Oli, Head of Region London and South Branch Network at HSBC is Wonder Woman! She is a role model for everyone in the industry. A key driver of HSBC’s diversity agenda, Oli is currently the Diversity and Inclusion Lead for the Branch Network in the UK and Co-Chair for Embrace – Employee Resource Group – she is passionate about BAME representation, inclusion and diversity in the workplace
Oliemata O’Donoghue
Oliemata O’Donoghue

She also chairs the Regional Communities Committee. Oli mentors female and male colleagues and was named a top 100 BAME business leader in 2018 and 2019 and has been shortlisted for the 2020 WIBF Champion for Women Award.

How does it feel to be shortlisted for this award?

I feel truly honoured to have been shortlisted as we have so people doing amazing things in this space. My passion has always been driving inclusion and embracing all our cultural differences, I am so thankful to my colleagues who nominated me for this award. I am very grateful to be recognised for something that I care so much about. It is a really good feeling – I have incredible family, friends and colleagues who inspire me to continue doing what I love and focusing on Diversity and Inclusion.

You are currently the co-chair for the Embrace ERG, can you tell us more about that?

I am very passionate about inclusivity. I work for a global brand and that comes with the responsibility to play my part to drive a greater societal impact, and be the employer – and bank – of choice for our diverse communities. I believe that by driving diversity and inclusion, we have a huge opportunity to achieve our shared ambition. I am also a mother of two, I want the world to be a fair place for our future generation. My children, Louvain and Aaron, and their generation inspire me to play my part however I can.

Embrace UK champions an inclusive workplace, to help colleagues to thrive together and be at their best. We promote and run different activities including roundtables, mentoring schemes and workshops to support career progression and help colleagues to be more comfortable talking about Race, Ethnicity and Culture in the workplace.

Our Vision is to foster an inclusive workplace by providing support, awareness and education. Together, we embrace and celebrate a workforce that represents the customers we serve and communities we live in. Our Purpose is to ATTRACT employees from a diverse talent pool both internally and externally, RETAIN our employees through career progression and promotion and ENGAGE in various ways with our customers and employees from diverse backgrounds to reflect our multicultural base.

You have been described as a role model and are pulling together a Women in Banking Role Model Panel Event, who are your role models?

This might sound very cliché, but my absolute role model is my Mum. I have learned so much from her, I admire the care she shows to everyone, her determination, resilience and embracing nature. She is highly intelligent – both emotionally and intellectually – and has the ability to always learn from everyone, including children. Professionally, I have been very lucky to be surrounded by amazing women, including my manager who gave me my first break as a Director many years ago.

You support shared parental leave, have you seen more men taking this up and what can you advise other people who would like to encourage this in their organisations?

I am extremely passionate about shared parental leave. My husband and I shared our parental leave when we had both our children and as a family, and a working mum, I certainly saw the benefits for both our kids and myself. My husband currently works key time and has been the primary carer at home for our kids in the last five years. I always encourage as many men as possible to have this experience – I always start by saying “yes” to any request and then work out the details to make it happen. I would like to see this become the norm, rather than the exception, across all organisations. We need to embrace flexible working and we need to make sure that it is highly advocated for our male colleagues.

You participated as a mentor to unemployed youth ages 16 - 30 in London. This led to an invitation by the Minister of Employment for a reception at the houses of Parliament in 2019, what can you tell us about that?

In the last 20 years of my career, I have always promoted mentoring as I have seen the full benefits of being both a mentor and mentee myself. We have a huge responsibility to send the ladder down and help nurture developing talent. Young people of today have a very tough gig when it comes to joining many industries.

The Unemployment Mentoring Circle and partnership with the Department of Work and Pensions was led by two of my colleagues within Embrace; for me, it was a no brainer to take part and support this fantastic initiative. The true credit belongs to them as, alongside their day job, they manage to run over 12 session and provide platform to over 100 mentees. We also had the opportunity to host the launch of the cross-industry mentoring circle which was attended by the right honourable minister and major UK companies.

What have you learned about yourself during the current lockdown and working from home?

The pandemic has definitely given us many lessons across the globe and the unprecedented time has been one of the toughest psychological challenges to overcome and manage on many levels. I run a large-scale frontline business that depends on us, as key workers, to open our branches to serve local communities, keeping cash and financial services flowing. We have adapted our business very quickly to respond to the changing environment in a fast-paced and agile manner, whilst having a primary focus on keeping our colleagues and customers safe.

I have learned a lot about myself, especially around managing my own resilience. I am a working mum and being based at home and managing home-schooling has been tough. On a personal level, spending so much time at home with my family has reminded me of how I need to gain better work-life balance and focus more on my physical and mental wellbeing. I have also rediscovered my passion for cooking and just not taking everything in life so seriously.