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“You can’t just sit and wait for the world to be better” says Cynthia V Davis, newly appointed CBE



Cynthia V Davis

The surface of the kitchen table can barely be seen beneath the scribbled to-do lists, the laptop and the baby bag, overflowing with packets of nappies, spare clothes and favourite toys. For Cynthia V Davis CBE, there is no work-life balance. At this moment, her work is her life and her life is her work – her new recruitment company, created to make the world a fairer place for her baby daughter.

“I knew the challenges she could face in the world: being judged on her gender, being paid less than her male counterparts, having her ethnicity held against her. And I didn’t want to be somebody that sat there and did nothing about it,” says Cynthia, mother of one and founder and CEO of two equality and diversity businesses.

In November 2023, she was awarded a CBE for her exceptional contributions to equality and diversity. She has been running her recruitment company, Diversifying Group since 2015 and her pro-diversity job board, Diversifying Jobs, since 2020. Both businesses are based in London.

Diversity isn’t a tick box exercise or something you do because it’s Pride Month or Black History Month. It’s work that never stops; work that should become part of your DNA, your culture, it should be embedded.”

‘Still I Rise’ – Cynthia’s story

“When I started my recruitment company, I had no business experience at all, just a passionate love for my daughter and for making a change,” says Cynthia, 46.

“Even so, the early days could be lonely. I remember going to my local bank branch, holding my daughter in a sling, to ask for a business loan. They said they wouldn’t fund me. Grants for businesses like mine weren’t readily available back then so I started the business with my own savings. I had about £3,000 to put into it, which I used to buy a laptop and set up a website. Fast forward eight years and we’re a team of 30 working in multi-million pound generating businesses.”

Today, Cynthia mostly works from her office in Aldgate. On her desk sits a phone, a desktop, a copy of Becoming by Michelle Obama and a diary, started eight years ago for her daughter.

“She’ll get it on her 18th birthday,” says Cynthia. “It’s full of inspiration and notes from me to her. The poem Still I Rise by Maya Angelou is in there and I’ve included lyrics from a song I love, High Hopes by Panic at the Disco, which helps me to keep pushing when I have bad days and stay focused. I’ve also included photos from special holidays and family events where I’ve written about those days. And it’s where I’ve kept the letter from his Majesty the King asking to honour me with a CBE.”

Cynthia V Davies
Cynthia V Davis, CBE

She received the letter on an otherwise ordinary Friday earlier this year. “I thought I’d been called for jury duty,” she says. “It was in a very official letter and I wasn’t expecting it. When I opened it, I burst into tears. No one in my family would ever have dreamed this could happen. My parents grew up under the empire, so for their daughter to now be a Commander of the Order of the British Empire is such an accolade.

A recruitment platform that champions diversity

Cynthia’s first business, Diversifying Group, offers clients recruitment services, advertising and diversity and inclusion training, consultancy and networking events. Her second business, Diversifying Jobs, takes this work a step further by enabling companies to show evidence of how they champion diversity and inclusion in the workplace and list their vacancies. For example, they can share information on their Women in Leadership programme or LGBTQAI+ network*. Each company profile is checked by Cynthia’s team.

“Companies have to diversify to get the best talent and they have to actively go where the candidates are, which is what Diversifying Jobs enables them to do,” says Cynthia.

The inclusive recruitment platform is free for candidates to use, while clients pay to join. Their fee differs depending on how many job adverts they would like to post. So far, more than 1,400 companies across all sectors have chosen to become part of the platform.

Most companies listed on Diversifying Jobs are based in the UK but some are based in the United States. “This is where Starling has been brilliant for us. We’ve been able to open a US dollar account so easily and continue the relationship we’d already established with the bank through our UK accounts.”

A bank built for women in business

Cynthia has used Starling for both businesses since 2021, after hearing Starling’s founder Anne Boden speak at an event on women in business. “What she talked about really resonated with me, especially the need to make funding more accessible to female founders. It was one of the reasons I wanted to use Starling Bank – I felt that they understood me and some of the challenges I face as a female entrepreneur.

In addition to her work as a founder and CEO, Cynthia also sits on the boards of two charities for children. “You can’t just sit and wait for the world to be better, you have to stand up and do something to make it happen.”

*LGBTQAI+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning (one’s sexual or gender identity), asexual/agender and intersex.