Finalists Announced for the Chwarae Teg Womenspire Awards 2021


A flagship awards ceremony has announced its finalists in advance of the main event later this month.

The Chwarae Teg Womenspire Awards 2021, recognise achievements made across all aspects of life, from personal successes to outstanding contributions. The event celebrates and showcases these remarkable accomplishments from across Wales – inspiring future generations.

Finalists include community champions, sports women, those advancing gender equality, remarkable learners and inspiring leaders. Read about all the fabulous finalists now at

The online awards will take place from 7.00pm on Thursday 30 September, and again hope to attract an audience of thousands – streaming across ITV Cymru Wales’ Face Book Live and Twitter.

Hosted by Andrea Byrne and Elin Pavli-Hinde, Womenspire promises to be an epic night of online entertainment – with videos of finalists’ inspirational stories and performances from female artists.

Cerys Furlong, Chief Executive, Chwarae Teg, said:

“Womenspire is an awards ceremony like no other. Finalists come from all walks of life across Wales but have something very much in common – they have all gone above and beyond to make a real positive difference to their own lives and the lives of others. We want to shine a light on their remarkable accomplishments, as they can so often go unnoticed. At Chwarae Teg we want to applaud what they’ve done and hold them up as role models.

“Our finalists will be joining us with family and friends from their own homes, and we will be getting them involved and encouraging our virtual audience to join in too. We’ll also be highlighting organisations working towards making gender equality a reality in Wales.”

Chwarae Teg Womenspire Awards 2021 – Finalists:

Board Member

Gwyneth Sweatman and Emma Henwood (Cardiff)
Gwyneth and Emma are Co-chairs of Public Affairs Cymru (PAC). Their aligned and complimentary way of thinking and viewing the future of PAC has enabled them to take it from a bit of a boys socialising club to one that is focussed on diversity, inclusion, training, networking and knowledge sharing. They have worked hard to ensure that PAC is ‘future fit’ and are passionate about creating opportunities for others.

Corrina Lloyd–Jones (Llanarth)
Corinna has been a member of Mudiad Meithrin’s national Board of Directors for 6 years. She enriches the work of Mudiad Meithrin through her professional knowledge of HR and her grass roots experience as chair of her local Cylch Meithrin management committee. For decades, three-quarters of Mudiad Meithrin’s volunteer directors were men. Corinna was one of a new generation of female Directors who joined in 2015.Thanks to her work this has been built upon by the appointment of 6 more women

Karen Harvey–Cooke (Barry)
Karen sits on the board for Skills and Volunteering Cymru, bringing her knowledge of equality, diversity and inclusion to assess what they are doing and what more they can do. Karen’s main goal is to make sure people have a space where they can be themselves and feel empowered. An ally for trans rights Karen is the chair of the staff LGBT network at Cardiff University; the role “”that that makes my eyes shine”. Karen also looks after the community articles in an online magazine, LGBTQymru.

Community Champion

Helen Hughes (Merthyr Tydfil)
Helen heads up the board of Stephens and George Charitable Trust. Helen has run numerous projects from getting children interested in education, supporting families who have complex living situations, to supporting the elderly members of the community. Helen herself has overcome many barriers, including being homeless, suffering domestic violence, being diagnosed with a tumour and having a hole in her heart but has smashed through all of these and now regularly competes in triathlons and ultra marathons. Helen has led the charity to win numerous awards for their work. They have most recently been awarded an MBE.

Lynne Kelly (Cardiff)
Lynne has been campaigning and running her support group for over 35 years. Lynne’s 3 sons were all born with haemophilia, and she found that there was no real support available to her so joined a charity focused on haemophilia. By 2010, there was no one left to run the charity group so Lynne decided to take the lead. Lynne is focused on helping everybody, but especially young families and mothers. Lynne has been campaigning for a public enquiry into infected blood, meeting with members of Parliament and key politicians to discuss this issue.

Roon Adam (Cardiff)
Roon is an advice services manager at Race Equality First, going above and beyond her role to help and support members of her local community. Roon has helped women who need furniture, places to live, and food. Roon teaches them their rights, and as an Arabic interpreter she finds that when people are able to communicate in their own language, they really open up and become more comfortable. Roon enjoys helping people, especially women who have come over to the UK, as she understands the language and cultural barriers they are facing.

Jessica Evans (Llangollen)
When Jessica experienced her first miscarriage, she did not receive the support that she needed from the medical teams. Jessica reached out to Tommy’s, the pregnancy and baby loss charity for England and with their help has collected over 4,000 signatures for a petition to improve the care for women suffering recurrent miscarriage in Wales. Jessica started a blog on mumsnet and discovered Fair Treatment for the Women of Wales (FTWW). With the support of FTWW, Jessica produced a report on accessing miscarriage care in Wales, which was debated in the Senedd. Jessica also works with the health board in North Wales, where they are planning to open a recurrent miscarriage clinic.


Jayne Woodman (Swansea)
Determined not to let other women suffer as she did during perimenopause, Jayne set up The Menopause Team in 2019 – and has been raising the menopause profile in Wales and beyond ever since. Running awareness sessions, writing policies and providing training for organisations, Jayne helps keep women on top of their game – improving their working and personal lives and helping businesses maintain their competitive edge. As a single mum Jayne didn’t feel that she could take the plunge and start her own business, but once her daughter grew up, she felt like she could go for it and hasn’t looked back since.

Lauren Bowen (Treorchy)
Bullied at school due to being LGBTQ+, Lauren opened Loaded Burgers and Fries to provide a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community and actively employs people who are trans, nonbinary, people of colour and those who are neurodiverse. Passionate about her community and supporting her staff to succeed, Lauren has already taken Loaded Burgers and Fries to become a finalist in The Welsh Start Up Business Awards. With a mission to bring acceptance and education to the area, Lauren Chairs RCT Pride, the only Pride event in the Welsh Valleys.

Gigi Gao (Swansea)
Despite being a qualified lawyer, specialising in UK trade law, Gigi saw a gap in the market. Gigi opened a restaurant, serving authentic Chinese food and teaching her customers about Chinese culture. Gigi quickly grew the business and moved into a much larger premises, but due to popularity is still having to turn people away. The most important thing to Gigi is customer experience and sharing the Chinese culture with others.

Leanne Holder (Narbeth)
Leanne set up BecauseRaceCarBox, a subscription box for car cleaning enthusiasts, with her partner 4 years ago. Wanting to encourage women into cleaning their cars and to move away from the male scented, male terminology that were represented in the automotive industry Leanne launched the ‘Pink Detailing Collection’. Despite the pandemic, the business has grown thanks to Leanne’s approach, and they now have distributors in France and Belgium. Being a woman in the automotive industry, Leanne has had to face a lot of adversity to be taken seriously, which drives her to support female entrepreneurs and inspire them into male-dominated industries.

Gender Equality Champion

Anna Petrie (Cardiff)
Anna is an advice service manager at Race Equality First (REF). She delivers case work support for victims of hate crimes and provides advocacy to ethnic minority individuals. During lockdown she was involved in setting up Interfaith Education events where she would take questions from the communities to faith leaders and film their answers. Anna is committed to all types of equality and sees the value in every individual. Anna is also a qualified councillor, something she studied before joining REF, and uses her listening and empathy skills to communicate with her colleagues and the community.

Kerry Ann Sheppard (Cardiff)
Kerry Ann decided she wanted to take the positive behaviours she had experienced in senior roles into her role at Target group. With support from their HR team, Kerry Ann created a Women of Target network to encourage other women to work for Target and know they would be supported. As part of this network, Kerry Ann set up a steering committee, giving opportunities to more junior women to gain experience. She also mentors’ women who are in the first 5-10 years of their careers helping build their confidence to apply for more senior roles.

Mike Taggart (Rhyl)
Mike is the strategic domestic abuse officer in the North Wales police force, with a focus on helping others to not be bystanders to domestic abuse. He is also an ambassador for the white ribbon campaign. Mike states clearly that domestic abuse affects all genders, though as a gendered crime he wants to empower men to stand up for women. Mike was inspired to take on this role after his mother was murdered by his step father. He believes that you don’t necessarily need to physically intervene, you can be a voice for people who feel they can’t speak up.

Lesley Williams (Caerphilly)
As a community outreach officer for Welsh ICE (Innovation Centre for Enterprise) Lesley takes their business advice “on tour” to make it as accessible as possible. Having reviewed the advice provided by Welsh ICE Lesley gave it an overhaul, focusing on equality and accessibility. Lesley also is a Big Ideas Wales role model, having faced barriers as a woman from the valleys her story is very relatable. She is also the co-chair for the Wales Equality Party and sits on boards for various charities. Lesley has also been involved in a Female Founders programme which gives business advice to women.


Professor Karen Holford (Cardiff)
A lifelong passion for engineering saw Karen progress from being an undergraduate engineer at Rolls Royce to Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Professor in Mechanical Engineering at Cardiff University. She has had significant achievements as a leader within the academic discipline of engineering, and her wider roles within the University. A consistent and enthusiastic champion for equality, diversity, and inclusion, she has had a powerful impact on gender equality. Having recently taken up a new post as Vice Chancellor at Cranford University she will remain linked to Cardiff University as an Honorary Distinguished Research Professor.

Viv Buckley (Cardiff)
With a degree in theatre directing Viv became a drama teacher before moving into management (though she insists on teaching once a week!) and has been Deputy Principal at Bridgend College for 4 years. During this time the college has transformed, recently achieving no. 24 in the Times 100 Best companies to work for – the highest ranked further education college in the UK. Viv has an evident commitment to Equality and Diversity, challenging perceptions and encouraging more women to take up traditional male subjects. Viv loves working in further education acknowledging how “truly transformational it can be”.

Dr Gwenllian Lansdown Davies (Llanerfyl)
Gwenllian is the Chief Executive of Mudiad Meithryn. An inspirational role model Gwenllian is constantly looking at new ways of improving, and new people to learn from or partner up with so as to create a positive culture where everyone matters; ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast!’ Gwenllian is always expanding on her knowledge and sharing it widely. When Covid hit Gwenllian ramped up internal communications, with her progressive and forward thinking way of leading she does not operate on a ‘need to know basis’.

Aliya Mohammed (Cwmbran)
Aliya is an inspirational leader who has worked in the equality sector for 16 years and is now the Chief Executive Officer at Race Equality First (REF). Aliya says “We don’t need to be a large organisation, just be really good at what we do”. When Aliya started at REF they were struggling with staff who weren’t working together, experiencing financial difficulties and had a Board made up of only men. Thanks to Aliya’s leadership skills, she has diversified the board, improved the staff network, secured their funding, and transformed the culture of REF.


Amal Alkhatib (Rhyl)
Amal left school at 18 to study nursing and was a qualified midwife for 7 years in Syria before having to move with her family to Lebanon. Having been moved 5 times in the 5 years she was there, Amal came to the UK as a refugee. When she arrived in the UK, she had zero English but took up lessons in 2016 at Llandrillo College. Her ESOL tutor nominated her as Amal has excelled in her learning and has a place on a Health and Social Care course as her goal is to return to midwifery.

Gemma Campbell (Rhos on Sea)
Gemma has overcome many barriers and struggles to be where she is today. As a teacher with big aspirations Gemma discovered, the more she progressed, the less she would be in the classroom which is where her passion is. Following a career break Gemma found it quite difficult to get a job again as she was seen to be going backwards in her career, so enrolled onto a pilot programme for chartered teacher training and became one of the first chartered teachers in Wales. Gemma now mentors and tutors’ others to become chartered teachers, as well as undertaking a masters degree.

Gomathi Shivakumar (Penarth)
Gomathi studied computing at university in India, and was the first person in her home town to have a computing degree, but was unable to use it due to family commitments. Gomathi and her family moved to the UK in 2002, and 25 years after obtaining her degree, she looked to get a job. With no work experience Gomathi found this difficult until she applied to the DVLA where she found she could undertake training at the same time as working. Gomathi passed with distinction and even won an award for best project on her course. Gomathi currently has three degrees and is always studying further.

Kate Bennett Davies (Cardiff)
At 14 Kate was diagnosed with ME and although she made it to university, she had to leave due to ill health. She has had to wean herself off opioids and has built herself up to be less dependent on a wheelchair. Kate finished her first year of a Welsh learners course with Cardiff University. Kate has always had a big passion for writing and during the pandemic joined an online writing group (which has members from around the world). Kate is a quiet warrior who will go out of her way to help people and grow herself – even if it’s been from her bed.

Rising Star

Christina Tanti (Cardiff)
Christina Works for Race Equality First as their research and evaluation co-ordinator, working on projects with the police and CPS, looking into hate crimes and why they aren’t prosecuted. She is also currently working on a report into Race Equality in Wales. Having experienced difficulties and barriers from a young age, as a woman from an ethnic minority background, Christina wants to change this for others going forward, through her job. She says: “I’m so lucky at my age to have got into this role so I’d like to continue what I do from a research perspective and influence policy makers.

Jessica Dunrod (Bath)
Jessica started the first translation firm dedicated to children’s literature, launched a black publication firm as well as being co-chair on the Cardiff Race Equality Steering group. She is currently studying for her MA. Jessica also works to combat racism in schools, having had to take her son out due to the abuse he was suffering. Jessica’s aim is to promote the Welsh minority language, enable young black girls to see themselves in books and as main characters and to empower black women to realise that they can take on any role they want.

Llio Pugh (Machynlleth)
Llio works in the finance department at Mudiad Meithrin which manages all the Cylchoed (pre-school play groups focusing on learning through the medium of Welsh). The Cylchoedd have paid staff, but they are managed by committees of volunteers, made up mainly of women. Llio is very conscientious, going out of her way to help others fulfil their own roles, and is very supportive of the women on the committees. Llio also volunteers as treasurer for her local community centre and newspaper.

Stephanie Back (Cardiff)
Becoming Deaf at the age of 15 impacted Stephanie’s confidence and her mental health, but then she discovered theatre and the arts. Having completed a degree in Theatre, Education and Deaf studies at Reading University, she joined Taking Flight to play Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, using British Sign Language (BSL). In recent years she has set up her own theatre company – Deaf and Fabulous – which she uses to create theatre about language, connection, and Deafness.  Steph wants to inspire other young Deaf people, getting them to think ‘If she can do it, I can do it’.

Woman in Health and Care

Dr Helen Lane (Cardiff)
A consultant physician at Cwm Taff Morgannwg Health Board, Helen specialises in endocrinology and diabetes. Helen has also been involved with building ward based disciplinary teams and is the Associate Medical Director for Quality Improvement, focused on improvement rather than governance. She wants to hear everybody’s voices and break down the disciplinary barriers. Especially breaking down the hierarchical barriers in medicine and bring people out of themselves – Helen always asks the cleaners, porters and others how they are doing. Helen began writing poetry as a way to cope at the beginning of the pandemic and has since had poetry published.

Ffion Wylie (Llangefni)
As the manager at Medra Nursery, Ffion faced the challenges and supported her team to work throughout the lockdowns, caring for other key workers children. Ffion’s open-door policy has meant her staff felt confident and safe at work. Ffion challenges and encourages her team members to try new skills and experiences, showing her confidence in their abilities. Despite the challenging times, Ffion has ensured that there are opportunities for young women in the area who want a career in childcare by offering apprentice workplaces and has established a mentoring ethos amongst the women’s workplace team.

Rachel Rowlands (Ynysybwl)
Rachel has been the Chief Executive of Age Connects Morgannwg for 16 years. Rachel also sat on the Regional Partnership Board for 3 years as the only third sector worker on the board. During the pandemic Rachel helped set up a test, track and trace system and assisted people by getting medicines, walking dogs, and picking children up from school. Rachel also helped set up a self-isolation helpline, where people could call with any questions, and helped set up the “vacci Taxi” to assist older people or vulnerable members of the community in getting to their vaccination centres.

Dr Bnar Talabani (Cardiff)
When Bnar was not required to work on the Covid wards she decided to do something else to support. Having been struck with the amount of misinformation online she noticed there was a void in different languages to counteract. She reached out to a few colleagues and formed Muslim Doctors Cymru (MDC). They have delivered 15 webinars in 8 languages, with their work influencing announcements by Welsh Government. They have also worked with mosques to open as vaccination centres. Bnar has run women only groups dispelling myths about the vaccine and has linked up with Project Halo to target young people via TikTok videos, with some viewed over 35,000 times.

Woman in Sport

Beth Fisher (Penarth)
A former hockey player Beth now presents sports for ITV as well as actively campaigning for equality and diversity. After realising she was “different” in school, Beth noticed sexism and a lack of diversity from a very young age in sport. After she left her hockey career, Beth became a freelance reporter before getting a job at ITV. Passionate about equality for all Beth is currently working tirelessly with ITV to report on the Olympics, highlighting those lesser told stories, especially of women from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic communities.

Jade Knight (Channel Islands)
A Welsh rugby player turned midwife; Jade has taken her life experiences to benefit other women. Having fallen pregnant whilst part of the six nations squad, Jade was released and though not expected to return. She did. Despite having a supportive coach and able to breastfeed while training, she realised that being a mother and sportswoman is not generally supported. Jade is currently designing a package of support for pregnant sportswomen. This will include advice on mental health, nutrition, physical activity so that women don’t feel that they are losing their identity, or where they want to be in life.

Natalie Morgan (Penarth)
Natalie moved back to Wales to pursue a career in sport and is a coach at Welsh Gymnastics. Natalie has a passion to make a difference to people from all backgrounds and ages and was involved in a project to engage young girls and women from the Black and Minority Ethnic community in gymnastics. Starting with 11 girls, all new to gymnastics, it quickly grew to over 130 girls with 10 adult volunteers becoming qualified coaches who now run the club. The project exceeded all expectations and is recognised as the most successful female only BME project in Wales.

Nikki Sibeon (Greenfield, Holywell)
Nikki had an undetected genetic condition which left her blind at the age of 21. The following year she began Taekwondo classes and became a blackbelt under the normal rulings. Needing a new challenge, Nikki got herself an ice-skating coach and within months entered inclusive skating championships in Birmingham and won her category. When covid shut the ice rinks she began ‘off-ice skating’ and won Scottish and British Awards. When Nikki’s local rink become a rainbow hospital, she sorted the necessary arrangements to travel on trains to alternative rinks, where she meets friends and her coach.

Woman in STEM

Professor Jane Henderson (Cardiff)
Jane is a leading figure in conservation. An advisor to Welsh Government for museum strategy, an expert for European Standards and Secretary General to the International Institute for Conservation. Jane is a founder member of the Care of Collections and was the architect of the Conservation Accreditation Scheme – enabling women in the profession to compete on their merits. Her work on gender and influencing decision making was developed to support women, especially young professionals, to communicate their work, to influence others and to develop their careers. Jane has reached the top of her profession and has never compromised on making sure that other women are supported to achieve.

Laura Roberts (Cardiff)
Laura has evolved her role at Technocamps to deliver STEM workshops to schools, and engaging young people in science and technology. Laura has a passion for encouraging girls to consider STEM careers, and has spearheaded many of Technocamps’ female-specific events including developing ‘Girls into Science and Technology’ (GiST). Laura has led her team with their STEM Enrichment Workshops which have inspired girls to take up STEM subjects post-16, and her legacy programme has supported primary school teachers with their digital competency.

Rachel Edmunds Naish (Pontypool)
As Head of Curriculum for STEM at Bridgend College, Rachel has overseen the design and development of the £30m construction of the new STEAM centre; and rebuilt a culture centred around people. Rachel has never strayed from the mission of making the facility one that challenges the perceptions of STEM as heavy industry and ‘dirty work’. The design is inclusive, the curriculum innovative and the vision firmly rooted in the future of the industry.  In the world of education, she is fighting for less traditional routes that will encourage females to make early decisions into the field.

Sam Wheeler (Crosskeys, Brecon)
A ninja strategist, entrepreneur, public speaker, and mentor who is dedicated to inspiring the next generation of tech talent – Sam has quickly become a Director at Big Lemon transforming it into a ‘tech for good’ digital agency. She is committed to fostering a community of female tech innovators and agitators, has co-founded Digital Women in Wales, is a Big Ideas Wales role model and a Prince’s Trust delivery partner. Sam is a passionate advocate for co-production when designing tech solutions and about what tech can do for people, the planet, and communities.

FairPlay Employer Award

Celtic English Academy (Cardiff)
Celtic English Academy (CEA) is a British Council accredited English language training academy. CEA has a wide range of students from different backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, locations. There are many reasons Shoko, CEA’s Chief Executive, wanted to include equality and diversity in the organisation but felt strongly about it because of her experiences. When Shoko and her husband had children, she took on the CEO role so that he could be a stay at home Dad. Having experienced a lot of judgement Shoko felt she wanted to make CEA a very gender equal organisation and show other businesses that they should and can be too.

The Food Standards Agency Wales (Cardiff)
The Food Standards Agency Wales (FSA Wales) have been committed to equality and diversity for a long time with staff able to choose whether they’re home based, office based or multi sited. The FSA Wales has many networks in place, such as FSA women, LGBTQ network, Race and Ethnicity network, Accessibility network, Mental Health network. A review of recruitment practices and application packs looked at the language used to identify things that may cause a barrier to women and other individuals with protected characteristics. An Inclusive Lead has also been appointed to co-ordinate all the FSA Wales actions around diversity and bring in new ideas.

Development Bank of Wales (Cardiff)
Development Bank of Wales’s mission is to unlock economic potential in Wales and enhance the local economy by providing sustainable, effective finance. The Development Bank believes in a diverse workforce and wants to ensure that everyone has access to the same opportunities and receives the same, fair treatment. Flexible working is a big theme, with the Senior Leadership Team leading by example so that others feel able to adopt these practices. Development Bank also began Gender Pay Gap benchmarking putting them ahead of other companies in the industry. As the organisations employee’s return to a ‘new normal’ they plan continued investment in their internal communications and wellbeing initiatives.

Intellectual Property Office (Cardiff)
Intellectual Property Office (IPO) are responsible for UK intellectual property policy and granting patents, trademarks and design rights. IPO is committed to gender equality and diversity, with a clear dedication to staff engagement – striving to ensure equality of opportunities for all. Due to the nature of their work a lot of employees come from STEM backgrounds, and IPO are heavily involved in promoting STEM roles to young girls. IPO have implemented initiatives such as flexible working, support for working families and an “output not hours” scheme. They have been in the top 10 in the working families index for several years.