Reflecting on a wonderful Women in Sport Leadership Lunch

The Welsh Sports Association (WSA) are proud to have supported the inaugural Women in Sport Leadership Lunch on September 29th, and would like to thank Simon Clarke and the Speakeasy Club team for putting on such a fantastic event!

It was truly a captivating afternoon in which attendees were able to hear some brilliant female leaders from around the sport and leisure sector speak about issues that not only touch us as professionals in the industry, but also as human beings.

We would also like to extend our thanks to the Principality Stadium’s hospitality staff, who set us up for the afternoon’s conversation with a lovely buffet lunch and beverages that kept us sustained throughout.

Of course, we are also grateful to the speakers who made the afternoon so special.

The conversation started with an address from the Speakeasy Club founder Simon Clarke before Welsh Government’s Head of Sport & Leisure Neil Welch provided commentary on how gender parity and equality and diversity aligns with the strategic priorities of Welsh Government, as well as talking about female leadership from a parental point of view.

We were then treated to a virtual appearance by the event’s keynote speaker Kate Richardson-Walsh. Speaking from her home, the Olympic gold medal-winning hockey captain for Team GB in 2016 gave a fascinating insight on what it means to be a female leader to her, and her journey both on and off the field, with an honesty that demanded the room’s attention throughout.

Sharing with us the depths of her challenges and struggles from which she learned and grew as well as the support and allyship she relied upon to be her best self, the now-coach delivered an emotive and captivating insight to how she developed as a leader, and as a person, in order to reach the top.

Olympic gold-medal winning Kate Richardson-Walsh delivered a fascinating talk to the room

Following a large round of applause for the keynote speaker, Simon introduced to the front of the room a guest panel.

Made of Hockey Wales CEO Ria Burrage-Male, Wales Director of The Prince’s Trust Sarah Jones and Deputy Director at Cycling UK Jenny Box, we heard a conversation filled with humour as well as interesting insights into the journey taken by those female leaders to where they are today, how to deservedly take time to celebrate successes in the industry, and what it means to be a female leader in sport and leisure.

It was brilliant to hear of the panellists’ overcoming of obstacles, through resilience as well as allyship, to achieving such success and doing such amazing things in the industry already in their careers.

A panel made up of female leaders across the sector took to the stools during the event

Following a final question from Simon asking what advice the panellists would give their younger selves, to which there was a very common theme of response along the lines of ‘trust your gut instinct’ and ‘believe in yourself’, we moved on to hear from Louisa Clarke, a difficult conversations expert, who recorded a message for the event.

She went into detail about the captivating issues of power dynamics and social relationships in business, and explained what it meant to be challenge-confident, as oppose to confrontation-averse, in a healthy hierarchy or power dynamic.

Louisa Clarke recorded a video message for the event

Rounding off the afternoon’s discussion was soon-to-be President of the Lawn Tennis Association Sandi Procter. Taking us through a fascinating career in sport and her 25 years of experience in tennis, Sandi spoke brilliantly on the amazing successes she’d achieved globally, from having an impact on children’s development in tennis in over 150 countries to providing resources for women to be more comfortable in board roles, and the dedication, self-belief and support on which she thrived to become the female leader she is today.

It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces at the Principality Stadium; we’d like to once again thank everyone who made the afternoon so special, and we’re already looking forward to the second Women in Sport Leadership Lunch!

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