Tola Ayoola

META Programme Lead, Civil Service Talent 

32 years in public service

My mother…

My mother was born and raised in Nigeria and finished her secondary school education at the age of 16. Going against her father wishes of wanting her to become a teacher in Lagos, my mother was determined to study midwifery in the UK. So against her Father’s wishes applied to nursing school in the UK in 1958 and was provisionally accepted at 18 years old.  Mum was the first and only one in her family of six sisters and one brother to leave Nigeria, a brave decision as Mum knew no one in the UK.  Mum qualified as a midwife but soon switched her attention to teaching mental health after noticing the lack of black female lecturers in hospitals and resenting the overpopulation of black patients in the mental health system.  My Mum became a senior lecturer at and dedicated her life to improving the treatment, rehabilitation and education around mental health. I remember the early years of Mum teaching where she would spend hours preparing for lectures and the pride she took in improving the lives of the most vulnerable.

Me in a paragraph

I was brought up to value the power of education and the importance of carving out your own economic base.  I have always been a sporty person, determined to promote female sport at it’s highest level and so became a professional 100m /200m sprinter in my early years, played National League Basketball and selected onto the superleague netball team.  I also run summer camps for 8-13 year old women, umpire women’s netball leagues and promote back to netball with England Netball. When I’m not on the court, I am busy campaigning to help netball become an Olympic sport.  We still have a long way to go to convince other countries the power of female sport and why they should invest in it. I volunteer to teach netball in inner city schools and regularly donate netball equipment to help increase participation in sport in Africa, Europe and America. Netball was first introduced in 1895 with less than 30 women taking part where today we have 20 million people playing netball in over 70 countries.

My job

Giving back to my community means a lot to me and so I have responsibility for spotting talent and helping people to realise and reach their potential.  My role as META Programme Lead allows me to work with a selection of the most talented BAME colleagues to support them to become future leaders of the Civil Service.  It involves designing a tailored programme that provides a levelling playing field for participants that also addresses the cultural and systemic barriers BAME colleagues face. I have a strong belief in justice, truth and equality and work across our diversity networks to help promote the META programme.

 If I had a magic wand, what I would do to accelerate gender equality

Netball will become an Olympic Sport and women be paid equal to men where they do equal work, e.g. in tennis, football etc.

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