Celebrating Inspirational Award Winning Female College Leaders

Top row of photos: Karen Philips - Coleg y Cymoedd, Lisa Thomas - College Merthyr Tydfil, Kay Morgan - Gower College Swansea and Sue Price - Coleg Cambria.
Bottom row of photos: Kathryn Robson - Adult Learning Wales, Kay Martin - Cardiff and Vale College, Viv Buckley - Bridgend College, Amanda Daniels - Coleg Sir Gâr

On International Women’s Day we can confidently shine a spotlight on our female college leaders in Wales. Committed to enhancing learner achievement and opportunities across Wales, they have entered the workplace, developed their skills and built rewarding careers, winning awards and making a difference within the further education sector.

Recently appointed Principal of Coleg y Cymoedd, Karen Philips is a Human Resources professional and joined the FE sector as a Deputy Principal in April 2008. Karen says “Our college was recently recognised by Chwarae Teg for the work that it does to promote gender equality in the workplace. Having a diverse workforce is vitally important to our success, we recognise the importance of developing policies and practice that supports our workforce to thrive and achieve.”

Kay Martin is Principal of the Cardiff and Vale College Group, the largest FE institution in Wales and one of the top five in the UK. She was also shortlisted for the Chwarae Teg Womenspire Award for Leader of the Year in 2018. Kay said “At the college we strongly believe in equality of opportunity and promoting career routes and opportunities that might not fit traditional stereotypes. Our mission is to provide high quality education that creates skilled and employable people to all, and our role as a Leader in Diversity demonstrates we are committed to inclusivity and improved prospects for everyone.”

Supporting female learners to be ambitious and bold and aware of all career options and course selection is a priority for all colleges. Becoming Head of College at the College Merthyr Tydfil in summer 2018, Lisa Thomas said “I am passionate about promoting and raising awareness of opportunities for all potential and future learners. Working in partnership with the local schools, and Welsh Government, we have sought to re-address an in-balance of career opportunities. Engaging with employers to enhance the careers advice and guidance for pupils from year 9 and above has been an opportunity to showcase the careers that are available to females within the STEM area. A key element of this has been working with the Royal Academy of Engineering and key organisations to embed sustainable and systematic change in engineering education and to encourage more females to consider this as a future career pathway.”

#IWD2019 recognises, celebrates, supports and motivates all women globally, but also the important message behind it is to raise awareness of the progress to improve and protect women's rights everywhere.

Colleges certainly provide equal career progression opportunities and the colleges’ female Principals are certainly an inspiration to the next generation of female leaders. As a nation Wales has a responsibility to ensure we develop women’s economic potential, and colleges are first class in developing modern work places and practices where women continue to achieve and prosper.

Sue Price joined Coleg Cambria in 2016 as Principal. Sue is a qualified teacher and has a Masters Degree in Education Management encompassing both an academic and a vocational background. Beginning her career as a college lecturer in 1991 Sue has worked in the Further Education (FE) sector for over 25 years. Sue said “I feel very proud to be a woman in a senior post in FE in Wales today and delighted that two thirds of the senior management team at Coleg Cambria are women. I'm very passionate about how education can empower women and act as a positive driver towards gender balanced”.

Recently appointed Assistant Principal, Amanda Daniels started her teaching career at Gorseinon College and moved to Coleg Sir Gâr in 1993 as a sports course leader. She progressed within Coleg Sir Gâr through the sports department and subsequently in a central management role in teaching and learning before recently being appointed assistant principal of teaching, learning and quality. Amanda said “Being assistant principal is helping me to fulfil my dreams. As a senior leader, a woman and a mother I want to create a legacy that inspires others to be all they can be, to learn, to develop and to fulfil their potential. Having this leadership role gives me the opportunity to achieve this.”

Kay Morgan has worked in education for over 20 years and has been Vice Principal at Gower College Swansea for eight years. Kay said “Being a women in leadership means I bring that female perspective on key decisions that shape the organisation, how it operates and its future, bringing a sense of balance to key decision making groups. Being a role model for other females both in my professional and personal life, showing them that with hard work, commitment and self-belief they can aspire to anything. This is particularly important to me as my vocational and teaching background is in beauty therapy, and I have managed to progress my management career from that non-academic starting point. My advice to women everywhere is “Recognise the value of a female perspective and approach, celebrate it by being yourself, don’t apologise for it and don’t think you have to behave differently to progress.”

Chief Executive of Adult Learning Wales, Kathryn Robson, with a background in HR management has over 20 years' experience in leadership and management roles within HE and FE. Kathrys says “Having worked in both private industry and higher/further education, I have always been part of a team where women leaders have taken a prominent role, and career progression was in place for those prepared to work for it. It is exciting to see the opportunities that are emerging to promote gender balance. Employment practices that promote equality and diversity, quite simply “makes good business sense” as this attracts talented people whatever their gender or background.”

Viv Buckley, Deputy Principal of Bridgend College was crowned the winner of the 'Leadership in Public Sector Award’ at the Leaders in Wales Awards in 2018. Viv says "As a leader, I have the privilege to empower our female staff and learners to use their talent to prosper in an ever more competitive world. The #BalanceForBetter theme this year with IWD2019 is more important than ever - let's push for professional and social equality, that will only help our economies thrive".

Claire Roberts, Director of External Affairs at ColegauCymru concluded that “It is clear that colleges work hard on creating an inclusive environment for employees where women and men can equally achieve whatever their gender. As society continues to change, the way we refer to equality will continue to evolve, however I remain confident that women, employees and learners, will always be supported and encouraged to achieve their ambition in the college environment”.

Today, on International Women’s Day we celebrate and give deserved recognition to our Female Principals’ who lead from the front, who are ambitious visionaries with strong values in delivering world-class lifelong learning opportunities for learners, employees, employers and communities around Wales, and look on in anticipation at being able to celebrate further female achievement in the future.