Lessons from Women at the Top: My First Warrior Women Event

Brands, Bubbly and Some Bloody Brilliant Women…
Warrior Women Events - The Cardiff Cwtch

I’ve always wanted to think of myself as a “Warrior Woman”, but the truth is that any evidence in support of that is massively stacked to the contrary; most days I’m just a walking train-wreck in yoga pants and a messy bun. For example, the hot water tank and boiler in my house had an argument yesterday afternoon – which meant no central heating (and a small waterfall in the airing cupboard later that evening…). It’s almost December; it’s freezing. But instead of choosing to tackle that problem head on like an adult, I just rolled my eyes like a teenager, filled up my hot water bottle and sat at my desk buried under three layers of blankets and dressing gowns as I tried to find the perfect GIF on Twitter to sum up the situation (…Ryan Reynolds rolling his eyes if you’re wondering). The fact of the matter is that I’m a 34 year old woman who has absolutely no idea how to operate her own central heating. Warrior Woman, I am not. So, you can imagine how unsure I was about heading off to an event specifically for so-called Warrior Women.

Warrior Women Events have been up and running in Cardiff for a couple of years now, popping up in coffee shops and popular hang outs across the city centre with evenings of networking and talks by businesswomen and entrepreneurs at the top of their game. Strictly women only, each event aims to inspire and to celebrate the successes and journeys of the women who attend. And as is the case with most women’s networking events in Cardiff, Warrior Women Events are resoundingly popular; tickets tend to sell out within hours of being released. But, when I get an invite to pop along to the November Event – the theme of which is “Women at the Top” – I’m in all honesty, a little unsure. I imagine a room packed-full of seriously intimidating women, all successful, all smart, all confident and absolutely bossing it (and quite possibly all kitted out in suits with shoulder pads like Melanie Griffith in Working Girl). Would I comfortably fit into that room? Little old me? Would I come away feeling inspired, or…. deflated?

Still, I’m definitely curious and I’ve heard there’s going to be cake and prosecco, so I head to Tramshed Tech on a very drizzly Thursday evening to see what all the fuss is about. After briefly stumbling into a Cuban Brothers Concert in THE Tramshed down the street, I make it… and instantly breathe a sigh of relief. (If you’re a freelancer or a creative and you’ve never been to Tramshed Tech then you need to check it out; it’s a gorgeously modern co-working space on the edge of the city centre – beautifully kitted out as a social working environment with benches, booths and comfortable seating, as well as a shared kitchen. Not too shabby a spot to pitch up with your laptop and run an empire from!) Well, it’s certainly a room – although much, much cosier than I imagined – and yep, it’s full of women… but definitely not the intimidating crowd I pictured in my head (and not a shoulder pad in sight!). There are young women and there are older women. 9-5 mums on a night off, as well as single mums and working mums. There are women who are starting over, and some who are still studying. There are women who are building their business and hoping to take it to the next level, and there are women who are thinking of starting a business or have got a bit of a side hustle going on and wonder whether it could become something more. And, then there are the women who’ve popped in just because they fancied meeting some new faces, and wanted to have a drink and chinwag. They’re women who are all on very different journeys, and – more importantly – at different stages of that journey. All smiling, all chatting away.

And there’s cake! πŸ™‚

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“It’s only when you start using your voice that you realise what you have to say is important.”

– Sophie Howe

I grab a welcome drink, find a seat to ditch my bag and coat, and then get stuck in (to eating the beautiful cakes and bakes from The Tidy Kitchen Company, mostly). The thing about blogging is that I can go a whole day – a whole week sometimes – without actually using my voice. You know, my actual voice; not just the jumbled thoughts that make it into this space. So it’s really nice to use it when I bump into a few familiar faces, including Kacie (The Rare Welsh Bit). We take a seat and catch up on all things blogging and life in general – and have a chat about what we’ve got in the pipeline heading up to Christmas. Kacie tells me all about the big speech she’s got to give early next year about Welsh Tourism and how she’s preparing and planning for it (best of luck, Kacie!), and I tell her all about the speech that I gave a couple of months ago – which I was completely dreading, but somehow managed to pull out of the bag. It’s a weird moment as I remember that I actually did do that; I did get up in a room full of people and talk about creating The Cardiff Cwtch. As I said, sometimes I completely forget that I have a voice.

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“You’ve got to back yourself.”

– Louise Harris

Before the first speaker takes to the mic, there’s just enough time to check out some of the local brands that have pitched up for the night. They’ve all been created by some amazing local women, and among them, there’s Claire of Claire Hill Designs and her beautiful range of jewellery (I instantly fall in love with her gorgeous stackable necklaces), and Abigail with her stunning range of handmade lingerie, and then there’s Meg (AKA Megan Fflur) who’s a local social media rock star. As well as running her own fashion and style-based Instagram account, she created local lifestyle brand Pethau just this year selling clothing, homeware and gifts, and has already pulled in over ten thousand followers. I’m totally inspired, not only by the women behind the brands that are there on the night, but by all the other women attending who’ve been brave enough to back themselves – be their own biggest cheerleader – and bring their ideas to life.

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“When one door closes, another one opens – but you’ve GOT to be in the room.”

– Sophie Howe

Someone beats their glass of prosecco with a spoon and suddenly it’s time for the main event: the guest speakers, followed by a Q&A. First up is Louise Harris who’s the co-founder of the beautiful building we’re all sitting in, as well as the director of The Big Learning Company. She takes the mic and tells us all about her incredible career, from teaching Drama in Stanwell School in Penarth, to creating a company that supports schools and teachers in bringing technology into the classroom – and making the most of it. I can totally relate; I used to work in a Secondary School when I lived in London and saw first hand how important technology is becoming in getting kids to engage with a subject – whether that’s Maths (gross), English or even Drama. The whole room’s riveted as Louise tells us all about some of her career highs, including a story about how a mysterious email invite led to a one on one surprise meeting and 15 minute pitch with Theresa May!

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“Behind every great women, there’s a team of even greater women.”

– Sophie Howe

Next up is Sophie Howe, who’s had an absolutely fascinating career in local politics which all began with a stint working for local MP (at the time) Julie Morgan. Fresh out of University, she fought a tough election campaign whilst pregnant to become Wales’ youngest ever Councillor at 21, became the first Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Wales – fighting hard to tackle violence against women – and is now the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales. Oh, and she’s a Mum of five. Wow. Her journey is one of guts and determination, and there’s an audible gulp in the room when she tells us how her achievements as Councillor were downplayed in a newspaper article where the writer instead chose to focus on her appearance and describe her as “a little bit foxy”. There’s laughter too when she tells us a story about having to change her daughter’s nappy in the middle of a Radio interview. I think it’s safe to say that we’re all in awe; when she tells us that while she looks like she has everything together, she reminds us that it’s only because of the amazing team of women she’s got working hard behind the scenes.

And that’s the main takeaway from my first Warrior Women Event, I think. Women don’t become Warrior Women on their own – the truth is that they need an army of other women behind them cheering them on. Whether that’s pouring them a massive glass of gin when they need it most, backing them when they forget to back themselves and supporting their ideas and helping them bring them to life. And after three hours at Tramshed Tech listening to some incredible stories about the highs and lows of other women’s journeys, I come away feeling energized and inspired about my own again – having had the boost from my local girl gang that I really needed. And, if you’re in need of a bit of that in your life – or just fancy adding some new faces to your ranks of supportive female friends, then make sure you bag a ticket to the next Warrior Women Event – they sell out quick!

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Keep up to date with all the latest from Warrior Women Events here. Their next event is on the 12th of December, with the theme “Eat, Drink and Be Merry”, with talks by some inspirational local ladies involved in the food industry. Buy your tickets here. πŸ™‚