carnegieXchange: School of Sport

Cracking the concrete ceiling in sport - Gender equality

In 2017, the year I became  the first black female Non-Executive Director of Football in the 138 years in County Football didn’t come by accident. Last year, I was described by Moya Dodd (former FIFA council member) as a “strong, articulate role model and pioneer in Diversity and Inclusion in football”.


Vivienne Aiyela

In 2010, during a conversation with a friend, I mentioned that I wanted to work in football/sport but never thought it would happen. Why? I never saw anyone who looked like me in such an influential position in football or sport. I grew up watching the Olympics and Commonwealth Games, Winter Sports, the World Cup and African Nations Cup. In 2007 I went to Ghana to watch the African Nations Cup.

Reflecting on my journey, I can confirm no career path is ever straight. Being resilient, understanding my own experience, transferable skills, having both high Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Cultural Competence (CQ) has helped my leadership career. Along with an ENFJ personality, the GC Index identified me as a Game Changer and Strategist. I challenge conventional thinking, look beyond the obvious and find different approaches to problems.

Whilst working as a Senior Diversity and Inclusion Manager in 2004, I was introduced to a black female senior leader. I admit she was the only black senior female that I had come across in my early career. We all need someone who believe in us, I call them Cheerleaders, and at the time I she was a Cheerleader. She opened the door to an opportunity for me to work with the Metropolitan Police. I became an Advisor to the Police Commissioner and Senior Management team, advising on Race and Diversity, and assisting them in their transformation whilst implementing the McPherson recommendations (in the wake of the death of Stephen Lawrence). This gave me some fantastic opportunities. I received The Commanders Commendation for Outstanding Leadership.

Black women are in sport, but many are athletes with few, if any, in the UK are represented in senior positions. I never saw anyone who looked like me in such an influential position in football/sport. From my experience, sport is 10 years behind the Met Police in terms of diversity and inclusion especially in senior positions.

Looking back to May 13, 2016, and Fatma Samora was appointed as the first black  female Secretary General of FIFA by President Gianni Infantino and assumed her post on 20 June 2016. This was groundbreaking for me. She was the incentive I needed to apply for the Non-Executive Director position. My moto is “if you can see it, you can be it”

This led to a trip to FIFA for an Equality and Inclusion conference for International Women’s Day. It was so inspirational. I saw so many women, including those who looked like me, from all around the world. I found my tribe! We all have the same passion and, we are on a mission to make football more inclusive such as getting more women and girls playing. With my role at London FA, I am in a position to influence diversity and inclusion and to help transform football in London. My purpose in life is to make a difference in the world for women and girls.

Vivienne Aiyela

Vivienne is a Senior Diversity and Inclusion Professional who has worked across various sectors helping them with their Diversity and Inclusion transformation journey. She is Non-Executive Director for London FA, the first black woman in the history of English Football, Chair of Footballers Anti-Discrimination Disciplinary (arbitration) Panel, Specialist Panel Member for The Sports Resolution focus on - Integrity & Discipline, Employment & Discrimination and Football Arbitration Panels.

An Independent Advisor on Race, Diversity and Inclusion to the Police Commissioner and Senior Officers of the Metropolitan Police. In recognition of her work for the Met, she received the highest Civil Award, the Commander’s Commendation for Outstanding Leadership. Board member and Chair overseeing a £110million residential regeneration project of Green Horizons/Metropolitan Housing Association, which won UK and European awards.

When not busy making the world a better place to live and work, she can be found at home with her sewing machine, making 95% of her own clothes, or in the gym attending indoor cycling classes and boxing training sessions with a professional boxing coach!

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