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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.


Zainab Kwaw-Swanzy

Zainab Kwaw-Swanzy is a Senior Digital Product Manager at Barclays UK and Co-Chair of the Barclays Black Professionals Forum (BPF) which champions diversity, inclusion and equality in the workplace.


Imposter syndrome is real especially if you’re a black woman in spaces that aren’t diverse, so I sometimes question if I’m doing things right and if I’m doing things well enough, but I try to remember that everything is an experience. We can learn from every experience we have and there’s no such thing as failure, it’s just changing, adapting, and bettering yourself for the future."


Sponsor Zainab Kwaw-Swanzy (Barclays) for The Female Lead by Sane Seven small.jpg

I was born and raised in London and have spent all of my life there apart from my time at university in Bristol. My father died when I was four and I grew up with my mum and two older sisters in a happy home full of love. My sisters are four and six years older than me, so it often felt like I had three mums or three sisters looking after me. My family have been a great inspiration to me and I have always been surrounded by supportive women.

When I was younger, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. My mum always said that we could be and do anything that we wanted to in life. As a teenager, I grew to enjoy both writing and maths and I tutored maths for younger children. I wanted to keep studying something I was good at and enjoyed, so went on to study Maths at University.

I always had to battle between whether I should follow an academic career route or go with a more creative or vocational route. At university, I met friends involved in writing and journalism which led to me to explore my creative side alongside studying for my maths degree. Before graduating, I helped launch the award-winning online magazine gal-dem, representing women and non-binary people of colour. It was here that I developed a passion for writing and had some articles published. I am now writing a book on Black hair – covering topics like history, discrimination, styling and its influence on popular culture. Emma Dabiri is one of the inspirations for the book I am writing. She has an incredible way of telling stories that make people feel validated and others feel educated. We need more voices like hers in the world. 

There is so much that I am passionate about. Don’t feel you have to put yourself into a box – if you are passionate about something, do it. If you like sports and writing, do them both – it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

I have worked at Barclays since leaving university, having started with them on a summer placement while studying. I then moved onto the two year graduate programme in 2016 and after this, secured a role in the Digital Banking Team. My role now involves a combination of financial services and digital & tech. I work on new products and app features to expand our digital capabilities and enhance the customer experience. 

I have seen a drive to get more women into the financial services industry and into senior corporate positions, and we are seeing progress. I am managed by a woman and she has a female manager, but this is a rarity. We need to keep up the momentum but we also need to think about intersectionality. I still don’t see that many women of colour in senior positions. Better female representation within leadership will provide young women with relatable role models and show them that they can aspire to get to that stage.

Diversity and inclusion is really important in industries such as financial services. I wasn’t aware of many Black women in this industry when I first started my career, so it is important that as I progress, I am visible to generations after me. We have millions of customers – we need to cater to the needs of all them. We need diversity at all levels of our business so that we have the right people in the right rooms to serve customers from all different backgrounds.

I am co-chair of the Barclays Black Professionals Forum. We aim to develop and support Black colleagues, and make the workplace more inclusive. I joined the forum when I was on the graduate programme and volunteered to mentor sixth form students through the forum’s flagship mentoring programme. I went on to lead all of the Black Professionals Forum’s career development activities before becoming co-chair.

The best piece of advice I received was written in my school report when I was 5 years old. My teacher wrote that I needed to learn that making mistakes is not failure. This is something that I try to remind myself every day. Imposter syndrome is real – especially if you are a Black woman in a space that isn’t super diverse. I often question if I am doing things right or doing things well enough. Every experience is a learning opportunity that we can grow from. 

There is no such thing as failure - just different experiences that help you, change and adapt and better yourself for the future.

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