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On reflection, I bloody loved it and the day was so much more than I could have anticipated.

Our inaugural Women in sport leadership lunch, held at the Principality Stadium was the first step for Speakeasy in providing a platform to champion and celebrate female leaders in sport, as well as understand the priorities we need to put in place now for future generations, all within a safe and inclusive environment.

To have over 40 people representing nearly 25 different organisations across different sectors in Wales & England was a really humbling feeling.

Straight from the off it was important to me to set the tone. Relaxed, fun, and inquisitive was what I was looking for, and hopefully that’s how people felt as we get into the afternoons discussions.

It was just awesome to have Head of Sport & Leisure for Welsh Government, Neil Welch, open up the afternoon with a perfect blend of insight and reiteration of Welsh governments manifesto commitments alongside the personal touches around inspiring and supporting his young family, whilst reflecting on his perhaps not so illustrious goalkeeping career.

Kate Richardson – Walsh, Former GB Hockey captain and Olympic gold medal winner followed and was our key note speaker for the afternoon. My word was she so much more than that. As part of our hybrid event, Kate joined us virtually and it worked brilliantly.

Her authenticity, warmth and passion for people came out from the very beginning. There were huge amounts of being real and self awareness and a lot of it centred around her journey through therapy and it was great to hear how it’s one of the best things she’s ever done.

Kate’s thirst for knowledge and learning was clear by the number of different books that were mentioned. Being curious was a big takeaway from Kate’s presentation and amongst the vulnerability, emotion and sincerity was a truly empathetic and inspirational leader. Yes process is important, but perhaps caring about the person first truly does make that all important difference.

Following Kate, came our expert panel of current and former leaders the sport & leisure sector.

Jenny Box (Deputy Director for e-cycles at Cycling UK), Sarah Jones (Director for Wales Princes Trust) and Ria Burrage – Male (CEO Hockey Wales) joined us for a brilliantly authentic and reflective half an hour.

Amongst some others, these three incredibly individuals have supported me personally and professionally over the years and continue do to so, whether they are aware of it or not! All three of the talked with genuine passion about their roles as authentic leaders in the particular fields. They emphasised the fact that they don’t know everything and this is where understanding the team around you is important, to know where those missing skills and knowledge are.

Sarah talked very emotively about how since starting the new role with the Princes Trust,she’s felt happier and more her authentic self than she has done for years. it would be interesting to unpick why, and see if it’s connected to the fact that the Princes Trust supported her nearly 30 years ago and kick started her journey through sport and into a leader.

I heard an interesting comment from an experienced and respected male leader who said:

”If we had 3 men up on that stage this afternoon, I’m not sure we’d have got the vulnerability and the authenticity that we got from Ria, Jenny and Sarah”.

That comment has really made me think. It would be interesting to test that theory but I think they would be right .

That’s where Speakeasy comes in. Let’s create the space for everyone to feel safe to be vulnerable, question some of their own thoughts and learn from others experiences.

Louisa Clarke from Confidently there, a difficult conversations expert, gave us a fascinating insight into how to navigate challenging conversations using assertive yet empathetic Language. In preparation for the afternoon, Louisa reached out to a focus group of female leaders in Welsh sport to understand some of the real challenges they face day to day, and what needs to be done to affect change.

Deputy President of the Lawn Tennis Association, Sandi Procter closed the afternoon for us with a fascinating insight into her own leadership journey (England lacrosse captain and chief troublemaker in primary school!) as well as rounding up her reflections on the day’s conversations.

I was asked by a number of the speakers ”Was that ok? was that what you wanted?” my answer was simple ” To be honest, I don’t know what I wanted, but that was spot on”. You never really know what you want from these things and to be honest, I don’t think I should do.

The power is in the authenticity of each individual and that’s what shown through perfectly. That’s all I really wanted.

3 things that stuck with me overall:

1️⃣ Be curious – always look for answers and different ways of doing things. Never for being confused or comfortable.

2️⃣ Everything starts with you – Accountability is crucial. So much is in our own power to change and to influence. start with you.

3️⃣ Be Authentic – Know who you are, Know what makes you tick and know your ‘why’

With those 3 things in your toolbox, true happiness and success won’t be far behind.

The feedback on the day, via social media and the event survey suggest it was a great addition to our 1st year at Speakeasy Club and I’m starting to realise how bloody lucky I am too have so many incredibly authentic, curious and passionate leaders around me to learn from.

Details are to be confirmed, but the date is set for Thursday 21st September 2023 so lock it in!

Take care, Speak Easy and see you next year for #WISLL23