Women In Web Weekly Round-Up


It’s been another action packed week at Women In Web!

On Tuesday, we published our fascinating Q&A with Carladenise Edwards, Chieft Strategy Officer at Alameda Health System. Carladenise provided her insight into working in the healthcare industry, and how President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is impacting upon the sector.

We also had a special guest post from Louise Czekaj, a social media professional in the financial services in South Wales about how she shared her passion with 200 people! She is, of course, talking about the fab Ignite events that take place in Cardiff- it’s the perfect place to conquer your fear of public speaking! Click here to read Louise’s inspiring and funny piece.

We also spoke to Womenalia’s, Christina Chaplin. Christina is the USA Development Director, and one of WIW’s advocates. She left the USA to work in Spain and has never looked back! Check out her Q&A here.

This week’s question from Ena is: “Have you ever predetermined the time you wanted to stay in a role or a job? In other words, have you planned an exit strategy?” Let us know your answer on Twitter or Facebook.

Other stories that have caught our eye this week include…

The launch of Arianna Huffington’s life-changing book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder. It’s one book you don’t want to miss!

Will Sheryl Sandberg run for President? If she does, she’ll need to ‘lean out’ of Facebook.

Our co-founder Laura, spoke to Selina Tobaccowala, President and CTO of SurveyMonkey for a Women in Business Q&A.

Take part in Chwarae Teg’s #mumentous Mother’s Day campaign by tweeting 5 words and the hastag #mumentous to share something great that your Mum has achieved!

Women in Digital Media: Christina Chaplin, USA Development Director, Womenalia

Christina Chaplin

Christina Chaplin

Christina Chaplin is a bilingual English-Spanish strategic marketing, communications and development professional with solid experience in product development and positioning, both online and off, in various companies and roles related to career growth and professional education. Born in Boston, she has a BA in International Studies and Spanish Language & Literature from Johns Hopkins University and a MS in Marketing from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain.  She’s been living in Spain since 2005. She is the USA Development Director for Womenalia, a network for professional women.

Tell us about your journey to where you are today.

My life is very much marked by a before and an after. Most of life had been a series of choices that, while rewarding and positive, were more about moving along a path set out for me, going through the motions and doing my best to live up to what was expected of me by my family, my environment and society at large. But in December 2004 I had finished my undergraduate coursework at Johns Hopkins, and I was off schedule with graduation still six months away. I was presented with a unique opportunity. I decided to break with expectations. I picked up and moved to Spain that January with almost no plan in mind and completely abandoning the path that I thought my life had been on up until then – hence the before and after in my story.

It was an adventure. It was a fresh start. It was a chance to do and become whatever I wanted, and to spend more time exploring the path than heading in any given direction. It was an opportunity to allow myself to just live. And that’s more or less what I did for the next 5 years of my life. Explore, live, learn, be open to new possibilities, and most importantly, try to find my own footing in a world where it would have been so easy to just let one thing lead to the next.

I think few people really question who they are, what they want in life and if what they’re doing today is actually helping them to get closer to that goal. Most people need a disrupting event in their life to start to question anything at all.

It’s been nearly a decade since I left the US, and I can’t even imagine what my life would look like had I stayed, but I had a chance to shed the expectational baggage and start anew, and that means that today I am and do what I have chosen for me.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

I’ve been defined by two of my core values. On the one-hand I’ve always enjoyed learning, so as a leader I am driven by an insatiable curiosity and drive to grow. This means that I can be demanding at times (on myself as well as others), but it’s always with the aim of seeing my team grow and learn with me as we work towards a common goal. This also makes me very results driven. You have to be open to the many ways to achieve any desired outcome, so giving the freedom and flexibility to people to take their own journey is important as long as the goal is clear.

The second most important part of leadership for me is a strong sense of self-responsibility, which in many ways goes hand-in-hand with the first part. It’s one thing for someone else to hold you responsible for something, but an entirely different skill to have a strong internal sense of ownership over one’s actions and decisions. With freedom comes responsibility, both for one’s mistakes as well as one’s successes. Mistakes are a necessary part of the learning process but you have to be willing to acknowledge them and learn from them for them to be beneficial in the long-run.

How have you learned from these challenges and successes?

I’ve had to learn to be very self-sufficient since moving to another country. You don’t realize how much of a support network your friends and family provide until you lose it and have to start nearly from scratch and have to relearn even the most simple of everyday tasks.

Living immersed in other culture also gives you a new perspective on everything. You are constantly calling into question (or others are calling into question for you) assumptions about your values, ideas, goals… you end up going through a deep self-redefinition process that I think is invaluable. You have the opportunity to adopt and adapt those values and ideas from your adoptive culture that better adapt to your personal values, and maintain those you prefer from your country of origin.

I have also had to make new friends and get to know new colleagues so often that it has really helped me hone my networking skills!

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Womenalia?

I’d say the most exciting part of being part of Womenalia is the opportunity I have to lead our current platform development project. Not only because it’s a strategic project for the company, but because it’s a project that brings me in contact with the entire team and all aspects of the company at one point or another, so it’s a chance to better understand the business and to help create an well-integrated future for the company. It’s a huge challenge to bring together all the need and ideas from all over the organization into one coherent platform, but it’s extremely rewarding to actually see it materialize and develop little by little.

What are your hopes for Womenalia’s future?

Womenalia is a platform with so much potential to unify a currently fragmented market. There are endless groups and organizations, big and small, for and not-for-profit around women, their careers and their place in society. I would love to see Womenalia be the place in which all the many faces of the professional woman can come together and create a powerful voice that leads to meaningful social and political change as well as being a dynamic and innovative technology platform that reaches the infinitely unique needs of each individual professional woman and helps her find her voice, whoever and wherever she is.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

Time management is key and for me that means formally scheduling in both work and fun into each day. As I mentioned earlier, I’m very results and deadline driven, so I’ve never been one to be held to nor to hold people to any particular schedule. With that being said, it means that coordination and scheduling are key! If my team or any other department needs me in the office at a given time, they just have to schedule it in and I can build the rest of my day around my top priorities. I always make sure to schedule in Me time every day. Whether it’s to go running, read a book, catch up with a friend or try a new recipe it’s important to have activities every day that you do not because someone else wants you to or you feel obligated to do them, but rather because you want to do them.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

While there is certainly data that shows that women are discriminated against in pay, promotions, and social perceptions, I believe that the biggest issue is really our own inner dialogue. I think that too many women censor themselves, don’t truly believe in their own abilities and potential, and often get distracted from their main purpose. I also think that society feeds into these behaviors (and has constructed them in many ways) and certainly doesn’t do much to help women break through these constructs. It’s so easy to get caught up in the million daily tasks and distractions and lose sight of what really matters to you, how best to achieve your top goals and actually go for them.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In book and movement?

I think that Sandberg’s book hit quite a few nails right on the head. There were certainly whole sections that I read through thinking, “Yes, that’s so true!” For me the most important realization was that choosing your life partner is probably the one most important decision a women makes in her career. You and your partner’s values and ideas around gender roles, career expectations, and childcare responsibilities shape a women’s career more than most of the direct career decisions we make along the way. The question couples should ask each other before building a life together is no longer “Do you want to have kids and how many?” but rather “What expectations do we really have around family, career and money?” And as a woman you need to allow yourself to be honest about what you do or don’t want for your life.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

I have had very few formal mentors in my life, but there have been a couple of women that have been great sounding boards for me during my career. More than anything they have helped me discover where my potential lies and opened my eyes to opportunities that I would probably have never considered on my own. The most powerful mentoring experiences for me have been very practical and focused on specific skills and competencies. Mentorship is a powerful tool that women don’t take advantage of often enough though, myself included! Many women think it’s hard to find a mentor but it’s easier than you think.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

I have to admit that I’ve never been someone who turns to famous names or a particular person for inspiration. Each person’s strength and success comes from a very personal set of experiences and sources and cannot be replicated by anyone else. I draw inspiration better from my immediate surroundings and the small daily acts that catch my attention and make me stop and reflect.

What is one word that sums up where you have got to today?


Guest Post: How I Shared My Passion with 200 People

We’re delighted to share this inspiring guest post from Louise Czekaj, a social media professional in financial services about how she shared her passion with 200 people at a recent Ignite event in Cardiff! If you love public speaking or want to conquer your fear of speaking to an audience then this post is for you!

Louise Czekaj at Ignite Cardiff

Louise Czekaj at Ignite Cardiff

Ignite Cardiff is a bi-monthly event held at Porter’s Bar on a Wednesday evening, at which eight to ten people speak about something they are passionate about for five minutes each. Each talk has to accompany 20 PowerPoint slides which auto-advance every 15 seconds and there are strictly no sales pitches allowed.

Ignite events are held all over the world and I attended my first Ignite in November, which was the 14th of its kind held in Cardiff. I’d heard a lot of buzz about it on Twitter and tickets are always like gold dust so I was keen to find out what makes Ignite Cardiff so popular.

I was blown away! Porter’s was packed and the atmosphere was vibrant. The speakers were inspiring and entertaining, and all in completely different ways. I learnt about science; I was made even more paranoid about online security than I was already; I got to hear some of my favourite ‘90s electronic tunes played live on keyboard; I found out that YouTube is a great source for DIY advice; and I discovered that it’s rather easy to add your own ‘art’ to exhibitions without people noticing.

Steve Dimmick, compere for the evening and an Ignite Cardiff organiser, mentioned that speakers, particularly women, were needed for the next Ignite Cardiff. I was instantly convinced that I needed to do this (I had drunk rather a lot of wine by this point) and I declared afterwards on Twitter that I was going to put my name down. I joked that evening that I wanted to speak about ‘‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a Female Icon’ (I’m a massive Buffy fan and she is a great female icon!) but I didn’t really have a clue what I could talk about for five minutes that would be interesting or entertaining to others.

One speaker whose words particularly resonated with me was Ruth Steggles, a life and business coach, who talked about ‘From Spectating to Playing’. The message behind Ruth’s talk was that people shouldn’t be scared to do what they really want to in life, they should overcome any fears and do what makes them feel passion. I really appreciated this; over the last few years I’ve made quite a few changes in my life based on the same premise.

A few weeks and tweets later found Ruth and I walking through Bute Park in Cardiff, for a lunchtime chat. During a conversation about passion and purpose, Ruth told me a story about her husband, who’d said in the past that he wanted to write a novel but hadn’t done so. Ruth recently asked him whether or not he’d feel disappointed if he came to the end of his live without writing a novel, to which he answered no. Ruth realised that it was her expectation that her husband should write a novel and not his; he was happy as he was. This story had quite an effect on me. I told Ruth that I’d always wanted to write and so if posed with the same question my answer would be yes – I’d be extremely disappointed! Ruth then asked me what stops me from writing. I immediately churned out a handful of reasons and we laughed at how ridiculous they sounded – they were all excuses not reasons. I admitted that the real reason is that writing fills me with fear – it’s something that I used to feel so passionately about that I’d be scared to actually do it. Ruth insisted that it was the perfect topic for an Ignite Cardiff talk.

I signed up for Ignite Cardiff #15 in December 2013, giving me over a month to prepare. I’ve done loads of presentations in the past so I didn’t find the initial stages of brainstorming and planning the presentation difficult. Added to which, I had just watched the Lean In video about ‘Using Stories Powerfully’, which made me realise that in order to connect with the audience I needed to get my message across in the form of a story. I even retrieved some cuttings and papers I had up in the attic that would bring my story to life, making it more personable. The title I chose was ‘On not Writing’, which is a play on the title of a Stephen King book ‘On Writing’, in which he describes his craft as a writer.

What I found extremely hard during the preparation was the five minute time restriction and the rule of 20 slides, displaying for 15 seconds each. The speakers I saw at Ignite Cardiff #14 seemed to do this so effortlessly but it wasn’t as easy as it looked. Although I’m a notoriously fast talker, when I started to practise talking through each slide my five minutes were always up before I reached the eighth slide.

To overcome this problem, I asked two of my friends at work to listen to me recite the whole presentation, then tell me which bits didn’t work. This exercise was really useful; an honest, second opinion early on really helped me eliminate any waffly sections and I learnt that what I find funny or interesting might not necessarily appeal to my audience (i.e. I’ve got an odd sense of humour!).

I was keen to make sure that I had some friends at the event for moral support, so I promoted it on Facebook and Twitter. So many comments followed about how brave I was that I started to wonder if doing an Ignite talk was actually a terrible idea! Lots of my friends were able to get tickets despite the event ‘selling out’ within a day. Laura Dunn, (Women In’s very own co-founder!) invited me to blog about my experience. She had no idea at the time that my talk would be about writing (or my lack there-of)!

I wasn’t feeling too nervous about presenting until the week beforehand, when I had to spontaneously stand up and tell a roomful of people a few sentences about myself at a work event. I got so unexpectedly and ridiculously anxious doing it that it spooked me. I’ve had issues with anxiety and panic attacks in the past and I wasn’t at all keen to revisit those feelings so I practised until I knew my talk inside out, with only the slides themselves to prompt me. I also asked the Ignite Cardiff organisers if I could speak first on the night, so that I didn’t have to sit there waiting for my turn and working myself into a state.

On the day, I took annual leave so that I could relax and prepare. As a self-confessed hippy, I found yoga and meditation a must that morning, as well as recording myself reciting my talk and tweaking the content further.

When I arrived at Porter’s, I was horrified to find that despite getting there before the advertised start time, the bar was completed crowded and I had to fight my way to get my free glass of wine, which I suddenly felt was essential. I could see loads of people I knew but before I even got a chance to say hi to anyone all the speakers were called up to the stage for a pre-event briefing by Steve Dimmick (at this point, my legs started to shake uncontrollably!) and a minute or so later I was being introduced by Steve to the crowd. They were smiling, cheering and clapping like mad, and at least 25 of them were friends of mine. It all felt very surreal, especially as I don’t think I’ve ever been given a microphone on a stage before and I began to find the whole thing rather amusing.

When my first slide appeared on the screen, I spoke as I had done when practising and I was honestly surprised at how smoothly it flowed thereafter. I would even go as far as to say I felt relaxed – it was such a friendly, supportive atmosphere. I was, however, completely bemused by how much people were laughing at my talk, especially when I thought I’d ruthlessly cut all the funny bits out; in fact I’m still amazed by this.

It was all over in a flash; there was applause, I necked my wine and it was the next speaker’s turn. During the first break, I realised I was on a complete high as I started speaking to people I knew and their feedback was really positive. The rest of the evening was great fun; some of the other speakers were really interesting, some were hilarious and some were inspiring.

I’m so glad that I took part in Ignite Cardiff; it was an incredibly empowering experience that I’ll never forget and I would recommend it to anyone who thinks they might like to give it a try. Find out more here if you fancy getting involved!

Louise is a social media professional working in financial services, with a BA in English Language and Literature from Reading University. She’s passionate about yoga, singing in a choir and has a not-so-secret desire to be a writer, which she recently talked about at Ignite Cardiff. This is the first piece she’s written since giving the talk. 

Women in Business: Carladenise Edwards, Chief Strategy Officer, Alameda Health System

Carladenise Edwards

Carladenise Edwards

Tell us about your journey to where you are today.

I have always been drawn to public health. As a child, I professed to my family that I wanted to be either the U.S. Secretary of Health or the U.S. Surgeon General. I went to the University of Pennsylvania with every intention of going to medical school, but I quickly realized I did not like the physical sciences. I preferred the social sciences, so I switched my major and spent years trying to figure out how to marry my interest in health and wellness with my desire to use my leadership skills. Each professional opportunity has prepared me for the next and I honestly believe that my current role as the Chief Strategy Officer for Alameda Health System was created just for me.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

I inherited the gene for service from my parents. Watching them serve in leadership roles and seeing how they empowered others, supported the personal and professional development of their teams, and how people loved and respected them always made me proud. My father is a retired Marine Corps Officer and he not only studied leadership, but he had the opportunity to teach leadership at the U.S. Naval Academy and other places. My mother was, and still is, a public servant. She worked in public schools, government, and for non-profit community based organizations. I grew up wanting to emulate my parents and other African-American leaders about whom my parents raved. Anytime a Black person would accomplish something, my entire family would celebrate –the first Black person to do this or to do that was always cause for celebration. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be the first to do something, but I knew I wanted to do something that would make my parents and community proud.

What have you learned from your challenges and successes?

The greatest lesson I’ve learned is that the worst events imaginable, such as the death of a loved one or the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness, can be blessings in disguise. For example, I relocated my family from the East coast to the West coast for a dream job and within 14 months the dream job went away. As the primary breadwinner for my family, a seasoned professional, and a dreamer, this was a very low moment in my life, but since that time I have been able to look back and say “Wow…had I not moved to California I wouldn’t have my current job and my kids wouldn’t have had the incredibly diverse life experiences they have had.” In the end, you have to be mindful that everything happens for a reason. We may not know why things happen, but challenges can lead to a greater good and clearer understanding of our purpose.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Alameda Health System?

My biggest challenges are trying to keep up with the fast moving health care environment and simply not having enough hours in the day. Health care systems are experiencing significant growing pains. We are adapting to new technologies aimed at improving the patient experience. We are preparing for huge shifts in the payment structure and wondering how we will get paid to deliver care to the neediest and most vulnerable in our community. We are in a race to improve quality and increase accountability or transparency, so that patients select us as their health care provider when they are sick and when they are well. All of this change makes for a very busy day for the Chief Strategy Officer. The highlight has been the incredible people with whom I work at AHS. People choose to work for our public health system because they believe in our mission of Caring, Healing, Teaching, Serving All. It is such a pleasure to work with the doctors, nurses, support staff, executives, and volunteers at AHS who share the same goals and values that I have embraced throughout my professional career. I absolutely love it.

What changes has Alameda Health System implemented with the introduction of the Affordable Care Act?

The most significant change has been our approach to marketing and communications. Very few public health systems or hospitals have invested money in advertising or building their brand. AHS launched a brand and commercial marketing campaign in October to align with the rollout of Covered California, the new health care marketplace. We are airing television and radio commercials. We have highway billboards and bus backs, as well a social media strategy. All of this is new to us and to our peers. But we felt it was important that we let the community know we are open for business and that we have a lot to offer. We are tracking our community image using a national survey tool and continuing to establish our value proposition, so as people select their health plans they remember to choose us as their primary care home. We also have built a new business development unit. We have a team of business analysts who are helping us define our strategy and explore new business opportunities that we can use to re-invest revenues back into our mission. This work is very exciting and fits nicely with my background.

What advice can you offer those seeking a career in the healthcare industry?

You don’t have to be a physician or a nurse in order to have a career in healthcare. There are so many opportunities. It is wonderful when medical professionals are able to work on both sides of the aisle – clinical and operations, but it is not a requirement. It is important to be patient centered, a problem solver, and an advocate with experience managing complex systems and people.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

I have always struggled with this. I love my family and often tell people I am a full-time mom who works to support my family, but honestly I spend far more hours at work than I do at home during the week. I reserve the weekends for the family. From Friday night to early Monday morning is mommy time. I do my best not to break my weekend commitments to my husband and our kids.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

I fully agree with Sheryl Sandberg in regard to the need for women to Lean In. She told several stories in that book that resonated with me. My favorite was about the parking space. The same thing happened to me. I never thought to ask for a parking space and was shocked when I realized all of my peers had one and had actually negotiated either the space or payment for the space before accepting the job. It never occurred to me to do that. I was always just so happy to get a job offer. I feel women need to assert themselves and make sure that we help promote a work environment that meets the needs of women executives or leaders, as opposed to trying to maintain or replicate a male-dominated cultural paradigm. Many of Sheryl’s critics missed this point in their reviews: As more women become leaders, our capacity to ensure the work environment reflects the strengths and talents of women increases as well.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

The two most influential mentors in my life are women who gave me the opportunity to serve in roles for which, on paper, I did not appear to be the best candidate. Their confidence in my ability inspired them to take a risk. Zoila Airall gave me my first job at the University of Pennsylvania and Rhonda Medows introduced me to state level health care service. I am so grateful to them both. I try to honor them by paying it forward: I do my best to create opportunities for others to learn not just from me, but from my network of peers who have the time and desire to do the same.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

At the risk of forgetting someone: Juanita Armbrister, my mother; Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox; First Lady Michelle Obama; Zora Neale Hurston, anthropologist; Arianna Huffington; Oprah Winfrey; and Madeleine Albright. To me, these women represent entrepreneurship and innovation. They have all succeeded by following their passion and their dreams. Each has demonstrated a commitment to service and diplomacy. I don’t know any of them personally, other than my mom, but I am thrilled to have this opportunity to publicly thank them for their leadership.

What is one word that sums up where you have got to today?


Chief Strategy Officer Carladenise A. Edwards, Ph.D. leads strategy development and execution at Alameda Health System to position the health system for long-term success.

An expert in health policy, public and private health services, managed care programs and health information technology, Dr. Edwards has experience as an administrator, educator, researcher, and as a policy and business analyst.

Dr. Edwards came to AHS from a successful consulting practice providing strategy and business development services to health care provider groups, health plans, technology companies, community-based organizations and state and federal government agencies.

Prior to her consulting work, Dr. Edwards was President and Chief Executive Officer of Cal eConnect, Inc., a non-profit public benefit corporation created to serve as the state governance entity for electronic Health Information Exchange in California. In that role, she created the organization and developed its programs and structure from the ground up.

Dr. Edwards served as the Interim Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Health as well as Chief of Staff and State Health Information Technology Coordinator. In the early 2000s, she served as a Presidential Management Intern for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and later a Medicaid administrator in Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration.

Dr. Edwards is the recipient of many accolades including Modern Healthcare Magazine’s “Up and Comers Award” for individuals who demonstrate significant promise and influence in the field of health care.

A sought-after speaker, Dr. Edwards has lectured nationally and internationally at academic and business conferences and universities on topics ranging from change management to health information systems and strategic planning and business development. She has also published numerous articles in business, professional and trade journals.

Women In Web Weekly Round-Up


We’ve had a busy week at Women In and are working on some exciting features that we can’t wait to introduce you to soon!

Did you read this week’s fascinating Q&As? The first was with AAUW’s Vice-President of  Campus Leadership Programs, Kate Farrar, where she told us more about the fantastic work the organisation is doing to train young women for student government and political office through their Elect Her program. Make sure you check it out!

We also spoke to Joy Kent, Chief Executive of Chwarae Teg, and one of Women In’s Advocates. Joy has had a fascinating career in the private and public sector, and her life story is one of strength and determination. Be inspired to make a difference this weekend by checking out the feature. 

This week’s thought-provoking question from Ena is “Would you move cities/countries for a new job?” Share your answer with us on Twitter and Facebook.

Other stories that have caught our eye this week include…

In light of the tragic death of fashion designer L ‘Wren Scott, The Independent looks at how the media view women

Research by Business Environment suggests that women still feel discriminated against in British workplaces

The UN Commission on the Status of the Women produces a document that promotes equality for women

Olympic cycling champion Nicole Cooke calls for women’s sport to have equal coverage on the BBC

A fascinating article by Sallie Krawcheck in Time about diversifying corporate America

Let us know your thoughts in the comments or by connecting with us on our social media channels!


Women in the Third Sector: Joy Kent, Chief Executive of Chwarae Teg

Joy Kent

Joy Kent

Tell us about your journey to where you are today.

Well, it’s been an interesting one! Two events in my childhood should have led me down a very different road – failing my 11+ and shortly after, my father dying. My mother and I lived on benefits until she died when I was 17, and between 11 and 17 I was her primary carer. Failing my 11+ meant I went to a school where the highest aspiration for a boy was to go into a factory and a girl, to become a typist plus education was my highest priority at that time. Strangely, a recession hitting as I left school meant that suddenly college was an option. I discovered sociology which I loved and eventually which led me to a social science degree, and many years later, work in social policy. In between I worked abroad, teaching and then managing English language schools. When I returned to the UK, I took a Masters in Housing then held policy positions in Welsh Government, the Welsh Local Government Association and the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru. I then became the founding director of Cymorth Cymru – the umbrella body for organisations working with vulnerable people. For just over a year now I’ve been the chief executive at Chwarae Teg.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

My early life experiences have made me believe in giving people a second chance and not being phased by authority. This has definitely influenced both my career choices and how I lead. I believe in collaboration rather than hierarchy and I think most things are possible if you really want them and are creative and tenacious in going for them. I think you should treat everyone with respect and that people should be given the opportunity to shine!

I’ve also learnt that it’s in no one’s interests to stay in a role you’re not happy with. You won’t be happy and you won’t deliver for the organisation. As a leader, you want people who love what they do, feel confident in their role but are keen to be stretched and who feel trusted and valued. That’s what I want for me and the people who work with me.

How have you learned from these challenges and successes?

I’ve learned that trust is crucial as is ensuring people have as much freedom and control as possible. I think you get the best from most people when you do this. It promotes creativity, loyalty and people want to do more for the organisation when they feel they are making a contribution that is valued.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Chwarae Teg?

There have been so many highlights I find it hard to choose! To name a few – the launch and dissemination events of the research, ‘A Woman’s Place’ in The Pierhead, Westminster and Brussels; our event on the impact of welfare reform on women – ‘What would Mrs Pankhurst do?’; our AGM at Techniquest, as well as working with the team on developing new and innovative ways to take forward our newly created vision and mission! The biggest challenge has been dealing with the financial issues we are all facing.

What do you hope Chwarae Teg will achieve in the next five years?

That we will deliver on our vision to help women in Wales achieve and prosper – a big challenge with lots of elements to it but I think we’re up to the job!

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

I think what constitutes work/life balance is very individual and changes at different points in your life. At the moment for me, I love and am hugely stimulated by my job so taking time away from it is a challenge! I think you need to be self aware and mindful of when you’re pushing yourself too hard and an intelligent employer will support flexibility alongside personal responsibility because it gets the best from people. I also think we should be honest about when the job isn’t fulfilling – it’s soul destroying to be doing something because of the pay or pension and is never worth it.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

We can’t think of women as one homogenous group or static in time. I think often for women from disadvantaged backgrounds there’s an issue with fewer opportunities, limited horizons and confidence; for those who decide to work part time, there’s a huge issue around the impact on career progression and financial independence; for girls considering their futures, we are still hearing horror stories about teachers and careers advisors persuading them to take subjects or pursue careers guided by assumptions based on their gender rather than listening to their aspirations or recognising their talents. I think we still live in a world where women are seen as carers first and earners second and men as earners first and carers second. For women this has a huge impact on their role in the workplace.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In book and movement?

It definitely caused a stir! Obviously Sheryl is an incredibly successful and thoughtful person. I know there have been some criticisms for putting the responsibility on to women and ignoring the structural barriers. I think there are structural issues that women face but ultimately we are all responsible for ourselves and our own happiness. Different writers and approaches will resonate with different women – I’m sure Sheryl has helped many many women move forward with their careers and all of us should welcome that whether the approach resonates with us personally or not.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

I’ve never really had a formal mentor but I’ve got a fantastic husband who works in a similar role and I’ve learnt a lot from him. I have worked with lots of fantastic people throughout my career who have been influential and supportive. I love learning and am always taking away things I want to replicate.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

I’m wary of admiration of famous people because you don’t really know them and it might just be the PR! There are lots of women I know in Wales who I admire – but I am very grateful to Frances Beecher, the first chair of Cymorth Cymru, and I admire her tenacity and passion. I’ve also been hugely influenced by my mother who would always champion the under-dog but was also big on tough love!

What is one word that sums up where you have got to today?


Joy Kent took up the position of chief executive of Chwarae Teg in January 2013. Before joining the organisation she was the founding director of Cymorth Cymru, an umbrella body for organisations working with vulnerable people and prior to that held policy roles at the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru, the Welsh Local  Government Association and Welsh Government.

Joy is an independent member of the Shadow Programme Monitoring Committee that will oversee the implementation of the next round of European funds, a member of the Expert Panel put together by Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for Local Government and Government Business to advise on achieving greater diversity in local government, and a trustee of WCVA Services.

Before settling in Wales, Joy taught at and managed private language schools in Spain, the Czech Republic, Brazil and Egypt. 

Women in Non Profit: Q&A with Kate Farrar, Vice President of AAUW Campus Leadership Programs


Kate Farrar, AAUWKate C. Farrar, vice president of AAUW Campus Leadership Programs, manages programs that ensure college women assume leadership roles and acquire the skills they need to succeed in their academic, professional, and personal lives. Prior to assuming her current position, Kate was the associate director of National Programs and Policy at Wider Opportunities for Women. She was a 2011 WIN Young Woman of Achievement awardee, member of the Center for Progressive Leadership’s 2011 Executive Fellowship, and serves as president of the Women under 40 Political Action Committee (WUFPAC) board.

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) is the nation’s leading voice promoting equity and education for women and girls. Since its founding in 1881, AAUW members have examined and taken positions on the fundamental issues of the day — educational, social, economic, and political.

Tell us about your journey to where you are today.

Long before Take Your Daughter to Work Day was official, I went to work with my mom, who is a nurse practitioner. Starting when I was 5, I would join my mom at the Staywell Health Clinic in Waterbury, Connecticut, where she served low-income women and families. Some days I wanted to grow up to be the pediatrician, some days the clinic’s office manager. At Staywell I learned to see that each patient, regardless of income, should receive comprehensive and respectful health care treatment.

While interning in the state legislature during college, I witnessed what a difference women at the table could make for families in my state. I saw that it was the women legislators leading the charge for health care, for basic child nutrition. They were the ones speaking out and making policy change for the women I’d met at work with my mom, but there were so few of them in the legislature. I soon started to understand that diverse opinions and experiences were how to reach the best decisions.

I wanted to change what I saw as an imbalance in power. That at the tables of business, media, government, military, and on and on, there were not enough women leaders. More women are needed to more accurately represent our population but also to bring different and new perspectives to priorities and decision making.

This is why today I work to build confidence and skills in college women to help them to break through the gender leadership gap.

We need more women in this next generation to see themselves at the decision-making table and to break through the barriers to leadership. At AAUW we are empowering and training thousands of women every year to take on leadership roles on their campus and in their communities. I get to use my beliefs and passions to support these women to change the world and build their own leadership story.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

I see that I had the privilege of having two supportive parents, a chance at a college education, along with mentors and cheerleaders, which all helped lead me to where I am today. But also the leader I am today is due to lots of hard work and self-reflection. In many cases I’ve also been witness to leaders I want to emulate and the leadership qualities I want to avoid. My first boss out of college was an intellectual property lawyer in London. I was his administrative assistant for four months and suffered through his micromanagement style during which he often treated me as incompetent and immature. On the other hand, in my next boss, a lobbyist for nonprofits, I was a trusted member of the team and thrown into new tasks to learn how to problem solve and negotiate on my own. The juxtaposition of these supervisors an taught me what a difference having a leader that you admire can make in your effectiveness, growth and success in your work but also your happiness.

How have you learned from these challenges and successes?

I think we learn a lot more from the challenges than from the successes. We tend to analyze the challenges way more than we savor the successes. When you are faced with a challenge, personal or professional, I think the only way to get through it is to be easier on ourselves and lean back on the values and personal mission that guides us. For instance, when I was unemployed for months after graduate school, I felt lost. I didn’t know which direction to go professionally and felt like I needed to choose the “right” job since it would set the course for my career. In the end, I was being way too hard on myself to find that perfect opportunity. I took a risk and traveled to Wisconsin for three months as a field organizer for the 2004 presidential campaign. This risk led me to settle in Washington, D.C. and pursue my current career. Once I let go of the idea of that ideal job, I could be open to doing something I’d never done such as joining a campaign and fighting for a candidate who shared my values.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at AAUW?

Over the past six years at AAUW, I’ve been an intraprenuer. Intraprenuer is the concept that you are acting as an entrepreneur in an already established larger organization. I’ve led the growth of our Campus Leadership Programs with five programs from two staff to 10 and from fewer than 300 college/university partner members to more than 800 and thousands of AAUW student affiliate members.

There are two key highlights that are special to me, and they are building the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL) and founding and growing Elect Her. NCCWSL is the only conference of its kind for college women and is a transformative event that will welcome nearly 1,000 college women in 2014. This conference is special to me because when I was in college, I attended and it opened my world to the opportunities beyond my state school experience. Getting to expand the attendance of the conference with our collaborator NASPA has been very fulfilling. At each conference I get to see these college women say how this event changed their life in the same way it changed mine over 12 years ago.

Elect Her, a program developed in collaboration with Running Start, is the only program in the country that trains college women to run for student government and political office. We started a pilot of this program with just three campuses and now reach 50 campuses and more than 1,000 college women. The attendees gain the confidence and skills to run for office in college, and we fully expect many of them to pursue political office at a young age and build the pipeline of women in office.

I would say that there are daily challenges. Often we underestimate the maneuvering that goes along with leading a team, being a kind coworker, seeking excellence, and being an effective communicator. These things require a conscious effort every day, and some days are realistically easier than others. To stay on track I try to keep an open mind and a problem-solving mindset. None of the work, especially in a large and long standing organization such as AAUW is ever done on your own. You must rely on others in the team and external collaborators to accomplish your goals.  You need to be open to a lot of opinions, expertise, and work styles. And, there is always going to be something that goes wrong or fails. Perfection is a myth. I try to see challenges from a mindset of a problem-solver in order to get through them and move forward.

How is AAUW making a difference in the lives of women across the US?

AAUW builds a better future for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world. Building an incredible legacy, AAUW has been empowering women as individuals and as a community since 1881. For more than 130 years, we have worked together as a national grassroots organization to improve the lives of millions of women and their families. We do it all through research, advocacy, education, philanthropy, and leadership development. We analyze gender equity issues and challenge sex discrimination in education and the workplace. We shape the lives of the next generation of women leaders. We level the playing field for girls and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We provide educational and lifelong learning opportunities for women and we deliver leadership development opportunities to AAUW members. Plus, our members find lifelong friends and mentors from their engagement in AAUW. Our real strength lies in our community of over 170,000 members and supporters, 1,000 branches, and more than 800 college/university partner members across the country.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

There is no such thing as work-life balance. For everyone, it is your life and how work is integrated into it. For me, what I do for work is a large part of my identity, so I need to hold it in check to make sure I’m making time for who I am beyond my work.

Really, the concept of work-life balance is such a luxury. Most women in our world don’t think about work-life balance. Women in every country are often just trying to survive and support their families day-to-day.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

I think the biggest issue for women in the workplace is that our workplaces have not kept up with what our 21st century society wants and needs to be innovative, productive, and sustainable. Due to outdated workplace cultures and policies, women often feel unsupported and underdeveloped as employees and leaders, not to mention unequal pay. If our workplaces actually were held accountable for pay practices, our economy, families, and women would benefit in leaps and bounds.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In book and movement?

I greatly appreciate Sheryl Sandberg’s choice to use her platform to make the gender leadership gap a worldwide discussion. I hope Lean In helps start the conversation among women and men about what we can do as individuals, communities, and across systems to change the inequities. Sheryl is one person, and it is going to take each and every one of us to see the value of women’s leadership and make personal and systemic change.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

Mentorship can be an often misunderstood concept, but I equate it to a range of relationships I’ve had in which I learned from someone else. That person can be more senior than me or younger than me or a peer. There is no doubt that I’m where I am professionally and personally due to a strong support network and a network that has pushed me. I think the biggest difference that mentors can make is to help you envision the life you can’t even imagine for yourself.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

I greatly admire women who are innovators and risk takers. Women I associate with these attributes are social entrepreneurs such as Majora Carter, an environmental justice pioneer, and public servants such as Senator Kirsten Gillibrand whose first political race was her win for Congress at the age of 40.

I also greatly admire women who are living life to the fullest when our society expects them to slow down. Rita Moreno is one of those women. At 82 she lives life with joy, humor, and passion. Not only does she serve as an incredible role model in being the only Hispanic to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony (!) but she still dances every day.

What are your hopes for the future of AAUW?

My hope for the future of AAUW is that we go out of business because our work is done.

But in the meantime, my hopes are that we are able to build a stronger and sustainable intergenerational community of women and girls who see the power of working together to break through the remaining barriers to equity.

What is one word that sums up where you have got to today?


Women in Web Weekly Round Up


We couldn’t really start this week’s round up without celebrating Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s creation of the World Wide Web 25 years ago this week. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to share Women in Web with you! We raise our glass to you Sir Tim!

It feels as if Spring is finally arrived. Hooray! Our thoughts are naturally turning to lighter warmer days and evenings!

Our latest Q&A this week was with Carole Laurin, who at the age of just 42 years experienced a devastating stroke is devastating at any age, which, changed her life forever. Nine years on, Carole has released ‘When Stroke Meets Trust: A Journey of Inspiration.’ The book chronicles the immediate aftermath of her stroke, which left Carole half paralyzed and unable to continue in her teaching career. Read our exclusive interview with her now!

Our Thursday question this week was: ‘Imagine your career is in full flow, and the opportunity of a gap year presented itself. What would you consider doing and why?’ Share your answer to this great question with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Social Media: A fan of Pinterest? Make sure you check out our pins and follow us!

Other stories that have caught our eye this week include…

10 Women who are changing the face of the City of London. 

Kate Metcalf,Gardiner & Theobald LLP shares why she likes working in the construction industry, and tells us why she wants to raise awareness and campaign to get more women following in her career footsteps.

Whistles CEO demands women board quotas be introduced.

There seems to be quite a bit of speculation on the next Prime Minister in the UK and the President of America being a women. As seen in the following articles: Could this woman be the next female PM?

Do you think we’ll see a female President in 2016? Anne-Marie Slaughter believes we could.

Careers in business, tech, and healthcare continue to dominate Forbes’ annual ranking of the 20 Best-Paying Jobs For Women — but even roles in these powerhouse industries haven’t overcome the gender wage gap.

Review: When Stroke Meets Trust: A Journey of Inspiration by Carole Laurin

Carole LaurinThe experience of a stroke is devastating at any age, but when Carole Laurin experienced a stroke aged 42, her life changed forever.

Nine years on, Carole has released ‘When Stroke Meets Trust: A Journey of Inspiration.’ The book chronicles the immediate aftermath of her stroke, which left Carole half paralyzed and unable to continue in her teaching career. Carole’s battle with hemiplegia resulted in her attending more than 400 medical and therapy appointments in the first year of her recovery, and learning to complete many everyday tasks such as climbing stairs, making breakfast and getting dressed that we all take for granted.

Carole’s journey really is remarkable and the book is a highly personal look into not only Carole’s life after her stroke, but that of her dedicated family and friends.

The book translates the lessons learned from surviving hemiplegia and hemiparesis and how they can be used to overcome any type of adversity. Sections are dedicated to reevaluating your life, and how you can become a better person. The age-old principles of being patient, showing gratitude, being positive, using visualization and random acts of kindness are all discussed, and this reinforcement really brings things into focus! The simple act of holding a door for someone or just smiling can really change and brighten someone’s day.

I first met Carole in 2013, and her positive outlook on life was immediately apparent. Carole truly is one of the bravest individuals that I know, and reading her journey back to health is one of the most inspiring stories that you will hear.

Carole participates in speaking engagements across Canada, and her book launch tour recently began in Ottawa. The tour will soon be coming to Winnipeg and Toronto. Check out some of the media coverage here. 

I recently spoke to Carole about the process of writing the book and what she plans to do in the future.

What were the challenges you faced when writing the book?

Journaling through my recovery was a challenge, but it provided me with the internal push I needed to start the book.

Writing was also challenging for me given my stroke. Because of my cognitive deficits, structuring my thinking was more difficult and it took much more time than it would have taken otherwise. With perseverance, and the help of an author and editor, it eventually all fell into place.

I found that meditating before writing really helped me out, and the strong message of writing was motivational even when my confidence was low. I also drew on my faith to complete the project.

How do you hope the book positively impacts upon lives of others?

The stroke survivor community doesn’t have many strong voices because so many of them are elderly or severely compromised by their stroke.  Many have lost their voices, literally. Others like me have compromised cognition and struggle to share their experience, as I often do.  Through my book, and as a speaker, I want to inspire the public; family members and heath care providers to understand the stroke experience from the inside. My hope is for stroke survivors to feel better understood, to have a better quality of life, and to have access to better care.

What does the future hold for you?

I want to write a second book about the lifelong journey of being a stroke survivor, and also a fiction book!

I’d also like to record and release a series of videos that provide practical help and advice to individuals like myself who need to perform tasks like cooking a meal or using gadgets with one hand.

I’m also committed to continuing my partnership with health care providers, policy makers, the academic community, the HSF Canadian Stroke Recovery, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and local stroke survivors associations to continue to find ways to support stroke survivors.

My goals are to inspire stroke survivors to not give up, and to be a voice for stroke survivors and to ultimately improve their quality of life.

Find out more about Carole here, and follow her on Twitter here. 

Women In Web at Big Girls Blog Brunch Event

IMG_3078I was delighted to attend an International Women’s Day event in South Wales last week called ‘Big Girls Blog Brunch.’ Organised by the amazingly fab Pippa Davies, the workshop style event saw inspiring talks from Helen Reynolds, Andrea Morgan and Juliet Fay covering blogging and social media tips.

I was asked to talk about Women In Web, and seeing as we were only three days old at that point, I jumped at the chance! It was really fantastic to share the story behind Women In Web, our fantastic launch day and what we hope to achieve with our site. Thanks to all who spoke to me after the presentation- your enthusiasm and interest mean the world to us!

It was also great to hear from Patricia Carswell and Sangeet Bhullar about their current online projects, and the best of luck to them on their blogging journey.

If you were there on the day, let us know what you thought about Women In Web in the comment box!