Funke Abimbola Guest blog – the sequel part 1

Funke Abimbola
In this 2 part guest blog, in part 1 Funke shares what has changed and how the change came about and the part 2, she shares the significance of the change and what next for 2016. This is part 1.

Funke is a practising solicitor and multi award-winning lawyer and diversity campaigner. She joined Roche as Managing Counsel in January 2012, leading the legal team supporting Roche’s pharmaceutical operations in the UK, Ireland, Malta and Gibraltar and was also appointed as Data Protection Officer for the UK. She was promoted to General Counsel & Company Secretary in December 2015. Her career began in private practice before moving in-house. Outside of her role at Roche, Funke undertakes a lot of work to support diversity & inclusion in society as a whole and within the legal profession in particular, initiating and driving through a range of ground-breaking diversity initiatives. She has received national and European recognition for her diversity work, all of which is carried out in her spare time on a voluntary basis.

What has changed?

2015 was a ground-breaking year for me both in terms of my legal work at Roche and in terms of building upon the reach and impact of my voluntary diversity work.

With regards diversity, I started the year focusing on gender diversity – by the end of the year, as well as gender, I was also doing significant amounts of work around social mobility issues and in relation to ethnicity. Together with award winning journalist, Jon Robins, and Byfield Consultancy (a leading legal PR firm), I published a report on social mobility issues across the whole legal profession called “Opening up or shutting out” (

The report was very well received, resulting in an exclusive for “The Times” and several opportunities to write further articles for “The Times” and other leading publications. The visibility and success of this report has led to many other opportunities for me – for example, a roundtable discussion on social mobility for “The Law Society Gazette” and me being a panellist at the 2015 PRIME conference, together with Sir Terry Leahy (former CEO of Tesco), the BBC’s Mishal Husain, Louise Ashley (the author of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission’s June 2015 report, “Non-educational barriers to the elite professions evaluation”, and ITV’s Barry Matthews. Approximately 200 law firm attendees were present. The visibility and impact of this event has, in turn, lead to additional opportunities for me to extend my diversity work even further in 2016.

Throughout 2015, I received an unprecedented number of speaking requests. In terms of sheer numbers, I spoke to audiences approaching 1,500 solicitors and other professionals including speaking at the BBC, the Law Society 3 times and at the 30% Club. Speaking engagements to school children was also very active last year – I spoke to almost 1,200 school children in 2015.

In terms of my legal career, I started 2015 as Managing Counsel for the UK & Ireland, leading the legal team supporting Roche’s pharmaceutical business in the UK, Ireland, Malta and Gibraltar. By the end of 2015, I had been promoted to General Counsel & Company Secretary. I now lead a mixture of both lawyers and corporate compliance professionals and, as UK Corporate Compliance Officer, I have additional responsibilities in driving the site-wide corporate compliance agenda for the Roche UK pharmaceutical business. I lead the UK Corporate Compliance senior leadership team and am also a member of the UK Governance senior leadership team. So 2015 was an eventful year to say the least!

How did any change come about?

The changes came about due to my increased visibility, impact, hard work, determination and commitment to developing myself and my team. Despite a number of set-backs and challenges throughout the year, I continued to focus on my goals and remained tenacious and determined throughout. I networked extensively, both within Roche and outside Roche. I was constantly on the lookout for opportunities both for myself and for my team and encouraged my team members to make the most of every opportunity and to see challenges as opportunities for growth and development.

My work was recognised through a series of awards programmes last year and I was deeply honoured to win 4 awards last year – Career Woman of the Year (Women4Africa Awards), Positive Role Model Award for Gender (National Diversity Awards), Outstanding Woman in Professional Services (Precious Awards) and Inspiring Member of the Year (Inclusive Networks Awards). I was also recognised by Brummells’ magazine as being one of the UK’s top 30 women champions of diversity impacting on the City of London. By the end of 2015, I had been appointed as a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Royal Society of Arts for enriching society through ideas and action!

Read Funke’s original guest blogs from 2015:

Part 1

Part 2

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Talent liberator - career change, executive coaching and employee engagement. PS Love writing too and write many articles. Background in marketing and brand strategy and communication and unusual analytical and lateral brain - great for new career directions and ideas!
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