PRESS RELEASE – Monday 28 June 2021
SANDIE OKORO IS APPOINTED INAUGURAL CHAIR OF THE WOW FOUNDATION
The WOW Foundation, founded by Jude Kelly CBE, has today announced that Sandie Okoro, World Bank Senior Vice President and Group General Counsel, and World Bank Vice President for Compliance is to become the inaugural Chair of the UK based charity that runs WOW - Women of the World Festivals and events across the world.
Sandie is a hugely influential business leader and one of the most senior women in Finance —the procurement is an indication of an organisation which has gone from strength to strength in the last decade. Sandie is the first British national and the first Black woman to hold her current role at the World Bank Group.
WOW - Women of the World Festivals were created by Jude Kelly in 2010. In 2018, Jude left the Southbank Centre to found The WOW Foundation to run the global movement as an independent charity, creating a Board of Trustees now led by Sandie.
WOW Festivals began in the UK over a decade ago to celebrate women and girls, raising awareness globally of the issues they face. To date, they have now reached over three million people in 17 countries on six continents.
Sandie has been involved with the WOW Festival since it first began in 2010. She participated in a headline event with Jude Kelly and Lauren Laverne titled ‘The Politics of Afro Hair’ which became one of WOW’s biggest hits in history with over 40,000 views on YouTube. Sandie returned to be part of a follow up panel, ‘Weave vs Natural?’ due to popular demand. She has also taken part in an event with Jude Kelly and Lauren Laverne about ambition, and chaired panels with other influential business leaders examining women’s experiences in the workplace. Sandie recently took part in the Festival’s 24-hour non-stop international edition during lockdown 2020, examining how to build a financial system that works for women.
Sandie Okoro said: “I am beyond delighted to have been appointed the Inaugural Chair of The WOW foundation. I am a huge fan, and passionate supporter, of WOW and I have been involved with WOW since its inception and was one of the infamous WOW Festival Panel in 2014 on "The Politics of Afro Hair". I have always been a champion of gender equality and the opportunity to twin this with my passion for the Arts was truly irresistible. The Arts hold up a mirror to society and this will be the century of gender equality. There has never been a better time for a global women's arts movement. I want to play my part. We can all be agents of change for gender equality. I am very excited and looking forward to working with the WOW CEO, Jude Kelly and the rest of the WOW Board and Staff in this exciting adventure as we use the creative arts to change the World.”
At the World Bank Group, Sandie is the principal advisor and spokesperson on all legal matters for the world’s leading development finance institution. She heads the Legal Vice Presidency where international development legal experts provide legal services essential to World Bank activities and operations. Sandie also heads the Compliance Vice Presidency that is responsible for developing and overseeing the World Bank data privacy framework that is based on the World Bank Group Policy on Personal Data Privacy. The two Vice Presidencies are separate and distinct.
Jude Kelly, CEO and Founder of The WOW Foundation said: "Sandie Okoro has taken a personal and fearless stand throughout her life against inequality. She has used her global status to open up difficult conversations and insist on policies for change on behalf of everyone experiencing gender injustice. This makes her a perfect fit to become our Chair, and the WOW global community and I myself am excited and inspired to have her join us as we seek to fulfil the potential of millions by celebrating amazing achievements and challenging systemic inequity. Her long-standing friendship and commitment to WOW makes her a trusted and powerful advocate as we embark on the next phase of our story."
From its home at the Southbank Centre 11 years ago the charity has made huge strides towards becoming a truly international movement, and now works online and in person all over the world in locations including Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, Finland, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Somaliland, the UK and the USA. In 2020, following celebrations for their 10th birthday at the Southbank Centre in March, the Festival once again pivoted to respond to women’s rapidly changing needs, and in June, just two months later, held its first ever worldwide online festival — WOW Global 24. Over the course of one turn of the earth, the festival travelled around the world everywhere from the UK to Nigeria, and Pakistan to Australia with localised and global events exploring the intersectional impact of COVID-19 on gender inequality, and responding to Black Lives Matter.
This March WOW celebrated International Women’s Day across the month with digital festivals in Istanbul, Nepal, Pakistan, New York and the UK. WOW Australia is hosting a series of one-day in person festivals across Queensland this summer, and upcoming festivals include WOW Rio in Brazil and Taiwan’s inaugural WOW Kaohsiung.
Following its successful WOW UK Festival 2021 in March, WOW UK will revisit some of its most popular workshops and talks in July, offering people worldwide a second chance to access ground-breaking ‘In Conversations’ and interactive workshops exploring everything from being a grandmother to being an artist in a pandemic. Audiences will be able to buy a £10 pass to watch the talks on demand, with speakers including Kimberlé Crenshaw, Ruby Wax, Sheila Heti, Avni Doshi and Arundhati Roy.
From 23rd-27th July, workshops will include Everyone’s An Artist with Bryony Kimmings; The Radical Love of Black Feminist Politics with Jade Bentil; a discussion led by Sabeena Akhtar on her anthology of essays by Muslim British women; Finding Your Virtual Power with Sarah Blumenau; Under 10s Feminist Corner; a discussion of being an active bystander; a beginners guide to plumbing; and a discussion group for grandmothers.
Other upcoming WOW events include Shameless! Festival (26-27th November), a new festival exploring activism against sexual violence combining academic research, activism and art, in partnership with Birkbeck, University of London and The Wellcome Trust. WOW London will return to the Southbank Centre in March 2022.
The WOW Foundation is proudly supported by its Global Founding Partner Bloomberg, and Global Partner Mastercard.
NOTES TO EDITORS
About Sandie Okoro (She/Her/Hers)
Dr. Sandie Okoro (she/her/hers) is Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the World Bank Group, and Vice President for Compliance at the World Bank. She is also the Chair of the World Bank Group Task Force on Racism.
A British national and the first black woman to hold this role, Sandie is the principal advisor and spokesperson on all legal matters for the world’s leading development finance institution. She also heads the Compliance Vice Presidency that is responsible for developing and overseeing the World Bank data privacy framework based on the World Bank Group Policy on Personal Data Privacy. The two Vice Presidencies are separate and distinct. In her role as the Chair for the World Bank Group Task Force on Racism, Sandie is bringing the topics of race and racial equity at the forefront of Bank Group staff and operational matters, convening discussions and proposing action steps to help ensure racism and racial inequalities have no place in the institution, its operations, and the countries it serves.
Prior to joining the World Bank, Sandie was General Counsel for HSBC Global Asset Management, Deputy General Counsel of HSBC Retail Banking and Wealth Management, and Global General Counsel at Barings.
Sandie is an Honorary Bencher of Middle Temple in the United Kingdom (2018) and was named one of the Upstanding 100 Leading Ethnic Minority Executives (2016), Top 20 Global General Counsel (2019) by the Financial Times, and was recognized as Britain’s 5th most influential person of African and African Caribbean heritage by Powerlist (2018). She holds Honorary Doctorates in Law from City University London (2014), London Southbank University (2018), and her alma mater Birmingham University (2019). Sandie received a lifetime achievement award from the UK Black Solicitors Network (2016), was named one of the Power 100 Women by City A.M. and 100 Women to Watch by Female FTSE Board.
Sandie received the Howard University 2019 Vanguard Women Award for her accomplishments as a woman of color who has blazed the trail and her commitment to mentoring young women and advancing the rights of women and girls globally. She is also the recipient of the Beyond the Glass Ceiling Award presented by the Leadership Institute for Women of Color Attorneys (2019), the Chambers 100 Outstanding Global General Counsel (2019), and an honoree of Harvard Law’s 7th Annual International Women’s Day Portrait Exhibit (2020).
Sandie is an ardent defender and champion for women empowerment, gender equality, and justice for all. Outside of work, Sandie is a Governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and prior to joining the World Bank Group, she was a council member of the human rights organization JUSTICE, Ambassador for the Law Society’s Diversity Access Scheme and sat on the Equality Standards Panel of the Premier League.
You can follow Sandie Okoro on Twitter @SandieOkoro.
About The WOW Foundation
The WOW Foundation was created by Jude Kelly CBE in 2018 to run the global movement that is WOW - Women of the World Festivals. The Festivals began in the UK in 2010, launched by Kelly at the Southbank Centre London, where she was Artistic Director, to celebrate women and girls, taking a frank look at what prevents them from achieving their potential, raising awareness globally of the issues they face, and discussing solutions together.
To date, WOW has reached over 2 million people in 17 countries on six continents, in locations including Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, Finland, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Somaliland, the UK and the USA. In 2018/19 WOW was in Rio de Janeiro, Cardiff, Bradford, Bangladesh, Brisbane, Janakpur (Nepal), Baltimore, London, Exeter, Norwich, Perth, Beijing, Ghana and Nigeria. In June 2020, WOW held its first ever worldwide online festival focused on women and girls — WOW Global 24. The festival travelled around the world everywhere from the UK to Nigeria, and Pakistan to Australia exploring the intersectional impact of COVID-19 on gender inequality, and responding to Black Lives Matter.
Over the last 10 years the Festivals have developed a reputation as a space for world renowned artists, activists, thinkers and performers including Angela Davis, Malala Yousafzai, Annie Lennox, Patrick Stewart, Baroness Doreen Lawrence and Salma Hayek, to come and participate, alongside thousands of women and girls who don’t have public profiles but are doing amazing things. WOW provides platforms for people of all kinds, changes attitudes, brings communities together and provides a unique space for people to work together towards gender equality in their own communities. One example of the impact the festival has come in 2015, with the founding of the Women’s Equality Party by Sandi Toksvig and Catherine Mayer.
In 2018 Kelly left the Southbank Centre to run The WOW Foundation full time as a charity working to build, convene and sustain a global movement that believes a gender equal world is possible and desirable through festivals and empowering women and girls. The unique festival model creates numerous pathways for participants to take part in WOW projects, amplify their own causes, or start new initiatives which have a wide impact on communities. It is the biggest, most comprehensive and most significant festival dedicated to presenting work by women and promoting equality for women and girls.
WOW festivals and events are presented by arrangement with the Southbank Centre.
The President of WOW - Women of the World is HRH The Duchess of Cornwall.
Bloomberg – the global business, financial information and news leader – is a founding supporter of WOW - Women of the World Festivals. Bloomberg has long supported organisations and causes that advance gender equality and seek to address challenges women face around the world, from maternal and reproductive health to women’s economic empowerment and inspiring the new generation of female leaders. Bloomberg has proudly supported WOW Festivals since 2012 www.bloomberg.com/women
About the Southbank Centre
The Southbank Centre is the UK’s largest arts centre occupying a prominent riverside location that sits in the midst of London’s most vibrant cultural quarter on the South Bank of the Thames. We exist to present great cultural experiences that bring people together and we achieve this by providing the space for artists to create and present their best work and by creating a place where as many people as possible can come together to experience bold, unusual and eye-opening work. We want to take people out of the everyday, every day. The site has an extraordinary creative and architectural history stretching back to the 1951 Festival of Britain. The Southbank Centre is made up of the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery as well as being home to the National Poetry Library and the Arts Council Collection. It is also home to four Resident Orchestras (London Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Sinfonietta and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment) and four Associate Orchestras (Aurora Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, Chineke! Orchestra and National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain).