Between university terms, Mariam Jimoh completed a number of corporate internships. As she moved through different companies, one thing remained the same: she worked with very few people who looked like her. “When I was at university, I interned every summer and this problem was highlighted during these internships,” says Mariam (pictured above centre). “I went to corporate events and no one looked like me.” She decided to do something about it.

During her final year of university she set up a network for Black women at the University College London (UCL), where she was studying Biomedical Sciences. Five years on, the Women in the City Afro-Caribbean Network, known as WCAN, supports 3000 young Black women in their professional and personal development.

Mariam Jimoh, founder and director of WCAN

Social enterprise

Mariam, 26, was born and grew up in London and now works in investment banking. “It’s hard to juggle everything, but I can’t let WCAN go - I always want to be hands on,” she says. “Learning how to lead a team has been a challenge but I’ve always thought I’ve been a good leader and entrepreneurship has always come naturally to me.”

When WCAN launched back in 2013, it was the first organisation of its kind. It quickly attracted many Black women looking for events, workshops and mentorship. Soon there were over 30 corporate sponsors. Today, many more young Black women have followed in her footsteps to create support resources. Earlier this year, Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené launched their book Slay In Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible to address life as a Black woman, from education to dating.

“WCAN is a social enterprise that’s a platform for Black women,” says Mariam, 26. “It’s a mixture of people of different ages, whether they are at school, at university or are young professionals. It provides a network that gives you a community you have something in common with. It’s free to join and it’s not corporate - lots of members work in the creative and tech industries.”

W-Can is a network offering encouragement, empowerment and elevation for Black women hoping to enter any industry in the City

While she was at UCL, events were attended by around 200 people. “As a student organisation we were expected to be a not-for-profit but we needed money for events. We fundraised through diversity consulting across the UK, advising corporate firms on their graduate recruitment marketing,” she says. This work has enabled the growth of WCAN which now works with universities all over the UK and runs 15-20 events every year.

Digital marketplace

On top of her full-time job in investment banking and her role as a director of WCAN, Mariam has also been working on an app to help Black businesses sell and deliver ingredients that you don’t always find in the supermarket. “It’s so much more than the Sainsbury’s international aisle,” she says. “There’s a demand for many more ingredients and Oja will help this.” The name of the app, Oja, means marketplace in Yoruba.

Business banking

Oja uses technology to solve a problem; Mariam wanted the same from her bank. “I was really tired of banking with a high street bank - my old business account gave me stress every single day,” she says.

A Starling for business account was her solution. “I’m able to do everything so simply. I like that you can monitor your spending, see the merchants you’ve interacted with and add more than one bank account for each payee,” she says.

Being a fully licensed bank, covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme was important for her when choosing a new bank for WCAN. “I use Goals for budgeting and have a bucket for this and that so we can work out how much we should be spending on different things that year,” she says. “It’s everything I need.”

To find out more about WCAN, have a look at or find out about upcoming events through Twitter or Facebook.

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