March 25, 2017

I had one of my dreams come true on Saturday 4th June.

Out of over 150 speakers under consideration, I was one of just 21 speakers chosen to speak at TEDx Royal Tunbridge Wells and the only woman from an African background.

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The theme for 2016 was ‘Leap of faith’ and all speakers were tasked with preparing a short talk featuring this theme.

As a senior lawyer, leader, diversity campaigner and mother of a teenaged son, I found I had so much material to choose from that, initially, limiting my talk to the required timeframe was extremely difficult! I then challenged myself to focus on the most authentic themes about my life and to simply tell my personal story.

I decided to call my talk ‘Climbing Mountains’ as this accurately reflects the level of determination, tenacity and persistence I have had to consistently demonstrate throughout my life. I bucked the family trend and expectation of becoming a doctor by choosing to do law, a momentous and somewhat rebellious decision given that I am the eldest child from a high-achieving, middle class, Nigerian family. The discussion I had with my father when I was 16 will forever remain in my memory as that was the age when, following my GCSEs, I finally confessed my commitment to a career in law. Much drama and discussion ensued and I needed to create a coalition of supporters (including my mother and school teachers) to persuade my father that a career in law was the better choice for me over medicine.

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So I started my talk by telling the TEDx audience about this very discussion, to honour my father and the level of support he gave me. I talked through the subsequent battles I faced in not only entering the legal profession but also in progressing within it once I became a mother. I have faced discrimination throughout my career both in terms of my race and my gender. I talked about these themes, the effect these experiences have had on my parenting and how this has shaped my life.

 

My talk finished with an inspiring quote from the British actor Tom Hiddleston:

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“You never know what’s around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain.”

Suffice to say that the accompanying picture of Tom Hiddleston was a big hit with the audience!

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The link to my talk will be available on the TEDx RTW website shortly – http://www.tedxroyaltunbridgewells.com/

Funke Abimbola is a senior leader for the world’s largest biotech company.

 She leads the legal, corporate compliance and data protection functions supporting the organisation’s pharmaceutical operations in the UK, Ireland, Malta and Gibraltar. She is currently the most senior black lawyer working within the UK’s pharmaceutical industry and one of the most senior globally. She has been recognised by the Financial Times as being one of the top 20 BAME leaders across the UK, Ireland and US (UPStanding100 2016 Powerlist).

 A multi award winning solicitor and diversity campaigner, she has received both national and European recognition for both her legal and diversity work. She won the 2015 Women4Africa Career Woman of the Year award and received a UK Recognition Award in 2016.

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