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15 March 2017

Welsh Women Climbing High

It was International Women’s Day on 8 March and successful women and women’s rights were celebrated all over the World. Today we have been looking at some Welsh Women leading the way.


We already know about some of the iconic Welsh women from the past and present who have, through great determination, achieved excellence in their field.

  • Betsi Cadwaladr 1789-1860 famously attended to the wounded during the Crimean War and made certain, despite regulations, soldiers were given the treatment they needed;
  • Paralympian Barroness Tanni Grey-Thompson has to be one of our greatest athletes of all time, not just for her ability but for the work she has done to support disabled athletes and promote charities, and we can’t forget;
  • Dame Shirley Bassey of course, a legend of the music scene who has done much to support the reputation of Wales as the land of song.


Today Wales has successful women leading big business, enjoying academic achievements and rising through the political ranks. We also have a high proportion of female leaders in the third sector, compared to the rest of the UK and we are proud of women climbing high in Wales and Internationally.

Here are just a few who are inspiring future generations, showcasing Welsh talent across the world and highlighting Wales, as a great place to do business:


Debra Barber

Debra Barber, a retired Group Captain within the Royal Air Force, is the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer for Cardiff Airport, an important gateway for business, trade and tourism in Wales. Debra is responsible for delivering the Company's long term, sustainable growth strategy and has just helped to sign a strategic partnership agreement with London Heathrow to identify business opportunities. A link which only improves the good high speed rail connection between Wales and other major UK cities.

In Debra’s previous role as the Managing director, the airport was recognised as the fastest growing airport in the UK in 2016 in terms of passenger numbers. She also improved the customer experience. Debra will now lead the Airport with the backing of the Welsh Government, to improve links to internationals destinations.


Baroness Finlay of Llandaff

The Baroness, a past President of the Royal Society of Medicine, is a Welsh Doctor who has excelled in her work as professor of Palliative Medicine. She teaches at Cardiff University, one Europe’s top Universities, acts as a consultant at Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff. She is also an active Member of the House of Lords within the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Notably she succeeded, within Parliament, to lead the way to change government policy on organ donation and proposed a bill to ban smoking in public buildings in Wales, three years before it was eventually implemented.

She is an example for the academic excellence Wales can offer and is a leading figure in the growing influence of Health Sciences.   


Hayley Parsons

Hayley is one the nations best entrepreneurial examples, having creating the price comparison website GoCompare based in Newport, Gwent. Hayley, had previously worked for the UK leading insurance company, the Cardiff-based Admiral Group (voted the second best company to work for by the prestigious Sunday Times list 2017).  She came up with the idea for GoCompare at her kitchen table.

Eight years later she sold GoCompare for £190 million and the company is still growing bolstering the already impressive Financial and professional services sector in Wales.  Hayley is now turning her attentions to new business ideas.


Lesley Jones

Lesley is the CEO of Keep Wales Tidy and President of the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). The latter organisation seeks to engage and empower people through education worldwide.  This echoes the Welsh people’s and Welsh Government’s ethos for sustainability and looks at new ways in the energy and environment sector, a key sector for Wales, to achieve those goals.

Speaking on International Women’s Day Lesley said:  “I want to mark International Women’s Day by collaborating with my counterparts in Wales on the 2017 message. Working with the environment and education sectors in Wales and internationally, I hope to promote the opportunities through education for more young women to be confident and bold in their own spheres of influence. The international Eco-Schools programme we manage here in Wales empowers young people to lead and take action to make the world a better place” [Credit Keep Wales Tidy]

Did You Know Wales has a long history of supporting women’s equal rights:

  • In the early 20th century, Cardiff had the largest branch of the National Women's Union of Suffrage Societies outside London;
  • It was a group of Welsh Women who petitioned the European Parliament in 1975 for the equal treatment for men and women workers;
  • Wales was the first government to bring in specific equality duties in 2010, to ensure public bodies review how they contribute to a fairer society, eliminating unlawful discrimination and advancing equality of opportunity, including women;
  • The Welsh Government and Wales Assembly of Women continue to proudly champion women’s rights.