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Freshfields’ Annette Byron and Tim Wilkins recognised by Empower for championing inclusion and racial equality

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (‘Freshfields’) partners Annette Byron and Tim Wilkins have been listed in the Empower (“Ethnic Minority Power”) 100 Executives Role Model List 2023 for their advocacy and dedication to inclusion and racial equality.  

Announced today by INvolve and supported by YouTube, Empower – or ‘Ethnic Minority’ Power – is a membership initiative driving the empowerment of ethnic minority employees within corporate organisations.

Byron commented: “I am delighted to receive this recognition alongside Tim Wilkins and humbled to be listed as a role model among other outstanding peers. It’s critical that we continue to drive efforts to achieve diverse representation and maintain a focus on action in this area.”

Wilkins said: “I am honoured to be recognised once again and proud to see my colleague Annette Byron featured on this list. Our efforts to support, promote and encourage our ethnic minority colleagues is essential for creating meaningful change in communities – and to achieve our own ambitions of ensuring an inclusive workplace.”

At Freshfields, Byron serves as co-leader of the firm’s Global Black Affinity Network and partner sponsor for social mobility. She sits on the firm’s graduate recruitment panel and the cross-function social-mobility committee to further help those from non-traditional backgrounds join the firm and thrive.

Byron is also the founder and driving force of Freshfields’ Stephen Lawrence Scholarship Scheme, now in its eleventh year, and which seeks to address the disproportionate under-representation in large commercial law firms and other City institutions of Black men from less socially mobile backgrounds. Byron further sponsors Freshfields’ ‘Future Leaders’ talent programme, which provides bespoke training supporting Black and ethnically diverse colleagues’ progression.

Wilkins leads Freshfields’ global practice on client sustainability to advise on issues related to climate change, human rights, sustainable finance and corporate governance. He was recognized in 2023 by Crain’s Business as a Notable Leader in Sustainability.  He also has pioneered numerous initiatives—inside and outside the firm—to support Black colleagues and people of color, including founding 13 years ago the firm’s collaboration with Legal Outreach, a mentoring program for New York City public high school students to provide college prep and professional experiences.

Wilkins also works to support Black and minority ethnic communities more broadly through his board positions. He is the Chair of the New York Public Radio Board and previously served on the NYC Economic Development Association (appointed by the Mayor of New York City), New York Public Theatre (Co-chair of Governance) and the Opportunity Agenda (Chair of Steering Committee). He also co-founded the New York Circular City Initiative, a programme to develop a circular economic system that promotes greater employment and a greener environment for the New York City, including its less advantaged neighbourhoods.

Founder & CEO of INvolve, Suki Sandhu OBE, said: “I’m so thrilled to be celebrating this global group of trailblazing Executives, Future Leaders and Advocates for people of colour in business. All the individuals within these lists are championing inclusion and leveraging their expertise and knowledge to drive impactful initiatives and strategic change within their organisations. It’s vital that people of colour across global organisations can succeed and achieve career success, and these Role Models are essential drivers of change who are smashing barriers to progress. We could not effect change without them leading the way.”

More information on Empower can be found here.