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ION Leadership and Chwarae Teg hit the road to talk women in leadership

Written by / Monday 10th December 2018

Following on from a hugely successful joint leadership programme ran with Chwarae Teg in 2015, we have once again joined forces. The programme will allow delegates to work together on real business challenges within their business, identifying real solutions that can be applied in the workplace. It’s all about spending time ‘on’ the business rather than ‘in’ the business.

The 2015 programme saw over 30 delegates take part, and we are aiming for the same number again, so we needed to get the message out there. So we hit the road.

In November we ran 3 events - Swansea, Bridgend and Cardiff - all featuring talks from inspiring female business leaders from a range of Welsh industries. Unfortunately not everyone could make the events so our Marketing Manager Adam Fairbank has taken the time to provide a summary of our speakers and the key takeaways:


DSC_0157.JPGFirst up was Swansea where as well as hearing from Hayley Dunne, Strategic Lead at Chwarae Teg and ION Programme Manager Jo Bishop, our wonderful guests heard from current delegate Sally Smith, the founder of Swansea Garages and former LEAD Wales delegate Rayner Davies, Founder of A & R Cleaning.

Sally has taken part in the Chwarae Teg Agile Nation programme and is currently taking part in our Leading Growth Programme. Sally discussed with attendees what she has learned from her time on both programmes and shared her plans for the future. Sally completed a Q & A for us recently where her love of learning was abundantly clear.  We therefore weren’t surprised when summing up her talk Sally shared that “your current skillset has already taken you as far as its going to take you. If you don’t put yourself on a path to learn, where you are now is where you will be in 5 years’ time”. We couldn’t of said it better ourselves!

Rayner developed her entrepreneurial spirit at just 10 years old when she was cleaning old washing machines and cookers. In 2008 she bought a small van and a £80 iron and started her own ironing business. In 2018, A & Cleaning employs over 180 members of staff and has a turnover of nearly £2million. Now that’s business growth! In Rayners honest and hilarious talk she spoke about the importance of her team, how our very own Jill Davies taught her about the importance of developing an organisational culture and how she writes down all her goals and puts them in her wardrobe so she sees them every day.


The following week we visited Bridgend where our guests heard from former LEAD Wales delegate, and ION Steering Group member, Ali Sparkes. Ali owns and runs The Health Dispensary in Neath, a pharmacy and wellness centre which offers complimentary therapies, acupuncture and coaching. Ali, who decided she wanted to be a pharmacist at 11, shared her story, discussed the women who have played key roles in her life and discussed the importance of being authentic in leadership. Ali wanted to create an environment where her customers felt safe and discussed the history of the business and how she has a number of original pieces from her pharmacy when she was young, all important parts of the story of her business. Ali encouraged everyone to take just a few seconds to pat themselves on the back. Everyone is so busy she explained that people don’t take time to celebrate successes. Celebrate success more. Ali also completed a Q & A for us so you can find out about her love of Audrey Hepburn and the 3 words she would use to describe herself. 

DSC_0182.JPGNext up was Kelly Mordecai, OD Specialist at Tai Tarian, who talked our guests through her leadership journey. Starting in 2011, she converted her vision and passion for health and wellbeing into a corporate strategy which has led to an attendance rate of 98% for the last 5 years and created a proactive culture that is caring and supportive and puts people first. Kelly, who describes herself as a creative thinker, rule challenger and achiever (as well as a dancer and boxer) said it was anything but easy and had to challenge assumptions, change hearts and minds and adjust her own style but they now have a 99% participation rate in their Performance Management Programme and have improved their staff engagement from the 39th to the 93rd percentile in 2 years. Very impressive. You can find out more about Kelly on her Q & A. 


The final destination on our road trip was Cardiff. Kelly from Tai Tarian enjoyed Bridgend so much she came back for more, this time talking about the work Tai Tarian does in the community. Kelly talked guests through how they achieved the Platinum Corporate Health Standard, co-designing services with their customers to ensure they met the needs of everyone involved. Kelly discussed how their community engagement work has spread much wider than just the local area, as far as Zambia in fact, and how they got involved in the DIY SOS project for Children in Need, helping build a centre and supported housing for young people in care, and leaving care, on behalf of the Roots Foundation Charity. Tai Tarian’s community work is a fantastic example of organisations engaging with their local customers. And we’re not the only people who think so as Port Talbot’s very own Michael Sheen is a big fan and a huge ambassador for the work that they do. 

Guests also heard from Dawn Davies, former LEAD delegate and an experienced regeneration, social venture and community development specialist with over 25 years’ experience in community led enterprises. Dawn shared her latest leadership challenge, taking over the running of a struggling community theatre in South Wales. Having to borrow staff from other venues and holding 5 minute interviews to ensure the theatre could complete their weekly scheduled performances, Dawn discussed how by involving the local community in the project and building a strong team, in 12 months they reversed a loss of £30,000 to a profit of £2,000.

1.JPGThe events were a great success and it was fantastic to hear from some hugely inspiring female business leaders. And there were some key recurring themes. The importance of learning came up in virtually ever talk. But not just learning for yourself, the importance of learning from others – within your organisation and outside. Authenticity was also a recurring theme. People do business with people so the importance of being genuine, understanding your strengths but also knowing your limitations (and being honest about them!) and building trust with your stakeholders is hugely important.  The importance of a good team kept coming up over and over again as did the need to challenge assumptions, rules and conformity.

A huge thank you to all our amazing speakers, everyone who attended and it would be remiss of me to not thank my ION and Chwarae Teg colleagues who all played a huge part in making the events happen.

Want to find out more? 

Booking for the joint programme is still open and you can find out more here. And if you have any further questions about the programme don’t hesitate to get in touch with the ION team – 01792 606738 /


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