Businesswomen Awards the catalyst for gender equality, says Jane

The driving force behind a local campaign to achieve more equality for women has recalled the impact of being hailed for her “Outstanding Contribution” at last year’s Tees Businesswomen Awards.

In the 12 months since she was recognised at the 2019 awards, Professor Jane Turner OBE has continued to battle against cancer and for the equality of our region’s women, working tirelessly to raise their profiles and encourage them to reach their full potential.

Looking forward to the 2020 awards with an entry deadline fast approaching, Teesside University’s pro vice-chancellor said: “In an ideal world we wouldn’t have to pick out women to celebrate their success, but if the awards are a catalyst to get gender equality in place more quickly, then bring them on!”

Last year it was Jane’s turn to shine, though she had no idea that she about to receive an award before being surprised by event organisers Martin Walker and Dave Allan.

“I had my coat on and was about to leave,” she laughed.

“In terms of the network of women coming together that night, the relationships that had clearly been formed within a year and the strong bonds between the female business community, well it was just a very emotional evening for everyone concerned.

“To hear about the challenges these women were up against and what they had achieved against the odds was just remarkable and humbling.”

With the November 27 deadline for entries for the 2020 awards fast approaching, Jane would encourage as many women as possible to enter.

“I’ve worked in Teesside now for almost five years and when I joined the university I didn’t know where the women’s network was.

“Now I could pick up the phone to 30, 40 women and get something done or a response to something and that’s largely down to the Tees Businesswomen Awards and the network that’s been built around them.”

Even during her celebrations last year, Jane was on a quest to help the next generation of women.

“On the evening, I announced the Girl’s Mentoring Scheme which the mayor and the combined authority had agreed to fund verbally. I’m happy to say that’s up and running now,” said Jane proudly.

“We’ve appointed a manager and so far we have 62 trained women who will mentor girls aged 14 to 19, giving them access to role models and an opportunity to talk about their careers and aspirations.

“All our local schools have signed up for their girls to be mentored over the next year and a half and there will be 150 female mentors from the Tees Valley to mentor girls in our region in the space of a year. It’s brilliant!”

As for whether the Outstanding Contribution Award was a one-off or will happen again remains to be seen, but should someone follow in her footsteps, what sort of woman would Jane choose to take over her crown?

“Oh, wow,” she replied. “I think just someone who breaks the mould, who puts their head above the parapet and who challenges the conventional wisdom, the status quo.

“She will have to be gritty and determined and not take no for an answer. Someone who is working beyond the boundaries of their own organisation.”

Someone a lot like Jane herself.

For further information on sponsoring one of the two remaining categories in the Tees Businesswomen Awards 2020, contact Chris Garbutt on 01642 450255 or email info@teesbusiness.co.uk.

Click here for more info about how to enter the awards or to nominate someone else.