Girls’ mentoring scheme needs more businesswomen

Teesside University is partnering with charity, the Girls’ Network, to launch a mentoring scheme for Tees Valley girls aged 13-19 – with Tees Businesswomen Award-winners among those who will be trained to become mentors.

Tees Components managing director Sharon Lane, the newly-crowned Tees Businesswoman of the Year, and her predecessor Claire Preston are among the female business leaders giving their time to support girls from schools and colleges across the region.

A pilot mentoring scheme named locally as REACH, will launch in January 2020 involving 40 girls from four local schools and colleges. Over the following 12 months, each girl will meet monthly with their personal mentor.

Research consistently illustrates that girls who have access to female mentors experience a number of benefits including greater self-confidence, deeper understanding of the breadth of career available to them, enhanced study habits, greater self-understanding and increased ability to relate to others.

Around 60 businesswomen have expressed interest in becoming a REACH mentor – but more are being sought as the university plans to expand the scheme to a further 80 girls from September 2020.

Along with Sharon Lane and Claire Preston, other businesswomen involved in the scheme include Jane Armitage, managing partner of Jacksons Law Firm, winners of the Company of the Year category in the 2019 Tees Businesswomen Awards.

Others include Jess Williams of Stockton-based Just Williams and Liza Pontone of Active Chartered Financial Planners.

The Girls’ Network will provide the necessary training for mentors while also managing the process behind the scenes.

The pilot will be funded by the Tees Valley Combined Authority, with the university conducting a research study to understand and analyse the collective impact of the programme.

Professor Jane Turner OBE, the university’s pro vice-chancellor for enterprise and business engagement, as well as gender champion, said: “The impact of mentoring for young girls is hugely positive and I am determined that the girls of the Tees Valley have the same opportunities as girls from other areas of the UK.

“The Tees Businesswomen Awards has provided the inspiration and platform to bring like-minded women together to engage in this opportunity and train to become mentors. We are currently asking schools and colleges to become involved to enable access to the girls”

Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen said: “We have some hugely talented female business leaders in the Tees Valley and I would encourage as many as possible to become mentors.

“When I visit schools and colleges across the region, I’m always blown away by the talent we have – these are our future engineers, scientists, researchers and business leaders.

“I want to see the next generation of young women aspire to the top and reach their full potential. That’s why I’m backing this hugely important mentoring scheme with £30,000 to make it a reality.”

Businesswomen keen to offer their services or find out more – and schools and colleges interested in being involved – should contact Jill Bird at Teesside University via jill.bird@tees.ac.uk

Mentoring for boys is also planned as a follow-up project.

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