Superwomen of Wales unite at annual conference

28 October 2014

Cardiff Business School's new Postgraduate Teaching Centre recently played host to the 10th annual Superwoman conference, welcoming more than 170 businesswomen and executives.

Attendees heard from a distinguished panel of female leaders from the worlds of sport, politics and media on themes of self-reflection, self-belief, overcoming hurdles and challenges to personal and professional advancement.

Superwoman, run by Bethan Darwin of Commercial Conclusion Solicitors who is also a member of the School's International Advisory Board, started in 2005 and provides businesswomen with the opportunity to network and share experiences of balancing working life, career progression and the wider demands placed on them by family and society.

Professor Martin Kitchener, Dean of the Cardiff Business School, opened proceedings by welcoming Superwoman and its guests to the School and reaffirming his commitment to improving equality and diversity within the School and making it more reflective of wider society. This includes a recent pledge to the 50/50 by 2020 initiative to increase female representation within the senior management board.

Olympic gold medal winning cyclist Nicole Cooke MBE, a recent MBA graduate of Cardiff University, was the first to the lectern to discuss how her training and preparation throughout her prolific professional sporting career has influenced her approach to her life in general. Nicole encouraged attendees to 'control the controllables' and trust that preparations and planning would help to mitigate obstacles and challenges.

Elan Closs Stephens CBE, National Trustee for Wales on the BBC Trust, spoke about the need for self-reflection and that a career or professional progression isn't always in the ascent and can sometimes be linear or disrupted by unforeseen diversions. Some of these diversions are positive and others not, from building a family to experiencing ill health or bereavement. Each scenario brings with it difficulties to overcome and often a change of course whereby a new path opens up.

Anna Ryder Richardson, a well-known personality from her time on BBC'sChanging Rooms and ITV's I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, also took up the theme of reflection and seeking real fulfilment whether that is through family or work. This is what led Anna, and her husband, to walk away from the trappings of celebrity and buy a rundown zoo in Pembrokeshire, committing themselves to animal welfare and breeding programmes to help prevent the extinction of several species.

Eluned Morgan, Baroness Morgan of Ely, a Labour peer in the House of Lords and former Member of the European Parliament closed proceedings speaking to the need to give others a chance and the importance of both providing support to other women and leaning on other women when necessary.

Superwoman organiser, Bethan Darwin, said: "We had a fantastic night and thank the speakers for their candour in telling those who attended about their experiences in business and life. The reality is that Superwoman doesn't exist and we can't do everything alone. It's important to say that's ok, and to have a network you can draw from for encouragement and support so that you can be as super as possible, in the real world. We need to look at the successful women around us and feel that we are in this together, can learn from each other and help to ease the path of the next generation of female leaders."

Professor Martin Kitchener added: "It was fascinating to hear the experiences of so many successful and inspirational female leaders – those on the panel but also from the wider conference attendees. What was evident was the need to support and champion businesswomen through events such as Superwoman but also for agencies and institutions to commit themselves to improving representation in senior positions. I'm proud to say that Cardiff Business School has pledged to play its part and I look forward to seeing others do the same."