Dame Sharon White named Britain’s most influential Black person

John Lewis chair Dame Sharon White named Britain’s most influential Black person by

The Powerlist 2023

Dame Sharon was born in East London to Jamaican parents and attended Cambridge University to study economics before embarking on a dazzling career in the civil service (Image: Handout)

Historian David Olusoga; Anne Mensah of Netflix; and Tech CEO Dean Forbes make the Top 10 Newcomers on the list, in partnership with J.P.Morgan, include photographer and activist Misan Harriman, Afua Kyei, CFO, Bank of England and cyber security chief Simon Hepburn, Dame Sharon White, chair of the retail giant John Lewis, has been named the UK’s most influential black person by The Powerlist 2023, the annual list of the UK’s most powerful people of African, African Caribbean and African American heritage.


The businesswoman is joined in the Top 10 by historian David Olusoga, Anne Mensah, VP of content at Netflix and Dean Forbes CEO of Forterro and Partner at Corten Capital. Other well-known names on the list include Stormzy, Idris Elba and broadcaster Charlene White. Among the new names for 2023 are Misan Harriman, Riki Bleu, Founder and co-President of record label Since ‘93 and Simon Hepburn CEO UK Cyber Security Council.


Powerlistees, as they are known, will be celebrated on Friday, October 28 at the sold-out Powerlist Black Excellence Awards hosted by Colin Salmon and taking place at The Savoy hotel in London.

The full Powerlist 2023 Top 10 is as follows:

Dame Sharon White                     Chair, John Lewis Partnership


Dean Forbes                                   CEO, Forterro, Partner at Corten Capital


Anne Mensah                                Vice-President of Content UK, Netflix


Tunde Olanrewaju                        Senior Partner, McKinsey and Company


Steven Bartlett                               Entrepreneur and Dragon, Dragon’s Den


David Olusoga                                Historian; Joint Creative Director of Uplands Television Ltd


Lord Simon Woolley                     Co-Founder/Director, Operation Black Vote & Principal, Homerton College, Cambridge University


Paulette Simpson CBE                  Executive, Corporate Affairs and Public Policy, Jamaica National Bank; Executive Director, The Voice Media Group


Richard Iferenta                                           Partner, Vice Chair, KPMG


Dr Sandie Okoro                            Group General Counsel, Standard Chartered Bank

Dame Sharon said: “It is an incredible honour to have been chosen to receive this year’s Powerlist Award – particularly given the outstanding contributions of the other nominees.


“My hope is that we can take the serendipity out of social mobility – everyone should have the chance to be who they want to be in life, with their background as a source of pride, not a disadvantage.”


The Powerlist was launched in 2007 to showcase black role models to young people. It is now regarded as the leading authority on issues of black influence. Now in its 15th year, The Powerlist, in partnership with J.P.Morgan, honours incredible men and women across a wide range of industries including business, science, technology and the arts.

Since her appointment in 2020, in the wake of Covid-19, Dame Sharon, who is the first ever female chair of John Lewis, has taken the retail company through a huge period of change which includes combining the management teams from the John Lewis and Waitrose chains.

Her strategy has included moving the business away from its retail roots and into new categories ranging from housing to financial services. Despite concerns from within, the company has seen pre-tax profits grow by more than a third year on year.

Dame Sharon was selected for the top spot by a panel of judges led by retired high court judge Dame Linda Dobbs.

This year’s top 10 consists of several movers and shakers from the business world, many who have risen into the top 10 as a result of their remarkable achievements over the past year.

Amongst these are Dean Forbes, CEO, Forterro Group, and Paulette Simpson, Executive, Corporate Affairs and Public Policy; and Jamaica National Bank; Executive Director, The Voice Media Group Dame Sharon has had an outstanding career to date. Previous roles include: Second Permanent Secretary at the Treasury, where she was responsible for overseeing the public finances; board-level positions at the Ministry of Justice and the Department for International Development; former adviser at the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit during the Tony Blair years, and senior economist at the World Bank in Washington DC.

Before joining John Lewis, she was previously chief executive at Ofcom, where from 2015 she managed the UK communications regulator through a period of similarly intense change.

Raised in Leyton, east London, Dame Sharon is a visiting fellow of Nuffield College, University of Oxford. She was awarded a Damehood in the 2020 New Year’s Honours, for public service.

Recently she was named top retail strategist by Retail Week in its annual Retail 100 list.

The Powerlist 2023 is published by Powerful Media. Its sponsors include PwC, BP, the Executive Leadership Council, The London Stock Exchange Group, Meta, and Mastercard.

Michael Eboda, CEO of Powerful Media, said: “The Powerlist continues to be the leading showcase, acknowledgement and reminder of the amazing individuals of African, African Caribbean and African American heritage we have in the UK and I would like to hugely congratulate each and every one on the list.

“Dame Sharon White totally deserves to be recognised as the UK’s most powerful black Briton on the Powerlist 2023. She is an example of true excellence and this is evident throughout her valuable input and work as chair of John Lewis and her academic and professional journey to date. She has been able to have a huge impact in one of the top retail companies in the UK which is truly remarkable. I applaud the great work she is doing.” 

The publishers of the Powerlist are also releasing a supplement entitled Power in the City which profiles influential Black leaders in the City.

“It is great to be acknowledged for the third year running on the Powerlist for my campaigning and activism around racial equity around health inequalities, mental health, covid 19, justice for Windrush Generation,Child Q and more Black British history. I hope this recognition helps to further my campaigning and pass the baton to the next generation” – Professor Patrick Vernon OBE

Click here to read the full list