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We Rise By Lifting Others

A proud South Londoner of Bangladeshi and Irish heritage, Joy Crookes is a multihyphenate artist shaped by a rich tapestry of influences. She’s a singer-songwriter and multi instrumentalist. In 2020, Joy made the prestigious BRITS Rising Star Award shortlist, as well as placing fourth on the BBC Sound Poll, and headlining ‘ones to watch’ lists from YouTube Music, Amazon Music, MTV Push, NME and beyond. Renowned for her live performances, Joy has played Glastonbury, BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend and Later…With Jools Holland, as well as selling out her own headline tours across the UK and Europe.


Claire Blackwell

Claire Blackwell is the Director of Marketing at St. James’s Place. Claire is responsible for the corporate brand proposition, identity and marketing services provided to Partners of SJP.


"You have to expect that you’re going to have setbacks regularly in your career. It’s about how you deal with those setbacks that’s really important. You’ve got to learn to build resilience, a little bit of a thick skin, some agility, a little bit of grace, and a desire to continuously improve and learn"


Sponsor Claire Blackwell (SJP) for The Female Lead by Sane Seven small.jpg

I was raised in Johannesburg, South Africa surrounded by a loving and caring extended group of family and friends. My childhood was one exciting outdoor adventure! My father’s family were from quite a paternalistic culture, but I was also surrounded by positive female influences from across my fabulous family. Family ethics were important in my upbringing – values such as honesty, integrity, and being loving.

I was quite shy and awkward at school and didn’t have a lot of confidence, however I don’t think I appeared as awkward as I felt. If I could give my teenage self some advice, I would say to be more confident in who you are and in your abilities, don’t be so anxious and have more fun – it does work out in the end! 

As a teenager it wasn’t clear to me exactly what I wanted to do. I knew that it was important for social ethics to a play a part in my career but there was no clear vocation calling me. I was interested in science and I made a last-minute decision to study it with a major in nursing, later changing to environmental science. 

I try to take every opportunity that comes my way and say yes to everything. I took my first opportunity with an asset management company in Cape Town which ultimately brought me to the UK, more than 25 years ago. Although I am always looking to grow myself, I have only had four employers across my career as I always look for the right opportunities within those companies. I am lucky to have worked in many global locations.

In my current role, I help advisors connect with and retain their client base. I help to make sure that clients are well advised in terms of their investments and can confidently prepare for the future. I love the diversity of my role. I work with amazing people and can do something purposeful in helping people with their futures.

Like everyone, I have had plenty of setbacks in my career, several came with maternity leave. Setbacks will happen to everyone regularly throughout their career but the important thing is how you deal with them. They can help you build resilience, develop agility and handle things with grace. You can then use the opportunity to improve and learn from your mistakes. 

There aren’t enough women working in finance, but the problem is wider than just being a female. There needs to be more diversity throughout the industry and indeed across all walks of life. Decision makers need to understand their clients and make sure their workforce is representative. It isn’t something that can be fixed overnight. Sadly, I think that should my five-year-old daughter choose to work in the industry she may still have to grapple with some of these issues. 

I was privileged to work at a company under the stewardship of Helena Morrissey for 10 years. Her mentorship and sponsorship meant a great deal to me and I continue to be inspired by all she manages to achieve. 

Currently women retire with significantly less pension wealth than men. We need to work very hard to educate more women, giving them the correct advice so they can deal with this uneven gender retirement gap. The issue is not that women have little interested in finance, the issue is the way they are spoken to. The dialogue needs to suit them and be how they want to receive and understand the information.  I feel that the industry could do a lot more in this regard. 

One of the greatest pieces of advice I received (and one I regularly return to) was during my first period of maternity leave. I was panicking about how I was going to juggle motherhood with work. A colleague said to me, “you can only deal with things in six-month chunks. You can’t project how things will be when your child is five or 10.” Trying to predict too far ahead leads to anxiety and a feeling of being out of control. As women we often feel as though we need to be in control, but by breaking things down into manageable periods of time, like six months, we are more able to deal with things. With the pandemic bringing so much uncertainty into all our lives we should all perhaps be breaking things down into smaller chunks.

I try to take every opportunity that comes my way - say yes to everything. 


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