BRITAIN’S MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE OF AFRICAN AND AFRICAN CARIBBEAN HERITAGE.
Chief Executive, Ofcom
Sharon took over as Chief Executive of Ofcom in 2015, an appointment which made her the first woman and the first black person to lead the media regulator, and the first black woman to have such a senior role in any UK media organisation. Prior to that, she was one of the most powerful women in Whitehall, overseeing the UK’s spending cuts as a senior Treasury official. Ofcom has a wide remit, covering broadcasting, fixed line and mobile phones and postal services. Upon taking the role in March 2015, Sharon vowed to put consumers at the heart of her agenda and immediately promised to shake up restrictive contracts. The Daily Mail, usually a thorn in the side of most regulators, said of the Cambridge-educated economist: “If Ms White succeeds in forcing the industry to be fair to customers, this spirited, churchgoing daughter of Jamaican immigrants will prove herself worth ten times the identikit Blair crony she replaces.” She hasn’t shied away from talking about diversity and used a speech at a Royal Television Society convention in Cambridge to tell broadcasters they needed to do more to reflect “society as it is today”, and not the country of “20, 30, of 40 years ago”. She said the media was even less diverse than her previous career in the Treasury and stated she welcomed industry efforts to improve transparency about employing ethnic minorities. 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. She was formerly a Director General at the Ministry of Justice and the Department for International Development. She is married to Robert Chote, head of the Office for Budget Responsibility with whom she has two children.