Microsoft’s Jacky Wright had to leave the UK to become its most influential black person

Wright, who tops Powerful Media’s 2022 Powerlist, told CNN Business her career may not have taken off in the UK as there are fewer opportunities and a lack of black female role models. at the top of the corporate ladder.

The Microsoft (MSFT) executive was ranked ahead of Manchester United footballer and Marcus Rashford, child poverty activist, Netflix (NFLX) Vice-President Anne Mensah and Oscar-winning actor Daniel Kaluuya on Britain’s most influential black people annual list, which is sponsored by companies such as PwC, Facebook (FB) and MasterCard (MY).
Wright was born in London, but her career spanned the US and UK, including CIO positions at PA (PA) and GE (GE). She told CNN Business that her life “straddles” the two countries.

She was seconded from Microsoft in 2017 and worked for two years as a digital manager in the UK government’s tax and customs department, overseeing the agency’s digital transformation and efforts to simplify tax collection.

But now she’s back in the United States and working with wide influence.

“Although my role says ‘United States’, I have global influence because I work with big global companies and I do other things in UK, Europe and Africa, so my scope is action is global and it always has been, ”she said.

‘A long way to go’

Wright attributes part of his success to geography.

“There are more opportunities in the US than in the UK,” she told CNN Business.

“And I think that notion of really highlighting and focusing on change, at least right now, is serious in the UK. But I think we have a long way to go.”

Wright’s father was born in Jamaica and served in the Royal Air Force during World War II. According to Wright, it was his experience of racism in Britain which prompted the family to move to the United States, where she attended New York City University.

“My dad and uncles were all from the Enoch Powell days and had a firm belief that change was going to take a lot longer in the UK than in the US, where he believed we had a better opportunity.” , she said, referring to the politician. known for a 1968 speech opposing immigration from the former British colonies.

“Looking back, I would tend to agree,” Wright said. “Because I’m not sure I would be chief digital officer at Microsoft if I hadn’t been in the States doing a series of career stages.”

Seeing black women in prominent corporate positions in the United States boosted self-confidence, according to Wright.

“Part of it is having a support group, having role models and seeing what I could be, looking at some of these women,” she said. ” We are talking about [former Xerox CEO] Ursula Burns and [Under Armour board member] Jerri DeVard and other women [of color] in managerial positions that did not exist in the UK. “

There are no black CEOs, CFOs or chairmen in the London Stock Exchange’s 100 Most Valuable Companies, according to Green Park, an executive search and diversity consultancy agency. The percentage of black executive and non-executive directors in the FTSE 100 (UKX) is 1.1%, against 1.3% in 2014, according to the agency.

In the United States, 11.4% of board seats at Fortune 100 companies were held by black executives in 2020, according to Deloitte.

Technology makes the difference

As a career technologist, Wright sees digital inclusion as a central part of the social mobility of people of color as well as of society at large.

“I think it behooves us to make sure we all become digitally included because the world is digital and if you are not that exacerbates the inequality that exists,” she said.

“Technology has the ability to be the great equalizer and so we really need to focus on that as a society, and on how we do it the right way. Digital curricula exclude a lot of people, but some people will be excluded more than others for cultural reasons and a lack of access to devices, ”she said.

But she said the government has a role to play.

“I think the government should work in partnership with the private sector and universities to provide these wrap-around type services to improve digital inclusion,” she said.

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