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Our Women of Steel

Meet 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

WOMEN OF STEEL PROFILES

Name: Dawn Gibson

Where are you from? Caerphilly, South Wales

Age: 49

Industry: Ministry of Defence Civil Servant

Job Position: IHUB Admin Officer and part time Army Reservist

Brief description of what you do/your role:

I provide admin support to the Commanding Officer, Training Officer, Adjutant and Battalion HQ for 3 Royal Welsh. I am also in the Army Reserves an MT Sgt in 3 Royal Welsh.

 

How did you get there?

 

I was in the Regular Army for 14 years and served in Iraq, Bosnia, N Ireland, The Oman, Cyprus and Canada. When I left I wanted to continue working for the MOD.

What career advice would you give to a girl wanting to go into this industry?

Be assertive, trust your skills, find a mentor and support your co-workers. Cultivate friendships and above all avoid getting easily offended. There’s more information here https://www.wales-rfca.org/reserves/ 

Are you doing what you always thought you’d be doing?

Yes I always wanted to work in a Government organisation.

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

I am proud to have served in Iraq and Bosnia and in the Oman with 22 SAS whom I was attached to for 2 years.

My biggest accomplishment while serving in HM Forces was to give birth to my now 10 year Son Joseph. 3 years ago we adopted a little boy called Owen and my Employers were amazing in terms of supporting me. This was all while I Juggled full time work during the time my partner was serving overseas.

Are there many females working in your industry?

Yes there are other females and I can honestly there have been no obvious challenges.

Were you ever told you ‘can't’?

To be truthful – No! The Armed Forces have come a long way and they encourage you to do just about anything.

What piece of advice would you give your younger self?

Breathe deep, take my time and do what makes you feel good. Trust yourself, keep being earnest and empathetic.

    

What Female has most inspired you?

Alison Hargreaves, a British Climber who died in a violent storm on K2 in 1995 while returning from the summit aged 33.

 

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

Prioritise and focus on their actions in order to achieve their goal. My favourite quote: William Arthur Ward ‘If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it’. 

WOMEN OF STEEL PROFILES

Name: Ana Victoria Chidzoy

Where are you from? Swansea

Age: 44

Industry: Yoga

Job Position: Owner and Director of South Wales Hotpod Yoga Franchise

How did you get there? 

I started teaching Yoga 8 years ago. It was just three classes a week at the time. My dream was to open a Yoga studio ‘somehow’, specifically a Hot Yoga studio, I had come up with the idea from doing some stretches in a steam room in a local gym, then to my amazement it was actually something people were already doing. I stumbled across an advert which was advertising to become a Franchisee of what is now Europe's leading Yoga Company Hotpod Yoga. They were at the very beginning of their journey too and I became the first Franchisee to launch with them in the world. There are now over 60 franchises around the world. I initially borrowed the £12.000 I needed from my parents as I had no savings and was a single Mum with two daughters still in Primary School but paid them back a little every month. 8 years later I have trained over 50 people to teach Yoga at my Swansea studio where I offer 200 hour Teacher Trainings and I employ 14 of them to help me teach classes across South West Wales in my studios in Swansea, Carmarthen and Haverfordwest offering over 50 classes a week. I hold 3 Yoga Retreats in locations like India, Morocco and Spain a year and hold regular workshops every month. I have just begun to teach live online too and will continue to grow this side of the business as I can see it’s a service that people are keen to have as they cannot always get to class.

What career advice would you give to a girl wanting to go into this industry?

In the Yoga Business it is important to be completely passionate about Yoga and helping people. Perhaps this advice might not be top of the list for some businesses but I believe that my success has come from not only being part of a great company who look after and help their Franchisees in every aspect of business. But the feedback I get from people who come to the studio or contact me for help say that they get a great service and are made to feel part of a real community that I have spent a long time nurturing and growing. If I did not live and breathe Yoga myself that would show through to the person and they would not feel confident or comfortable in the classes or signing up online. As the Director and Owner of the Business I could quite easily not teach the daily classes any more, I could also not go there to join in the classes, but I teach more than anyone and I go to classes everyday as it gives me direct contact with the customers and also gives me a great idea of the kind of experience they are getting. In this Business also it is important to be consistent, it’s no good to people if you start teaching a class and then go away for a couple of months which tends to happen with lots of Yoga teachers. But the students will find this too unsettling, having to get comfortable with another teacher while you are away as it’s quite scary for people to start Yoga, they feel vulnerable and unsure of what they are doing, so it’s important you respect that they have trusted in you to guide them through the practice and that you are there for them as long as they need you.

Are you doing what you always thought you’d be doing?

I always thought I would be a Dancer. I went to Dance school until I was 21 and had a few Dance Contracts which were fun to do, but once I had children I soon realised I had nothing much to offer in the world of work and having to support myself and the children the fitness world seemed a great option as it interested me. It wasn’t long until I found Yoga after that and then I knew I had finally found something that was meaningful and inspired me. I was 37 when I finally knew what I wanted to do!

What are you most proud of? 

I am most proud of the Community I have created. There wasn’t much Yoga in South West Wales when I began and from my own experience Yoga classes were quite intimidating to go to. I have tried to make the Yoga that I offer accessible to all, and I have tried to make sure when people are brave enough to come to class they get a really warm welcome and are made to feel as comfortable as they can be without throwing all the traditional Yoga language and philosophy at them, it’s inclusive for Men and Women alike and we all practice (and sweat) together, no judgement, no hierarchy just Yoga.

Were you ever told you ‘can't’?

I have only been told I can’t do something because I haven’t had the right qualifications for the job.

What piece of advice would you give your younger self?

I would love to go back and whisper to myself to say ‘Yes’ to as much as possible. I used to say no to things as I thought negatively about myself, I would think things like I’m not worthy, I’m not strong enough or I’m scared. Since Yoga I say yes to as much as I can. I still have the negative thoughts there sometimes but I know they are just thoughts and that I can and will do whatever it is to the best of my ability and if that’s not good enough at least I tried.

    

What Female has most inspired you?

I was lucky to have the strongest Mother, she is my role model. She, with my Father brought us up, cared for us, created their own Business from nothing, supported me in every mistake I made and every success. Her main aim and wish was for me to be happy. I am eternally grateful to her. If I am thinking about a Public figure I have many...but I will mention the Queen, born into a life she didn’t choose, it must be so hard to be impartial and so very dignified about it. The head of her own family and of the Country that in my eyes she is completely passionate and fully involved and invested in.

 

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

Find a way to that dream, see yourself achieving the dream and fully believe that you can do it. Know that some things might not work but that you will be responsible for those things and learn and grow from them, then try again. Know why you want the dream to happen and what do you hope to gain from achieving the dream and then make it happen.

WOMEN OF STEEL PROFILES

Name: Rebecca Edwards-Symmons

Where are you from? Swansea

Age: 39

Industry: Football

Job Position: Commercial Director, Swansea City Football Club

How did you get there? 

I’ve worked with the Swans for 4 years, and recently promoted.

What career advice would you give to a girl wanting to go into this industry?

To be strong in character, knowledgeable in the business and bold with your career moves

Are you doing what you always thought you’d be doing?

I am doing what I always dreamed! It’s my dream job!

What is your biggest accomplishment? 

My biggest accomplishment is achieving my dream job and being on the senior management team, working with amazing colleagues (who are all men) and trying to make long term goals all Swans fans, including me, want to be a part of.

Were you ever told you ‘can't’?

If I was, I never listened!

What piece of advice would you give your younger self?

Keep going, don’t let others hold you back

  

What female has most inspired you?

My mum is the most inspirational female to me in my personal life and Stephen Covey is the man who most inspired me in my professional life

 

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

You can achieve anything in life, but you need a plan. It’s all about the plan and hard work - don’t give up!

WOMEN OF STEEL PROFILES

Name: Samira Mohamed Ali

Where are you from? Neath Port Talbot

Age: 35

Industry: Mindfulness & Meditation Co-Founder of Wales International Film Festival

Job Position: CEO

How did you get there? 

By absolute hard work and networking. As a former Brands Model, International Actress and Producer, I have been meditating since I was 18 years old. Not only have these practices provided a coping mechanism for dealing with the pressures of a grueling schedule, but mindfulness techniques also helped me overcome the fear and anxiety of certain aspects of the job. During my acting career, I spent time overseas where I was able to develop my meditation skills with top experts and take my breathing techniques to another level.

I had a huge desire to help others and has a particular passion for helping people living with symptoms of depression, anxiety and fear and making a huge difference in placing people into a more loving, positive life with the power of breathing exercises.

I still work as TV & Film Director and specialise in Finance and distribution for films and have created a powerful platform in Wales called Wales International Film Festival which has been running for over 4years.  I also have a book and my own TV show in the UK coming soon.

What career advice would you give to a girl wanting to go into this industry?

Be Bold, Be Strong and BE YOU. Don’t try and copy anyone else or compare yourself to anyone else either because when you do what you love then that alone will allow you to shine in your own individual way

Are you doing what you always thought you’d be doing?

No I was a banker and loved my job in the bank, but somehow through life’s way of leading you to where you should be I have been very fortunate to do the things I love and make a difference.

What is your biggest accomplishment? 

My biggest accomplishment after having my baby was showing the world I was a working mother and that my work was also my passion not just a job so I went back just after 8weeks of giving birth.

Are there many females working in your industry?

Yes in the mindfulness and meditation field there are many females but in the film festival it is primarily dominated by males.

Were you ever told you ‘can't’?

Yes always people saying that you ‘can’t’ are really the opinions of people who will never understand YOU. NEVER EVER listen to these low level judgemental attitudes in life because I believe anyone and everyone has an equal opportunity irrespective of their background or circumstance. You can do anything you put your mind too. It’s all in the mind-set.

What piece of advice would you give your younger self?

I wish I could have seen how great I was in my 20’s, it wasn’t until my 30’s I started seeing my potential and value and understanding who I really was as a person. I did incredibly well at a young age but at that time I was too humble about it all.

    

What Female has most inspired you?

I love strong entrepreneurs and love Opera Winfrey so much

 

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

Go do it, make mistakes and do it again and keep changing and developing until you find your true purpose in life. You know when you are on the right path because you wake up in the morning and absolutely cannot wait to start the day

WOMEN OF STEEL PROFILES

Name: Tara Hammett

Where are you from? Swansea

Age: 40

Industry: Health & Fitness

Job Position: Personal Trainer and Life Transformer

How did you get there? 

After my graduation from a Sports Science degree I worked as a fitness instructor. 18 months later I was the health club manager. Alongside my role I trained to become a Personal Trainer. In 2014 I took the leap to work for myself and created the Online Lifestyle Programme now known as The Life Transformer Plan

What career advice would you give to a girl wanting to go into this industry?

It’s an incredible job and very rewarding helping others become healthier and feel happier. It also requires wearing many hats. Whilst we know we must be good trainers, it’s important to learn lots about mindset, marketing, video editing etc. Also, get a good mentor to help you learn and stay accountable.

Are you doing what you always thought you’d be doing?

Helping women feel better about themselves. I’ve always felt pretty positive myself and know we can all feel the same with support and guidance.

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

Firstly I must say my little boy and my family – they are what drive me to get out of bed in the morning and my reason WHY I do it all. Secondly, I’m really proud of the community of women that has grown. The Life Transformers show so much strength, resilience and support and I’m proud to lead them xxx

Are there many females working in your industry?

What challenges has that created? Yes there are lots however, I see the challenges only as opportunities. People will invest in a trainer not just because of their knowledge but because of how they make them feel so nobody can be me…but I can learn from others in the industry too. I find them inspiring and motivating.

Were you ever told you ‘can't’?

Yes lots. A school teacher once said “Because you’re thick Tara” and that stuck in my mind. I was always advised never to go self employed too…..thankfully I did though as it had helped me create the perfect career alongside looking after my family.

What piece of advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t worry what other people think about you – it’s none of your business. You’ll be judged whatever you do – so do something that makes you happy anyway.

    

What Female has most inspired you?

My hard working, loving and gorgeous Mother. I love Brene Brown for inspiration too.

 

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

You can achieve anything you want. Don’t limit your beliefs. We ALL make mistakes, nobody learned anything from the easy route, however those mistakes are lessons. Lessons to help you learn from and grow and keep on going.

We will all need to adapt to many roles in our lives as daughters, mums, partners, sisters, aunties, friends and at times it will be hard, but small steps taken daily create massive results. Always keep on going

And finally… we are much more than our looks or our weight. We are amazing, strong, intelligent women who can make a huge impact on the world and the people we love. Grab every opportunity, get comfortable being uncomfortable and remember you are #1. You are the most important person in the world, invest in yourself, love and appreciate yourself.

WOMEN OF STEEL PROFILES

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.

WOMEN OF STEEL PROFILES

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!

WOMEN OF STEEL PROFILES

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.

WOMEN OF STEEL PROFILES

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 activist and philosopher. She lived a simple life and practised 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 conversations 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. 

WOMEN OF STEEL PROFILES

Name: Jenny Parsons

Where are you from? I’m from Croydon in London but I went to University 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 respect 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.

WOMEN OF STEEL PROFILES

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.

WOMEN OF STEEL PROFILES

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.

WOMEN OF STEEL PROFILES

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.

WOMEN OF STEEL PROFILES

Name: Fiona

Where are you from? Swansea

Job Title: Partner/Solicitor

What do you do?: Family Law Solicitor

What is your biggest accomplishment?

Achieving equity partnership while balancing the demands of motherhood.

What do you attribute your success to?

Personal drive and ambition.

Were you ever told you can't?

Yes.

Which female has most inspired you?

Baroness Karren Brady

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

Pursue it, be independent – and believe in yourself.

WOMEN OF STEEL PROFILES

Name: Katherine Jenkins

Age: 38

Where are you from? Neath

Industry: Singer

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

My advice to any young girl who has a dream is to follow it. You can do anything you want that you put your mind to. My mum gave me a really good chat when I was young and said Katherine you are in charge of your own destiny and it’s all down to hard work. Nothing comes easy, but if you apply yourself to it you can make anything happen. Believe in yourself.

WOMEN OF STEEL PROFILES

Name: Lorraine Harry (Known as "Loz")

Age: 47

Where are you from? Gower

Industry:In the NHS; qualified 1995 so almost 25 years give or take.

Job Title: Consultant Orthoplastic Surgeon

What do you do?

Qualified as a Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, specialising in Trauma and Microsurgical Reconstruction. Work only in the NHS. Job remit to set up the Trauma Service provided by Plastic Surgery at the Major Trauma Centre in Brighton, from East Grinstead, where the specialist plastic surgery hospital (Queen Victoria Hospital) resides.

I work with orthopaedic surgeons and other trauma surgeons to clean, stabilise and reconstruct complex trauma following accidents, including road traffic accidents, falls, or other major trauma.

I also work with other surgical specialties such as neurosurgeons and cardiac surgeons to help reconstruct complex defects (wounds) either planned or when there are complications such as infection.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

Gaining my PhD as I had to organise this myself and coordinate my own collaborations when my supervisor left the UK.

My proudest moment was my first patient who had a complex joint reconstruction after an accident involving their leg, walking into my clinic and being overjoyed that I managed to save his leg.

What do you attribute your success to?

My success stems from a very loving and grounded upbringing, where both my sister and myself were taught that we could succeed at anything if we worked hard, had the will and determination, and treated everyone with respect. Both of us have been successful in our fields (me as a surgeon, she as a dancer and performer). I have a very strong faith so I believe I am doing what I should be doing to make a difference to people's lives. The church family have always been there for me. Finally, I have an extremely supportive husband who believes in me (he is a theatre manager, trained initially as a scrub nurse so we met "on the job"). He picks me up when I am down and supports me in all that I do and have done; many hours at work and study to get through; living on a different continent when I went to Toronto for my Fellowship and he could not come.

I was told numerous times that I could not and probably would not succeed. Each time, with the support I described above, I overcame.

Who’s your most inspirational female?

My mum.
She was a carer all her working life, only recently retiring from the NHS in her 70s.
I will never work as hard as she did, and care as much as she does.
Her sense of humour and her attitude to life are truly inspirational.
She recently battled lung cancer, and experienced the NHS first hand, as a patient.
She's a total legend and I think my sister would agree, as would everyone who knows her.

For girls who have a dream:

"Go for it!"

Mum told us that "what is for you, does not go by you" so if it is meant to be, it will be, but you always have a choice so....

You can achieve anything you want to; if you truly want it; you will have to commit and prioritise; but always try and maintain a balance and perspective. Work hard, treat everyone with the same respect they should treat you; everyone deserves that. And finally, be happy!

WOMEN OF STEEL PROFILES

Name: Karen Jones

Age: 55

Where are you from? I am from the Rhondda Valley as is my husband. We moved to Port Talbot over 30 years ago when he joined South Wales Police. We have brought our children up here and live in Baglan.

Industry:I work for Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council which is one of 22 unitary authorities in Wales.

Job Title: Assistant Chief Executive and Chief Digital Officer (we like a long title in this organisation!)

What do you do?

I am a chief officer in the Council and you can broadly break my job down into four main parts:
I am the statutory head of democratic services – this means I am responsible for ensuring that the work of the Council is properly considered in accordance with the structures and processes we have in place for taking decisions. In practice this means ensuring we organise the meetings of the Council, record proceedings and ensure that they are available to the public. I work very closely with elected councillors in this role, ensuring that they have the support they need to do the work they have been elected to do. I also support the mayor in his/her role – I think most people do not understand the role the mayor undertakes. They work very hard during their civic year undertaking over 300 engagements across our communities and they raise a lot of money for charity as well as chairing all of the Council meetings.
As the title suggests I am also the Council’s Chief Digital Officer – this is the newest bit of my role and includes preparation of the Council’s digital strategy and oversight of our ICT service. Of all of the things I do, this area of work is the one that is most likely to transform the way we meet the needs of our communities over the next five years. It is a really exciting area of work which will require a lot of upskilling of all of our staff but if we get it right we could make a real difference to the way we deliver our services and functions.
Community Safety is another one of the key responsibilities I have – I took on responsibility for this area of work around 5 years ago. I had worked for South Wales Police for 10 years earlier in my career so it was great to be back working alongside all of the partners on this agenda. We know from the feedback we have from the public and from our partners that being safe and feeling safe is very important to the quality of life people experience. We are very focused at the moment on tackling domestic abuse, supporting people affected by substance misuse and thinking through how we can ensure more people in our community can protect themselves when they go on-line.
The final area of work involves policy and corporate support – this work includes corporate responsibility for communications and marketing, equality and Welsh Language, corporate planning and performance management, customer services, partnership working, corporate governance and general policy. There is quite a lot of legislation in this area and our compliance is regularly audited. It is a very important area of work as when things go wrong in this area of work it can impact significantly on the reputation of the organisation.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

It is really difficult to point to anything in particular. I started off my career in the private sector but got made redundant just one year into a trainee account role. I have two masters degrees and two professional qualifications - all of which I did while I was working. I have brought up two children whilst working full time (must mention the hubby’s role here though!) and I have been involved in several pieces of work which have won various awards over the years. So, I suppose looking back on all of this I think the biggest accomplishment has been to keep going, keep learning and when you get the occasional knock you just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and become even more determined.

What am I most proud of?

I am most proud of the opportunities I have been able to create for other people. I left school at 18 and did all my studying whilst bringing up a family and working full time. That was hard work. I really enjoy seeing people learn and develop and I have been able to encourage many people over the course of my career to return to learning and to progress into roles that they excel at and enjoy.

What do you attribute your success to?

Probably the work ethic instilled into me by my grandparents. I was also blessed with a good brain and have always loved learning about new things.

Were you ever told you can’t?

I think probably at school. It was very much a case that some jobs and careers were for men and others for women when I had careers advice. I have found in practice that when you really apply yourself and deliver results you create opportunities for yourself. Having said that, I do think there is still a glass ceiling for women and I have certainly had numerous experiences where I have not been treated equally alongside male colleagues.

Do we need more women in high level jobs ?

Yes. Role models are vital. I always used to think we should only promote on merit, but as I have got older I think quotas should be considered in some sectors as change is not happening quickly enough. It is obvious when you think about it… if there are only male views around the decision making table, they will not make decisions that in the interests of all sections of society.

Which female has inspired you most?

My grandmothers. Although they were both cleaners, they both loved music, culture and learning and managed their households. They were strong women who had a great sense of humour and it has only been in recent years that I have appreciated the challenges that they faced and overcame over long lives.

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

Look at me – a working class girl who didn’t go to university from the Rhondda. Success is not a magical thing it is within everyone’s grasp. Take full advantage of all the experiences and education available to you. Think about what you enjoy and what you are good at. Be curious and step forward into new situations. Be confident and kind and believe in yourself.

WOMEN OF STEEL PROFILES

Name: Anna Ryder Richardson

Age: 55

Where are you from? London originally now West Wales

Industry: Conservation & Designer

What do you do? Manor House Wildlife Park TV Presenter even survived the ‘Jungle’!

What am I most proud of?

Most proud of our Wildlife park, over a decade now, combining conservation with visitor entertainment without losing our ethos. The animals come first. Hardest thing we have ever done!

What do you attribute your success to?

Attribute my success to having huge ideas with no limits and jumping straight in! With huge rose coloured glasses on, my cup isn’t just full it’s overflowing!

Were you ever told you can’t?

Always told ‘you can’t’ or particularly with the zoo ‘you're not’ but we did!

Which female has inspired you most?

Actually really admire Vivienne Westwood, her total individuality, her amazing design, ability to be a very cool, older woman! Also Yoko Ono for being an amazing individual. I suppose that’s what I admire in both, they have never followed, always led!

WOMEN OF STEEL PROFILES

Name: Jayne Pierson

Age: 48

Where are you from? Dallas, Texas, London & Wales...in that order.

Industry: Creative Industries

Brief career overview: Music, Fashion, Film, Art.

Name drop - who are some of the stars you've designed for?
Beyoncé, Ellie Goulding, Charlie XCX, La Roux, Rihanna, Amber Rose, Kendall Jenner, Kim Kardashian, Jessie J, Little Mix, Princess Julia etc

What is your biggest accomplishment?/Most proud of?

Being happy.

What do you attribute your success to?

Ruby my daughter who died of a brain tumour aged 4 ...what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

What are the misconceptions of the fashion world?

That it’s about fashion. As a designer, it’s about art....the boring bit is about fashion

Were you ever told you can't? How did you fight this?

Often....by totally ignoring it. I thought they just didn’t know me very well.

Female that has most inspired you?

Ruby, my daughters Daisy & Molly and my mother.

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

Never ever give up on your dreams not for anyone or anything! EVER!!!!! It probably won’t happen the way you thought it would but the journey is just as important as the destination. In fact probably more important. Also, say NO more often...try very hard to not feel the pressure to conform and do things your way. You know you best and how to make yourself happy and ultimately that’s all that matters in life ....love, happiness and doing kind things for others...Give more, take less...

Here’s What Vogue says about Jayne Pierson:

Jayne Pierson is a British fashion designer and stylist who studied at Central Saint Martin’s where she won the London graduate fashion week ecological design award. Jayne has also won ASVOFF Paris, Best Creative Direction and Best Styling Award as well as being twice noted as a Vogue ITALIA New Talent . Jayne launched her own career and first collection at On|Off at London Fashion Week in September 2008.

Jayne Pierson previously worked as a designer for Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood prior to setting up her own fashion label which has shown her seasonal collections ON schedule with the British Fashion Council at London and Paris Fashion Weeks for the last 10 years.

Jayne has been featured in Vogue U.K., Vogue ITALIA,French Vogue, Vogue China, Harpers Bazaar, Hunger, Dazed & Confused (amongst others), creating bespoke commissions for high-profile actresses, Brit-award singers for special events, film and TV.

Jayne Pierson’s manufacturing is based entirely in west wales and the company’s brand ethos is ‘buy less choose well’ with an emphasis on sustainability and the use of ethical, organic, luxury fabrics. Pierson has also trained over 500 apprentice’s/ interns in the heritage skills of tailoring, pattern cutting, sewing and draping over the

www.jaynepierson.co.uk

www.vogue.co.uk/brand/jayne-pierson

Here are some images of Jayne Pierson private clients wearing bespoke Jayne Pierson pieces.

Amber Rose, Alicia Keys, Kendall Jenner, Little Mix, Stef London, Beyoncé amongst others..

WOMEN OF STEEL PROFILES

Name: Joanna Maal

Age: 46

Where are you from? Port Talbot

Industry: South Wales Police

Job Title: Chief Superintendent

What do you do?

Senior leader and local area commander of policing across Swansea, Neath & Port Talbot.

What is your biggest accomplishment?/Most proud of?

Professionally : achieving success to my current role. I began my service in Neath / Port Talbot in 1995, so to return here as the most senior officer in the area is a real privilege and career highlight.. Outside of work, I climbed Mt Kilimanjaro a few years ago with some other female police colleagues and Royal Marines to raise awareness for PTSD – incredible experience!

How did you get there?

Through hard work and determination. I have worked in many roles in different ranks including uniformed posts, covert and specialist roles, on local, regional, national and international operations. The variety of roles that the police service offers, has provided me with fantastic opportunities in many rewarding positions.

Were you ever told you can't? How did you fight this?

My inner voice (and self doubt) is the only negative and restricting factor that has been present in my career. My family, friends and husband have been totally supportive of everything I have achieved.

Female that has most inspired you?

Not so much someone who has given me inspiration, but more admiration and respect– Claire Balding – Sports woman, broadcaster and journalist. Total professional in her field, she has credibility and respect in her area of work, someone who is knowledgeable, enthusiastic and totally passionate about her job.

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

Failure to some degree is highly likely at some point…that is not important. What is important is how you respond and react to those events, and coming back stronger and more determined makes the ultimate success even better.

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