Our Women of Steel

If you're inspired by any of our featured Women Of Steel and want more advice, or possibly a mentor, get in touch below and we'll connect you


Name: Barbara Evans

Where are you from? Swansea

Age: 42

Industry: Steel Making

Job Position: Competence Lead for Energy Dept at Tata Steel Port Talbot

How did you get there?

Entered the Business in 1995 as a Higher Technical Apprentice for what was at the time British Steel plc, trained in laboratory work and electrical installation. Decided that the Lab work was not all I imagined it to be, and got into the Energy dept in Nov 1996 as a day fuel technician (gas system specialist).

In 1999, the business merged with Dutch firm Hoogovens to create Corus, and after 3 years on days, I graduated to a shift control room position – Energy Control – which performs all the roles of the utilities sector in the outside world. This area controls electrical generation (making electric for Tata onsite), all the gas networks, distributing all of the by-product gases created by the processes on site, where the gas goes – which areas were being delivered what quantity of gases, why it is needed, etc….and monitor water mains, steam networks and effluent plants. This job allowed me to be linked to all of the manufacturing elements which were taking place across the site – enabling me to understand the through process of steel making, and the challenges posed by a 24 hour production plant. While in this role I completed my HNC in Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

My personal success in the role saw me selected as the unit trainer for the area in 2011, coaching and mentoring people new to the job. Quite quickly, I was tasked with the creation and delivery of technical training manuals for Energy, which took me into a day position for the first time in 15 years….. Technical information of the type required to assist someone into a role has never been developed for this area before – and was a hugely challenging process for me.

Since 2014, I have been responsible for the competence programme within Energy – delivering appropriate training tools and techniques, materials and assessment processes including the delivery of NVQ programmes on the site. I have qualified as an Assessor, and Adult Educator, and am working to complete the Internal Verifier qualification. Also, I am at the final stage of a Business and Management degree with University of South Wales.

What is your biggest accomplishment and what are you most proud of?

Doing all of this while also being a mum and wife! Being able to continue my own growth, while helping others achieve what they can as an educator is very satisfying. I just wish there were a few more hours in the day!!!

What would you say to a female considering a role at TATA?

Don’t restrict yourself…if you think in anyway differently to the gender stereotypical girl enforced by previous generations, if you can be objective and patient, yet learn to act decisively and effectively – engineering or manufacturing operations are crying out for people like you. Yes, women do have different thought processes, but that is a bonus – inclusion of women in problem solving groups adds differences in perspective and priority which are vital skills in engineering and industry in general. I always felt in competition with myself, I am not externally driven by targets, no one can drive me harder that I do myself. Which can be tiring as there is nowhere to hide.

One piece of advice would be to listen…really listen, there is a reason we have 2 ears and 1 mouth. I wish I had had a mentor to support me in those early days – to tell me when to shut-up and when to fight….

Which Female has most inspired you?

In my school days, I always looked up to the like of Marie Curie…I was desperate to be a scientist like her, to find something magical, or discover a life changing product, material etc…

What would you say to a young girl who has a dream - what can they achieve?

Only you have the power to write your own story. You are the author, and it is only with your own permission that you get to challenge yourself, create a future and achieve the final prize you have defined for yourself. Have faith in your strengths and abilities, because no-one will give you a free shot – you need to earn everything you want. Stand up, be strong - get out there and prove to yourself that you were right – you absolutely can achieve whatever you set your mind to.


Name: Susan Jones MEng, CEng MIET, MWES

Where are you from? Swansea

Age: 38

Industry: Steel Making

Job Position: Senior Quality Systems Specialist

How did you get there?

I achieved a Masters in Engineering at Brunel University, during which I was a sponsored student at the Steelworks. After graduation I worked for McKechnie in the Aerospace and Automotive components manufacture in the field of Continuous Improvement in England, USA, and Belgium. I had “hiraeth” for South Wales, and returned to work in Continuous Improvement, Engineering and Quality at the Steelworks.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

I am most proud of becoming a Chartered Engineer with The Institution of Engineering and Technology and being named as one of the Top 100 in The Manufacturer magazine. In both cases my peers reviewed my career achievements and my volunteer work to inspiring people (especially young women) to consider the opportunities offered by STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) careers.

What kind of careers are available to Women at TATA?

The same careers are available to all genders. There are opportunities on shifts, in management teams, in Engineering, Technical, Manufacturing, Finance, Quality, HR, procurement and much more. There are jobs and opportunities that I had never heard of when I was at school. The great thing with the Steelworks is that it is so big that you can learn and try different roles throughout your career.

What would you say to female considering a role at TATA?

If you have the passion, enthusiasm and drive to work here, you can thrive. It’s a fascinating place to work that offers endless possibilities, no two of my working days are the same and I learn something new every day. My colleagues are welcoming and supportive, and I’m challenged to grow and improve myself.

What female that has most inspired you?

Naomi Climer, is an Engineering Professional with a varied and interesting career, who also takes the time to help others develop. She was the first Female President of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (of which I’m a member and Local Network Chair). I remember her opening an event explaining that she was the first Female President and hopes that she is the last Female President – because from now there are only “Presidents” regardless of gender.

What would you say to young girls who have a dream - what can they achieve?

My advice to young girls is to learn everything they can about what they want to be, and to identify how they can work towards it. With enthusiasm, hard work, and grit - challenges can become opportunities.

Ask people for help and create a network of people in the field in which you want to work.

Don’t close your mind to opportunities, at 16 I said I didn’t want to be an Engineer, work in Manufacturing, or keep studying French. Twenty years on, I am a Chartered Engineer, most of my career has been in manufacturing, and I worked in French speaking Belgium for a few years – and I love it!


Name: Hayley Gallivan

Where are you from? Swansea

Age: 32

What is your biggest accomplishment?

I think my biggest accomplishment would be playing the role of Elphaba in the Musical “Wicked” in London West End.

How did you get there?

It took years of hard work and commitment, but I certainly wouldn’t have achieved it without having the huge support I had from my family. Even from a young age, my parents took me to classes, competitions and shows all over the Country and were so encouraging especially when I didn’t believe I could do it. Without them I wouldn’t have achieved half of my career goals, so I know I am incredibly lucky. I would also say it was a long road of smaller dreams along the way to becoming Elphaba. I had fantastic teachers who gave me the skills to keep moving towards my dream. Then there were stepping stones I had to achieve so I could be prepared for the demands of 8 show weeks in the West End. For example while in college I wanted to get into a London drama school so I could get my degree, once I did that I wanted an agent, once I’d gotten an agent, I just wanted to perform in a show in the West End, which happened when I was 22 in the Original London cast of “Spring Awakening”. Then the next dream was to be a lead actress in the West End, and then to play Elphaba in Wicked. So I certainly wasn’t someone who just fell into that role, it took years of hard work and lots of smaller goals to achieve on the way. But it was fully worth the blood sweat and tears as by the time I was 26, I was painted green and singing ‘defying gravity’ while “flying” in the West End. It really was a pinch myself moment and I am so grateful I got to experience and live out my ultimate dream.

Were you ever told you ‘can't’?

I certainly had hard times & upsets along the way. The performing world is full of judgements and opinions. I remember my weight was a factor of upset at time as I was told on more than one occasion that wouldn’t be able to be a lead actress in a musical as I was too big (I was a healthy size 10/12). But I just kept focused on achieving my goals and didn’t let it knock me back. To be honest I think being a curvier girl actually helped me get certain roles when I was starting out. So I believe you’ve got to take the advice and criticism given by people who are in the industry...but more importantly trust your instincts and stay focused on what you want because they can be wrong. Being different isn't a bad thing. Build your resilience to just keep going towards your goals.

Which female has most inspired you?

Ummm that’s a tough one, I would say Idina Menzel. Aside from being the first ever Elphaba she’s recorded albums, been in films, voiced Elsa in the Disney film Frozen, so she’s kind of done it all. I also absolutely adore Beyoncé and Celine Dion. I grew up listening to Celine Dion and my teenage years were filled with dancing and singing to Beyoncé.

What advice would you say to a girl who has a dream?

My advice would be to work hard, be resilient and never give up. As long as that dream is alive within you, keep pushing and believing in yourself to get there.


Name: Bethan Sayed AM

Where are you from? Merthyr Tydfil

Age: 37

Industry: Politics

Job Position: Assembly Member

What is your biggest accomplishment?

I am proud to have been elected as the youngest ever woman to the National Assembly for Wales at age 25. I am proud that I could help pave the way for other young women to consider politics as an opportunity for them. When I was elected, I don’t think the networks supporting AMs were as strong as they are now. Mentoring schemes and support networks have grown and become more established. I am proud of the work that I have done to help improve eating disorders services in Wales. As a result of my campaigning, a strategy for eating disorders was set up for the first time in 2009, and now services have annual financial support. There is a long way to go to ensure services are robust for the future, but the work I have done as Chair of the Cross party group on eating disorders has allowed for a National conversation to take place. I am also proud of funding that I lobbied for in the recent Plaid Cymru negotiation of the budget with Welsh Government for £3million more funding for music education services in Wales. As a Viola player, and someone who played for my Nation in the National Youth Orchestra of Wales, nurturing young musicians is something I am very supportive of.

How did you achieve your success?

Becoming an AM is something you have to put a lot of work in to. You have to have drive and determination, pound the streets, talk to people, engage with them. It takes perseverance and commitment!

How far have we come since women fought to get the vote just over a 100 years ago?

I think we have come a long way, but we still have a lot to campaign on for equal rights for women. There is still an attitude out there that is quite patronising towards young, female politicians, and this culture change needs to happen on all levels of politics. We need to be respected, and not looked down, or be belittled. We have stronger rights in the workplace as women, but discrimination still exists. For example, there are many examples of women who take maternity leave, who find that they don’t have a job to go back to, where they are re organised out of workplace structures. This is unacceptable. In Wales, there are many female politicians in key positions, which is great, but that is not the case in many other walks of life, such as in academia, science, business. We need to put processes in place to allow for women to thrive. If this means looking at some form of quota systems, then why not? We have come a long way in terms of the rights of women, but women are still the victims of domestic abuse, more so than men, and suffer sexual harassment in society on a daily basis. That’s why it’s important for women to stand for election, to challenge these issues and to be a voice for other women in society too.

What would you say to a female considering a job in Politics?

I would suggest you reach out to a female politician that you empathise with or support, and seek out their views and thoughts. Try and take part in mentoring schemes or work placements to get a feel for the job in the here and now. Join a party or a campaign group. Get active. For me, it’s not about being a Politician for the title, but it’s about how we can utilise that position to change the Wales we live in for the better. Don’t hide your passion or your drive from others, just because you’re a woman. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are not suited to politics. Politics is for everyone!

Which female has most inspired you?

Historically, it would be Simone Weil. She was a French activists and philosopher. She lived a simple life and practiced what she preached. In modern days I would say Nicola Sturgeon. She is an inspiring woman, who is tenacious in the face of adversity, and is leading Scotland successfully. In the non-political world I follow an online personal trainer from America called Sydney Cummings. I do her workouts nearly every day, and her mantra is so positive and uplifting. It has really helped me in my everyday life.

What would you say to young girls who have a dream - what can they achieve?

They can achieve whatever their mind allows them to achieve. I say ‘their mind’ because most often than not, we are our own worst critic. We self-analyse continuously, and tell ourselves what we cannot do, over what we can do, or we may only do something if someone else tells us we can. But what we tell ourselves, the conservations we have every day with ourselves are what frames us as people. One year I did the London Marathon my self-talk was so negative that I hated every minute of it. The next time I did it, I turned that around, told myself I was amazing and strong as I ran, and I enjoyed it and smashed it! We just need to see role models and other women being successful to trigger our sense of can do attitude in life. Go for it, take risks, and enjoy the ride…..

Any other advice?

Don’t be intimidated by others or take too much notice of what other people are doing. What I find is that in politics, people fixate on what other politicians are doing, and in the time that we are focusing on another party or person, that person is getting on with the job. Focus on what YOU are doing and what YOU want to achieve, nobody else. That energy and passion will ultimately then shine through. Also, look after yourself. Getting a balance between professional aspirations and looking after your mental health is key. I’ve publicly talked about my struggle with depression and how it affected me. As women we are not so good at putting ourselves and our health first. But we probably won’t be as successful as we want to be if we burn out. So health is so important too, regardless of your aspirations…..


Name: Jenny Parsons

Where are you from? I’m from Croydon in London but I went to uni in Swansea and fell in love with South Wales. When the opportunity came up with work to move back here I jumped at it.

Age: 27

Industry: Civil Engineering

Job Position: Senior Highways Engineer

What do you do?

I plan and design highways projects; from small roundabout redesigns to huge 20km long bypasses.

As a highways engineer I produce the alignment design of the road, taking into account all the challenges including protected buildings and trees, potential archaeological finds, rivers, hills, and marshes, and a whole lot more besides. Once I have those constraints mapped out, I can work out how I’m going to fit my new road in.

As a civil engineer I also have to talk with other engineers with more specialist areas such as structural or drainage engineers and manage their input into my project.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

I’m most proud of getting Chartered by the Institution of Civil Engineers at 26 years old. It was something I had been aiming for ever since I joined the industry and I worked really hard to achieve it.

Being chartered means having the Institution of Civil Engineers respects my decision making skills and has awarded me with a membership. It normally takes 5-10 years but I did it in 4.

Were you ever told you ‘can't’?

I have never really been told “you can’t do that” outright, instead people try to encourage you away from your goals. They offer easier work that they perceive as a softer skill, like health and safety. When working on construction sites I was one of a handful of women and I would often be mistaken for a receptionist or secretary. The men I was working with would call me ‘sweetheart’ but called all the other engineers by their names.

Little things like this can really get to you and make you feel like you don’t belong in this industry. I realised that

I can’t change how other people treat me but I can control how their treatment affects me. So I always make a special effort when I see others in the same situation and look for common ground, I’m not going to change who I am to fit in with others, but I can be patient and kind and look for common ground.

I’ve always been direct in what I want and how I’m going to achieve it, I’ll always figure out a solution that gets me where I need to be in the end.

Which female has most inspired you?

There would be two women who have really inspired me in my life.

The first would be my mum. She has always worked so hard and every time life knocked her down even if it took her a while to get up again she’d persevered.

She showed me that you can be strong and feminine. You can be the boss and wear a skirt. You can love ponies and architecture. She always encouraged me to be multidimensional, never a cliché or stereotype, but a whole and complete woman.

The second would be Jean Venables, who I had the chance to work with during my time at University. Jean was the first female president of the ICE and she ran around the country providing expertise in flood risk management while pregnant. She’s another great example of a woman who never left her femininity behind, she had a different perspective on the industry and she helped shape it into something more accessible to everyone.

What advice would you say to girls who have a dream?

We need to hear more women’s stories, we need more women heroes, we need more people just like you to share your dream with the world. Because you’re going to make it a better place for all of us.

Being a girl is never a hindrance. Women have a different perspective on the world, it’s not better but it is different, and it gives us an outlook that many industries sorely need.


Name: Sarah Jane Hemington-Gorse

Where are you from? Originally a little village in Gloucestershire, now Porthcawl

Age: 44

Industry: NHS

Job Position: Consultant in Burns and Plastic Surgery

What do you do?

I’m a plastic surgeon looking after cancer patients and people with severe burns

What is it your most proud of?

Despite all of my academic and work achievements the thing that I am most proud of is being a mummy to my gorgeous daughter Isabella.

What do you attribute your success to?

Hard work, grit and determination. I was brought up with a really strong work ethic and an instilled belief that I could be whatever I wanted to be.

Were you ever told you can't?

I was told it would be hard but never told I couldn’t.

Which female has most inspired you?

I’d have to say my mum, she taught me from a young age the importance of working hard but making sure you have time to be around family and friends to make your life complete.

What advice would you say to girls who have a dream?

Grab hold of your dream and let it take you to the places you want to be, dream big, work hard and you’ll find that dreams really can come true


Name: Non Evans MBE

Where are you from? Fforest, Pontarddulais

Age: 43

What is your biggest accomplishment?

Kicking the winning penalty to beat England for the first time ever by 16 points to 15 in 2007. I was also selected for the World 15 at full back to play two tests against World Champions New Zealand in 2003, the only Welsh player selected. I’m also really proud that I represented Wales in both Judo and weightlifting at the 2002 Commonwealth games in Manchester. I was the first ever person to compete at two sports on the same Games.

What do you attribute your success to?

Hard work and dedication. Striving to be the best at everything I undertake.

Were you ever told you can't?

Yes on a number of occasions. I was told once ‘what are you doing out of the kitchen’ I like proving people wrong!

Which female has most inspired you?

There weren’t many female role models when I grew up, unlike today. But I always admired Kelly Holmes. Roger Federrer is the unlimited athlete in my eyes.

What advice would you say to girls who have a dream?

Follow your dream. Never give up. Work hard. There is no such thing as luck. You make your own luck through hard work. Do whatever you enjoy and what makes you happy then you will give it 100%. Don’t be afraid of failure. You will learn from your mistakes and ultimately it will lead to success.


Name: Kate Ellis

Where are you from? Port Talbot

Age: 29

What is the red box project?

The Red Box Project is a community driven project that provides free menstrual products, in red boxes, to schools to ensure that no young person misses school because of their period. On International Women's Day 2019, the Red Box Project announced that we have 3,000 red boxes in schools nationwide!

What is your biggest accomplishment?

My biggest accomplishment with the Red Box Project is that we've very nearly got a red box in all our local primary and secondary schools in Port Talbot, which is an incredible achievement! Our local community has overwhelmingly taken to the project and the very fact that we're making a difference to young people in our community, and raising awareness of period poverty, is something I am incredibly proud of, and I can't thank our local community enough for all that they do - we couldn't do it without them!

How are you managing to work for the charity and full time?

There's three ingredients to my volunteering to ensure I'm able to take this on with a full-time job: 1. Passion: when you're passionate about something, I believe you can make time for it, whatever it is. And it's so important that you do!

2. Teamwork: I work with an incredible co-ordinator on the project, and we're very much a team. I certainly couldn't do it alone! We also have an incredibly supportive network of co-ordinators across the UK, and a HQ team, who are always there to lean on and give advice.

3. Time: I really do use my time as wisely as I can! I fit in drop-offs and pick-ups with work from home days, and I'm also able to use my flexi time - but in reality, it really doesn't take up that much time, a few hours a week at the most - so it's definitely doable! And I absolutely love it.

Were you ever told you can't?

I don't necessarily remember a time when someone said I 'can't' do something (although I'm transitioning into the world of politics, so I don't doubt that I'll hear those words!), but I think those doubts and words come from mainly myself because of the patriarchal culture we live in. However, I'm surrounded by strong female networks and allies who squash those doubts as soon as they're voiced! And as long as I'm able to see women who I can relate with, doing great things, things that inspire me, then I won't let those words affect me.