Meet Aspire: Mary Pierre-Harvey, Aspire trading subsidiary Director

I am a Non-Executive Director of the trading subsidiary of Aspire, the only Black person on the Aspire independent governance team and the first Black female.

I am a Chartered Surveyor and hold a Master of Science Degree in Architecture from UCL. The Construction and Property industry to which I belong professionally is dominated by white men, so, as a Black female, I have always been the most senior Black female - and in some cases the most senior Black person - in my roles as Director and Head of Estates at world-leading institutions, including Harrow School, English Heritage and the Palace of Westminster. Until recently, I held the position of Director of Estates and Campus Services at Oxford Brookes University, and am the first Black female to hold such a position in any large university in the United Kingdom.

In these roles, I have had the privilege of leading and directing some amazing projects - such as the comprehensive conservation and repair of Westminster Abbey’s famous Chapter House, the refurbishment and restoration of Dover Castle’s Great Tower as the former Royal Court of King Henry II. My face is modelled in one of the replacement carved heads at Westminster Abbey and it faces the House of Lords.

One of my major achievements and influences on my journey so far relates to one of my sons, who was the only Black student in his classes at primary school. He was diagnosed with ADHD, provided with a statement from the Local Authority and excluded by his primary school headteacher two weeks before his SATS, which he had to sit at home at our dining table in the presence of a Local Authority teacher. He was denied the opportunity to meet Mo Farah when he visited his primary school and he spent many days in solitary detention at school.

My son's application to be enrolled at his siblings' secondary school was denied because of the horrible report about him written by the primary school headteacher. I fought for my son with every fibre of my being and, with support from the Local Authority, he was eventually accepted. With amazing support from an outstanding Learning Support Assistant, he got through 7 years and was the only pupil in his school to gain Oxbridge entry in 2016. This year, he graduated with a Master of Engineering Degree in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from University of Cambridge.

I am a community leader working with minority ethnic groups, vulnerable youth and elderly persons including young people with mental health challenges. I am a regular contributor to Building magazine on diversity, equality and inclusion - my most recent comment is entitled 'If Black Lives Really Matter, then do something.'

God has been and continues to be so good to me that I must give back to society as part of my civic duty and in thanksgiving for all His blessings. Those who are excluded and on the margins of our society are dear to my heart. I can relate to a lot of the experiences of those served by Aspire and that is why this charity is so important to me. I am also able to bring my expertise in estates, facilities management, construction economics and property to benefit Aspire.

I hope to inspire more Black women to become Governors, Trustees and Directors of charities where we are unrepresented. Our voices are just as important as every other and necessary if we are deeply committed to equity and inclusion in society.

Mary Pierre-Harvey BSc MSc MRICS