A disability rights activist has been crowned the Future Face of Greater Birmingham at an annual business awards ceremony tonight.
Shani Dhanda was named the overall winner at the sixth Future Faces Awards, run by Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, for her work as a social entrepreneur and campaigner.
The annual scheme recognised the rising stars of the region’s business community aged 35 and under across ten separate categories.
Ms Dhanda won the charity and social enterprise category at the online ceremony before being picked from the group of winners to be named overall Future Face of 2020.
The Birmingham Apprenticeship Awards are back for a second year, in partnership with the Ladder for Greater Birmingham. The event will be held online only on Friday November 27, 2020 and will celebrate apprentices, employers and training and education providers.
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She will now receive a fully funded MBA from Aston University.
Ms Dhanda was born with a rare genetic condition called osteogenesis imperfecta, more commonly known as brittle bones, which affects one in every 15,000 people in the UK.
She was inspired to become a social entrepreneur, disability specialist and advocate for culture change after suffering from discrimination and feeling underrepresented in her early life.
In 2017, our sister website BirminghamLive reported how Ms Dhanda had seen 100 job applications go unanswered so she conducted an experiment and decided to leave her disability off her covering letter.
She was then offered an interview and secured a job in telesales.
Ms Dhanda has gone on to become a respected keynote speaker across business, government and not-for-profit organisations as well as founding and leading three organisations – Diversability, the Asian Disability Network and Asian Woman Festival.
She has also worked with major companies such as Google, Virgin Media and Viacom and starred in a national TV advert for LinkedIn’s ‘In It Together’ campaign.
The judging panel said: “Shani is a real inspiration on so many levels as a practitioner for inclusion across business, government, non-profit and wider society.
“She breaks down barriers and helps organisations integrate inclusion into their frameworks.”
The online ceremony was hosted at Chamber of Commerce House in Edgbaston and presented by Heart FM broadcaster Gemma Hill.
The full list of winners for 2020 is below and the shortlist can be read here
Apprentice of the Year
Taylor Rooke, Updates Media
Arts and Culture
Casey Bailey, Baileys Rap and Poetry
Charity and Social Enterprise
Shani Dhanda, Asian Woman Festival
Kasim Choudhry, Thinkfest
Jo Drinkwater, Grant McKnight
Michal Nowinski, Arup
James Farmer, Cornwall Street Barristers
Public Sector and Education
Islam Issa, Birmingham City University
Sales, Marketing and Communications
Daniel Nikolla, Hardy Signs
Technology and Innovation
Tom Goodman, University of Birmingham
The Ambassador Award, which is given to a member of Future Faces, was won by photographer Edwin Ladd, from Mr Ladd Media, who will now receive a place on Common Purpose’s Emerging Leaders programme.