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Meet the Major Programmes team

Chumani Ward

Today we’re chatting to Chumani Ward, a Consultant in Major Programmes’ Defence and Security team. She tells us about her advocacy for social mobility and her vision for the future, where diversity and inclusion are treated with the same lens of complexity as major capital programmes.

It’s easy to see how Chumani’s childhood in rural Shropshire shaped her passion for social mobility.

“Looking back, I knew my family weren’t as well off as my friends’, but I was lucky to have grown up in the countryside with a menagerie of animals in the garden and fishing and camping trips at every opportunity.”

“At age 11, I joined a grammar school, soon realising I was in the minority of classmates who had passed the 11+ exams without private tutoring. Instead, whilst still at primary school, I had taught myself how to navigate the exam by printing off past papers via a dial up internet connection. I had no idea of the opportunities a grammar school education would accord me – I just really enjoyed problem-solving.”

“Throughout secondary school I was proud of this achievement and thought myself to be the ideal candidate for the grammar school system. I hadn’t yet considered how many incredibly bright, but less advantaged students may have lost out on this opportunity when up against a culture of prep schools and private tutoring.”

It was only when Chumani went on to study Economics at university that she grasped the scale of the UK’s uneven playing field. Her peers sometimes couldn’t grasp why she couldn’t give up summers to travel the world or undertake a plethora of unpaid internships. She knew this would all be at the expense of funding the next term through a summer of Sainsbury’s shelf stacking.

This realisation, combined with her passion for development economics, helped her move away from the well-trodden Economics graduate’s path of investment banking towards one underpinned by purpose and societal impact.

Chumani found herself applying to Deloitte’s Human Capital practice, where she now sits within the Major Programmes team. She works primarily in the public sector, on major Defence programmes. She’s excited by the way Defence is increasingly challenging itself in terms of diversity and inclusivity, recognising the Armed Forces should reflect the society they are here to defend.

She relished the opportunity to work on the Army’s Programme CASTLE, a programme transforming the Army’s talent management system to become skills-based and ultimately supporting social mobility by providing greater visibility of career options to all, regardless of their networks.

“In Major Programmes, we apply a lens of complexity and systems thinking to every knotty problem presented to us by our clients. I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to apply this thinking to issues of diversity and inclusion, particularly social mobility, both internally and on my client engagements. We often talk about the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) nature of the programmes we work on – the UK’s social mobility challenge would certainly rank highly on this index!”

Chumani notes the complexity of driving change in the social mobility space: “Data on socioeconomic background can be hard to obtain and is often incomplete due to response rates. This only adds to the complexity of the diversity picture – for many people, socioeconomic diversity is just one of several cumulative barriers. The time to act is now: the cost-of-living crisis will only exacerbate the situation and is projected to force disproportionate number of working class graduates out of university”.

"We often talk about the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) nature of the programmes we work on – the UK’s social mobility challenge would certainly rank highly on this index!”

Having made progress with her clients, Chumani is now looking forward to shaping Deloitte's social mobility strategy. “We’ve recently set up a social mobility working group in Major Programmes, and with the launch of a broader network imminent, I am excited at the opportunity to bring Programme Aerodynamics thinking to the complex cultural change programme that lies ahead of us. We’re proud to be shaping the wider firm’s approach.”
Chumani has a clear long-term view of the kind of society she and her colleagues are working towards: one where everyone has the opportunity and confidence to get in and get on in the professional world, no matter their socioeconomic background.

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