eventually gained employment as a sales assistant at Marks & Spencer through the Marks & Starts programme.

Over time Harvey achieved many awards for his customer service, and went on to win the ‘Marks & Starts Achiever Award’ for his charity work, and became a Prince’s Trust Young Ambassador.

At Aerobility Harvey is responsible for running the charity’s two youth programs, for young people with physical and learning disabilities. Harvey is also responsible for arranging ground activities and flying days for the charity’s clients, and engaging with disabled young people.

Outside of work, Harvey is a horse riding instructor for the Disabled Association, and is a qualified private pilot.

Commissioner

Jessica Oghenegweke

Jessica is a BBC Earth Kids presenter and student at Brunel University, studying for a BSc in Global Challenges.

“As a society, we talk again and again about young people being the future, yet we do not provide every young person with the opportunities, skills and support to achieve their full potential. I would encourage more employers to implement apprenticeships in their workplace as it’s one of the most effective means of boosting social mobility, will help diversify your talent pool, and 92% of companies who run an apprenticeship scheme believe it leads to a more motivated and satisfied workforce.
Without proper mentorship, access and education, young people are already falling through the gaps by the age of 16. We need to do more to ensure that all young people living in the UK have a decent chance of having a bright future.”

As Commissioner for Early Years and Families Jessica has an enviable record helping empower young people. While serving at The Diana Award she delivered training events to thousands of anti-bullying ambassadors; she also interned and continues to work with RockCorps, the pioneering collaboration between the music industry and youth social action. In addition, Jessica is an NCS ambassador and is a host for Apprentice Nation, which aims to help give young people the skills that will allow them to fulfil their ambitions in the workplace.

Commissioner

Farrah Storr

Editor-in-Chief, Elle UK

“A media that both embraces and is composed of those from varying socio economic backgrounds, is a media that is both rich in diverse viewpoints, experiences and stories as well as a media that is built to last. Indeed, for the whole creative sector to remain vibrant it is vital that we tap into the full potential of the whole population, not just a privileged few.”

A string of high profile editorial roles, including editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan, have led to Farrah becoming one of the most influential figures in British media. In 2019 Farrah was awarded Editor of the Year at the PPA Awards, for the second year running and was included in the Evening Standard’s Progress 1000 list of London’s most influential people of 2019.

She is the author of The Discomfort Zone (Piatkus) and as a Commissioner she has special responsibility for culture, arts & media.

Commissioner

Jody Walker

Group Retail, Ecommerce, Customer Service & Loss Prevention Director, TJX Europe.

“I know first-hand how important it is that businesses actively look for ways to give opportunities to young people, and nurture talent from all parts of our society.”

Jody left school at the age of 18 to work in a supermarket and joined TJX in 1998, in a junior Human Resources role. As someone who didn’t follow an academic path, Jody believes passionately that where you start in life should not limit the contribution you can make to an organisation.

Commissioner

Liz Williams MBE

CEO of FutureDotNow, a business to business coalition focused on accelerating the UK’s digital skills at scale.

“For an industry to be on top of its game, its workforce needs to reflect the customers it serves. It is one thing to talk about social mobility, but with these Toolkits developed with business, for business, organisations now have practical ways in which they can affect real change in the workplace.”

For a number years Liz Williams has been at the forefront of ensuring digital skills and technology are available to the widest spectrum of society.

At BT Liz led the Group’s digital and social inclusion strategies; she sits on the board of the Government’s Digital Skills Partnership and was appointed a Social Mobility Commissioner in 2018, with special responsibility for Digital & Future Work.

In 2019 Liz was awarded an MBE for services to digital literacy and social inclusion, and in 2020 she was named by Computer Weekly in the top thirty most influential women in UK IT.

Liz has been influential in the development of the industry toolkits, and is a passionate advocate for a greater strategic emphasis on socio-economic diversity in the boardroom.

Commissioner

Sammy Wright

Vice principal of Southmoor Academy in Sunderland.

Sammy arrived in the North East five years ago to set up the first non-faith school-based Sixth Form in Sunderland at Southmoor, and since then has gone on to establish the North East’s first OxNet hub at the school.

With Southmoor students now going on to Oxford, Cambridge and Russell Group institutions, he has been working with other schools and universities across the region to increase participation in elite education by those from disadvantaged and marginalised backgrounds.

Sammy is Commissioner for Schools and Higher Education.

Latest news and blogs

Recap: Employers Masterclass – Social mobility, hiring and recruitment

In our latest masterclass (16 September), we put the focus on hiring and recruitment – exploring the common practices that can create artificial and unnecessary barriers to potential applicants from lower socio-economic backgrounds. We were delighted to be joined by Danny Matthews and Hazel Remeika from Co-op, who shared their approach to hiring in a […]

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🗣️ #LetsTalkAboutClass...

16/09/2021

Are you committed to building an workplace culture that is inclusive of employees from a low #socioeconomicbackground (SEB)?

Make sure you’re having open & honest discussions with employees about your plans and what it means to be from a low socio-economic background – including the additional barriers that low SEB employees face in the workplace.

Launched today, our new resource pack is designed to support internal discussions about socio-economic background in organisations at any stage in their social mobility journey.

Download the toolkit and start the conversation: https://bit.ly/3AdtksP

#leadership #culture #workplace #diversity #hr #employeeexperience #humanresources #staffwellbeing #diversityandinclusion #employeeengagement

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