Monmouthshire County Council marked International Women’s Day on Wednesday 8th March with an event at King Henry VIII School Abergavenny for girls from Year 8. The session entitled Be Bold for Change celebrated the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of local women to inspire and empower pupils to think about their next steps in life.

Be Bold for Change was the theme of International Women’s Day 2017 and aimed to encourage women and girls to take ground breaking action to drive change for women.

Pupils heard from two local business women, Vicki Spencer-Francis Managing Director of Cowshed a communications agency based in Cardiff and Delyth Harris Managing Director of Gwalia Consulting Ltd. Both Vicki and Delyth shared very different examples of how they have been bold within their lives which in turn made a huge impact on their careers.

Delyth Harris, Managing Director of Gwalia Consulting Ltd, spoke to the girls of not ‘being afraid to be bold and deal with the challenges that arise’. This mantra has led to Delyth becoming very successful in the very male dominated world of technology. Delyth spoke of her move from a PhD studying glacial rivers to leadership roles with Hewlett Packard and Cisco and then making a huge leap to establish her own business. Delyth empowered the girls with a set of messages that will resonate with all women – ‘Be you, set your own goals, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and fight for what you believe in.’

Delyth Harris Director of Gwalia Consulting Ltd said “I’m a big believer in being open to opportunities however strange they may initially seem, even if you’re terrified of stepping out of your comfort zone.  Without conquering my fears I would never have had the many exciting and varied opportunities that I’d had throughout my career.  Girls shouldn’t be scared of taking chances and don’t need to feel they have to be perfect in everything they do, we just need to teach them how to be courageous.”

Vicki shared with pupils her quest to secure her dream job – to work for Comic Relief. Vicki spoke of the many jobs and life lessons that she learnt during her journey. A move from Raglan to London supported Vicki to get on the first step of the ladder which would help her gain the career she always dreamed of. Her first job in the industry was at an advertising agency, Vicki’s enthusiasm and determination led to Vicki taking a chance and accepting a voluntary role at Channel 4 on top of her full time job. This was Vicki’s break into the world of television and a series of jobs followed, including becoming a publicist for Dermot O Leary and the Big Breakfast. The opportunities that Vicki took eventually led to Vicki fulfilling her dream and became a publicist at Comic Relief for a short time. Vicki later became the saviour for all parents and launched two digital channels for children – CBBC and CBeebies.

Vicki spoke of taking bold and brave chances, this has been echoed in taking a leap to establish her own successful communications agency Cowshed here in Wales. Comic Relief is now just one of the many organisations that Cowshed works with.

Being bold for Vicki was never being afraid to talk to people, ask questions and to take up opportunities because you may meet someone who knows someone who can help you, persevere, and do whatever you have to do to get where you want to be.

Vicki said: You don’t have to have a master plan to make your dreams real; you just need determination, persistence and enthusiasm when eventually get that break. I loved speaking with the pupils of King Henry V school, it reminded me of how far I’ve come since school and the journey to get where I am today. I hope that my brief talk will help them be confident to go for their dreams.’

The session inspired and encouraged the Year 8 pupils who took part to think about their future. Pupils unanimously agreed that there was a need for similar sessions to take place in the future for more pupils to hear from more of the county’s businesses.

A pupil said “The speeches were really inspirational and taught me to never give up.”

Another said “It was inspirational. It showed me that you could be a good friend, sister… even when you are concentrating and determined to become successful. If you keep pushing yourself you will get to where you want to be even if you’re not confident.”

Cllr Liz Hacket Pain Cabinet member Children and Young People said, “It is so inspiring to see local business women empowering our future generations. I thoroughly agree that by ‘Being bold for change’ will lead to new opportunities and change the lives of our young people across the county.”