Six businesswomen, leaders, and trailblazers actively making their mark in Wales

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The list of influential women in history is infinite and ever-growing. Wales, being no exception, is home to a great host of extraordinary female founders who are using their power as a force for good.

It is impossible, however, to commemorate the contribution of women in Wales without first highlighting the importance of inclusive and equal representation in every industry and sphere – including leadership and business.

Here are six businesswomen, leaders, and trailblazers actively making their mark in Wales.

1. Professor Meena Upadhyaya OBE Professor Meena Upadhyaya

Professor Meena Upadhyaya moved to the UK, from India, when she was 19 years old. She has since developed pioneering tests to aid in the diagnosis of more than 20 genetic diseases, and in 2016, received an OBE for her services to medical genetics and the Welsh Asian community.

Prof Upadhyaya is an internationally renowned medical geneticist and the first female British Indian professor in medical genetics in the UK..

Alongside her research career, Prof Upadhyaya is also an avid advocate for women of ethnic minorities and is the founder of the Welsh Asian Women Achievement Awards (WAWAA) and Ethnic Minority Women in Welsh Healthcare (EMWWH).

Speaking of WAWAA, Prof Upadhyaya said: “I was given opportunities to develop myself in my work, so it’s my privilege to give back,” she said.

“Our aim is to empower Black and Minority Ethnic women, identify role models for them and facilitate community cohesion and integration.”

Since the charity was established in 2010, Prof Upadhyaya noted WAWAA has grown from strength to strength, awarding 16 winners and 90 finalists in counting.

“The project is close to my heart and our family is growing – it’s definitely inspired me,” she added.

Discussing Ethnic Minority Women in Welsh Healthcare, Prof Upadhyaya explained the network was created to address the underrepresentation in leadership positions and policymaking in the healthcare sector.

“By learning from each other’s experiences, we can form a supportive network and promote equality and diversity,” she said.

Prof Upadhyaya added: “I was given opportunities to develop myself in my work, so it’s my privilege to be able to give something back.”

2. Dr Youmna Mouhamad Youmna Mouhamad

In October 2020, Dr Youmna Mouhamad received the Woman in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) Award from Womenspire which is run by Wales’ leading gender equality charity, Chwarae Teg.

Dr Mouhamad is a multi-talented engineer and business owner.

Originally from Mayotte, Dr Mouhamad , 35, first moved to the UK from France to study a master’s degree in physics. She then went on to obtain a doctorate in polymer physics from Sheffield University.

Previously working in the field of printed electronics as a technology fellow at Swansea University, Youmna sat on the organising committee of the Soapbox Science Swansea, an initiative inspiring young women to pursue studies in STEM subjects. She was also the leader of the BAME Students in Engineering Network, which aims to increase racial equality at the university.

Dr Mouhamad ’s enterprise, Myana Naurals, uses innovative technology to enhance the haircare experience of women with afro-textured hair. The product was created to empower women to look after their hair in a way that celebrates and embraces identity.

My hairstyle is a huge part of my identity because hair is very often used to set us aside

Tracing the heart of the business back to fond memories from her childhood, Dr Mouhamad said Myana Naturals is very much rooted in her personal experience.

“Growing up, my mum, sisters and I would get together every Sunday to do each other’s hair,” she recalled.

Dr Mouhamad explained: “My hairstyle is a huge part of my identity because hair is very often used to set us aside.”

The beauty of research is that the field encourages creative problem solving and invention, she added. Incorporating her research in the field of engineering, Youmna hopes her product will bring joy to women’s hair care experience and help to build their confidence.

3. Martha Musonza-Holman Martha Musonza-Holman

Martha Musonza-Holman has been recognised as one of Women Equality Network’s 100 Welsh Women, which highlights women, past and present, who have made outstanding contributions to national life.

Born in Zimbabwe and based in Abergavenny, Ms Musonza-Holman, is the founder of community interest companies Love Zimbabwe and Love Zimbabwe Fair Trade.

Supported by the Welsh Government and partnering with Fair Trade Wales, the organisations were created for the love of people, especially women and mothers of disabled children, Ms Musonza-Holman explained.

It’s always been inside of me to support other women

Growing up in a village and becoming pregnant as a teenager, Ms Musonza-Holman understands the challenges faced by many women living in poverty in Zimbabwe.

“It was really hard for me,” Ms Musonza-Holman explained. “Because of our culture, we haven’t got a voice. So, it’s always been inside of me to support other women,” she added.

While empowering women in Africa, her work has a strong emphasis on the power of sustainability and fair trade. Focusing on food production, health, education and sanitation, the charities aim to engage communities in sustainable living and encourage practical changes to support fair trade.

In 2017, Martha won an award in the social and humanitarian category of the Ethnic Minority Welsh Women Achievement Awards for her significant contribution to Welsh life.

4. Melin Edomwonyi Melin Edo

Born and raised in Turkey, Melin Edomwonyi moved to the UK to study graphic design before launching her business, MeDesign, in 2007.

Multi-hyphenate creative, Melin Edomwonyi is the founder of design studio, MeDesign and the host of Creative Mornings Cardiff.

Based in Cardiff, Ms Edomwonyi describes MeDesign as a “no niche design agency,” specialising in branding, print and web design.

Discussing Creative Mornings, Ms Edomwonyi explained the monthly breakfast series connects creative communities around the world, inspiring change in local areas and cities.

“We do a lot of storytelling of people from diverse backgrounds with diverse stories,” Ms Edomwonyi said. For her, the community is all about inspiration and connection.

Female creators should be proud of themselves simply for sticking to it

Looking to the future of the creative industries, Melin hopes to see a consciously diverse workforce whereby more leadership positions are occupied by women from a variety of races, ethnicities and backgrounds.

“There aren’t many people who look like me in leadership positions,” she noted.

It’s difficult for women to make waves and move up in their careers, so female creators should be proud of themselves simply for sticking to it, Ms Edomwonyi concluded.

5. Donna Ali Donna Ali

With a background in business, Donna Ali is a committed advocate passionate about empowering the black community in South Wales.

Ms Ali is the co-founder of the Campbell Network and the founder of the Black Owned Minority Business (BOMB) directory.

Established in May 2020, The Campbell Network is a Cardiff-based community interest company named after Wales’ first black headteacher, Betty Campbell.

“Betty Campbell has always been someone I’ve admired,” Ms Ali said.

“In my school, we never talked about black culture or black history, so I would’ve loved to have been taught by her.”

It’s so important that experiences and stories are seen and heard

In honour of the teacher who paved the way for black history education in Wales, the Campbell Network is all about telling black stories, Ms Ali said.

“It’s so important that experiences and stories are seen and heard,” she added.

Focusing on local superheroes and changemakers, the organisation exists to inspire children and young people within the areas of education, law, politics, media, business and sport.

To help facilitate work experience placements for young people, Ms Ali created the B.O.M.B in June 2020 to collate a directory of black and minority ethnic businesses in South Wales.

6. Meghan Gane Meghan Gane

Cosmetic designer and researcher, Meghan Gane, focuses her sustainable beauty business on catering for people with sensitive skin.

Ms Gane, 33, is the founder of plant based cosmetic company, Sey Cosmetics.

Originally from the Seychelles, Ms Gane studied biological oceanography in China and now runs her business from The Sustainable Studio, Cardiff.

Established in 2018, Sey Cosmetics is not just about beauty products, Ms Gane explained, it’s about creating awareness of environmental issues and the current problems in the beauty industry.

Combining her background in marine science with her passion for consciously made makeup, Ms Gane researches and designs her own products using eco-friendly and cruelty-free ingredients.

It’s about creating awareness of environmental issues and the problems in the beauty industry

Sharing her personal experience of learning to love and care for her skin, Ms Gane spoke of the racial discrimination and damaging beauty ideals she witnessed while studying in China.

“In China, how you look determines what kind of job you get, how many friends you have and whether you will get married or not,” she said.

Struggling with acne and in a bid to remove her facial scars, Ms Gane began bleaching her skin.

“In my head, I was saying ‘I’m removing my scars’, but really, I was doing it to make myself whiter,” she admitted.

In time, Ms Gane made an end to using bleaching creams and as a means of healing the damage incurred, she began experimenting with oils and waxes in her university dorm. This eventually led to her manufacturing and selling her own natural products.

Today, as an accomplished founder and cosmetic designer, she describes her mission as empowering others through makeup and providing products that suit every complexion and skin type.