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Sharon White

Chief Executive, Ofcom


When she was appointed chief executive of Ofcom in 2015, Sharon became the first woman and the first black person to lead the media regulator – as well as the first black woman to have such a senior role in any UK media organisation.

During her tenure she has already had to tackle weighty and controversial issues, not least the Murdoch brothers’ bid for 21st Century Fox to take over Sky in an £11.7 billion deal. The regulator’s report on the proposed deal was handed to Government this month (June) and a presentation is due in Parliament on June 29.

Earlier this year, just weeks before Ofcom took over regulation of the BBC, Sharon said the BBC has failed older women and minorities by focusing on the “middle aged and middle class”. She would not rule out quotas as a way of tackling the issue.

Under Ofcom’s wide-reaching proposals for the BBC the regulator said it would establish a new Diversity Code of Practice and ask the BBC to report annually on how it has reflected, represented and served the diverse communities of the UK. A consultation on the plans closes in July and a final plan will be published in the autumn.

Prior to her role at Ofcom, Sharon was one of the most powerful women in Whitehall, overseeing the UK’s spending cuts as a senior Treasury official.

After graduating from Cambridge, Sharon spent a brief time working for a church in a deprived part of Birmingham before joining the civil service in 1989 as a graduate entry economist at what was then the Department for Education and Science. She quickly moved to the Treasury where she held a series of jobs on the public spending side of the department. The high-flyer spent time in Washington at the British Embassy and in the Number 10 policy unit.

She was appointed to work on international development at the World Bank before agreeing to take the post of policy director at the Department for International Development. Her return to domestic policy was marked by a move to the Department for Work and Pensions and the Ministry of Justice before rejoining the Treasury in 2011 to lead the White Review of the Treasury’s management response to the banking crisis.