Local girl Hayley Parsons chats to The Business about what it takes to get to the top...

The Business: Tell us a bit about yourself…
Hayley Parsons:
I’m Cwmbran born and bred. I attended Croesyceiliog Comprehensive School, but I wasn’t a big fan of school and couldn’t wait to get out.
I wasn’t very academic and I couldn't wait to start working and have my own independence. 
Despite my father having ambitions for me as a hairdresser I took a job at an insurance broker and loved it. I quickly moved up the ranks and then got a job at Admiral insurance. I worked there for a few years setting up its insurance broking business, before moving on to set up Confused.com in 2002. 
It was an exciting time as it was the UK’s first comparison website and it was a big challenge to change the minds of a very traditional industry – but we did.
In early 2006, I decided to go it alone and left Admiral to set up GoCompare, which then launched in November 2006. In 2012, I was awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours list for ‘services to the economy’ and in 2015, I sold my shares in Gocompare.com and am now concentrating my time on investing in and mentoring start-up businesses.

TB: How do you think being a woman dictated your choice of career?
Not at all. I knew what I wanted to do and went out and did it. My gender made no difference to the choices I’ve made and what I have since achieved. 

TB: What sort of barriers have you come up against? 
To be honest I haven’t come across any barriers. In fact, I think I think it’s important for women to consider themselves as equal and I think problems can creep in when women don’t think of themselves as such and don’t behave in that way.

TB: What qualities do women bring to the workplace, especially as business leaders?
Women are great jugglers, we multi-task managing work and the home life, but I don’t think those roles have to remain exclusive. When I first started GoCompare I had a three-year-old son at home and had just left a very secure job.
I was very lucky at the peak of my career at GoCompare that my husband was able to give up work and look after the children, allowing me to concentrate fully on the business. I know not everyone is in that position and it wasn’t easy for either of us at the start, but I knew we were doing the right thing, so we just ploughed on and it’s paid off thankfully!
If you want to be an entrepreneur or successful in your chosen field you have to work really hard, put your all in and keep going. Use your drive, determination, and make things happen. 
There are a lot of people who have ideas and concepts, but we are still lacking those people who can carry ideas through to launch and make a successful business. 
So just get out there, do it and achieve. 

TB: Do you think it is more difficult for women to get into business? 
If you spend your time thinking about what’s holding you back, then you’ll never move forward – it’s wasted energy. In my experience, gender has nothing to do with how talented somebody is at their job. At GoCompare, everybody was there because of how hard they worked and how good they were at their job; gender wasn’t a consideration.

TB: There is a movement called #ThisGirlCan – did you ever feel you couldn’t and how did you overcome that?
I’ve never left like I can’t achieve anything. I am very goal driven and so when I set my mind on a task I go for it. I will make mistakes along the way, but I learn from them and move on and achieve. 
You have to work hard, harder than most people when you’re starting a business no matter what your gender, but it’s amazing what you can achieve with drive, passion and determination – and of course, being a bit stubborn also helps!

TB: Did you set out to be one of Wales’ most well-known business women?
Not at all. I set out to be my own boss and to change the insurance industry from the inside. Which is what I did. 

TB: Have you ever experienced the glass ceiling? 
No I haven’t, in fact I think that some women become transfixed with the ‘glass ceiling’. I’ve always thought that if you believe there is a glass ceiling, you’ll spend your life on the floor looking up at it. 
Anybody can be successful in any industry as long as they work hard and are nosey and noisy enough. To succeed in business you need to be brave enough to ask the right questions and talk to the right people, it’s the only way you can learn to be better at what you do.

TB: Has being a woman in business changed over the years?
Not in my experience. I believe I am equal, therefore I act like an equal, so I am treated as an equal by all the men I have ever worked with or for. 
As an employer of women, there were always a few things that were really important to me. 
If a woman decides to have children and goes on maternity leave then it is important for her to have a decent amount of time off work, as it is a really important and amazing time in their lives.  
I always wanted my female employees to take at least six months off work, safe in the knowledge that when they came back their positions were safe, so they could enjoy their maternity leave and that time away from work had no effect on their jobs and careers.
Equal pay is also something I feel very strongly about. There is no excuse for any difference in the rates of pay because of gender. Every business should look closely at its wages as it is fundamentally wrong to have different rates of pay for men and women who are doing the same job. 

TB: What do you think of women-only business clubs and business networking events?
Again, for me, business is business no matter your gender. There would be uproar if there were male only networking events and so I’m not a fan. 
I’m all for empowering women in any way possible, but I don’t think events like this should be gender exclusive. I want to empower everyone, no matter their gender.
I thrived on being one of the only women in a very male-orientated world in the insurance industry and that empowered me as a woman in business and I loved every second of it. 

TB: Who was your inspiration?
Many people have inspired me. My parents for the way they brought up my brother and I, people within the insurance market who have changed what was a very traditional industry, to people who I have seen push themselves mentally and physically in many challenges to achieve a goal.
Setting yourself a goal, not matter what that might be, and achieving it is very inspirational to me. 

TB: What does the future hold for you?
I am currently enjoying investing in businesses and mentoring entrepreneurs. I am also working with the Welsh Government on its entrepreneurship strategy and am part of Inspire Wales, which is an investment consortium made up of 20 prominent Welsh entrepreneurs. 
I have invested in Cwmbran-based Solar Buddies, which is a roll on, mess-free sunscreen applicators invented by two women who were concerned about how their children were protected from the sun during school hours.
I’ve also recently invested in Paperclip, which is an online and app-based marketplace allowing users to buy, sell, swap and give away second-hand goods with nearby Paperclip users. It is different to other online marketplaces as it works within communities, such as workplaces or universities. 
When I met the team, I was impressed by their ambitions for the business and instantly knew I wanted to invest in them – they are a young team with a great product and I really like the way they do things. 
In September, I’m heading off to California to complete a 600k bike ride with 50 other amazing men and women who all come together every year to raise money for Velindre - a charity very close to my heart. 
This will be the second time I’ve done this bike ride and have made some wonderful friends who inspire and encourage me both during the ride, and afterwards. It has been a life enhancing experience that I can’t to wait repeat – despite the lycra and the chafing!