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Wednesday 13 February 2019

Women into Leadership: 500 women turning up to learn and to support each other

By Paula Houghton

ARC President Paula Houghton describes her experience chairing the Women into Leadership Cardiff conference.

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Chairing my first Women Into Leadership (WiL) was a bit daunting: I had never attended one before, and didn’t really know what to expect. However, I was instantly reassured by the brilliant team from FDA and Dods, who walked me through what was required and gave me lots of information prior to the event.

As soon as the day started I was buoyed by the atmosphere of 500 women turning up to learn and to support each other. The line-up of speakers was impressive, their careers and experiences fascinating and their willingness to share their knowledge and encourage other women absolutely inspiring.

There were so many interesting and useful insights through the day, starting with Elan Closs Stephens CBE who asked if we have to be heroes to have our own careers. She urged us all to take ourselves seriously, never be afraid of failure and to never offer to make the coffee until you are a DG! The day moved on with Kathy Barnes discussing authentic leadership and the honesty, integrity and courage it takes to be your whole self at work. She shared another piece of advice: learn to change your leadership style to suit the situation you are in.

The afternoon kicked off with a brilliant and diverse panel discussion about amplifying voices in the workplace (both your own and others) with Gerri Clement, Suzanne Bull MBE and Jacqui Gavin discussing often personal and difficult experiences they have had in their careers. They also spoke about the drive to ensure inclusion is real and tangible for everyone and not just a talking point.

The final speaker of the day was Manon Antoniazzi, who talked about the challenges of her role as Chief Executive and Clerk to the National Assembly for Wales and use of Welsh language. She promised she could teach anyone the basic requirement for working there – “Courtesy Welsh” – in 10 minutes. I'll have to take her up on that sometime soon!

I came away from the day feeling uplifted and inspired by these great women, confident that I had picked up some tips to take forward and grateful that I had the opportunity to play a small part in such a brilliant day.

My only regret is that I didn’t go to a WiL event years ago!


Throughout 2019, WiL conferences will be held across the UK. For more information, see the Women into Leadership website. FDA and Keystone members receive a significant discount on tickets.

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