A movement to lift the aspirations of young women across the Tees region is being launched.
The Power of Women campaign will focus particularly on the region’s girls and young women, giving them a powerful and empowering voice.
The campaign is the vision of Professor Jane Turner OBE, pro vice-chancellor for enterprise and business engagement at Teesside University.
Jane, who is recognised as a key business leader within the region, is passionate about gender equality and the need to champion the role women play in driving the economy.
She said: “I initiated the Power of Women campaign because I wanted to call a stop to the belief that the Tees Valley, particularly Middlesbrough, was the worst place for a girl to grow up.
“I know that by working together we can change the immediate and long-term future. This will happen by empowering our girls and young women. We will give them the voice and the courage to be who they want to be and to live their hopes and dreams.”
She added: “We aim to encourage girls to be inspired to venture down exciting paths, leading to careers and lifestyles that they deserve, celebrate their talents and help them grow and flourish as individuals.
“Our hope is that the campaign motivates them to dream big and pursue whatever they desire, without fear of judgement or failure; to push boundaries in all industries and explore, and ultimately succeed, in roles they may not have dared to consider as a young woman in today’s society.”
It’s no coincidence that Teesside is the initial focus for the campaign. A 2015 Plan International report revealed that Middlesbrough was the worst place for a girl to grow up, while the 2020 report revealed that Hartlepool too had slid into the bottom ten places.
Tees Valley women in full-time work earn 12 per cent less than their male counterparts, while there are just half the number of the region’s women in self-employment compared to men. Given current rates of change, the World Economic Forum estimates it will take 257 years before global gender parity can be achieved in the workplace.
Supporting Jane as fellow directors of the Power of Women campaign is social activist and businesswoman Caroline Theobald CBE, media business owners Chris March, Dave Allan and Martin Walker, Tees Valley Education CEO Katrina Morley and Rosalind Stuart, who runs Tees Valley Girls’ Network, an organisation that’s introduced 150 mentors in the Teesside area.
“The Power of Women represents so much of what our young women in the region need,” said Rosalind. “Not just for today, to provide inspiration, but for their futures.
“The stories told are crucial because it’s impossible for women to connect to futures they are simply unaware of; and we have a responsibility to make the talent, drive and professionalism of working women in our region writ large for the younger generation. They must be in no doubt that their futures are unlimited.”
While the Power of Women is initially targeting the Tees Valley region, it’s planned that the campaign will later reach out into the wider North-East as it builds momentum.
The campaign will take a three-pronged approach, initially focusing on an engaging website and social media campaign populated with inspiring content, providing a place for girls and young women to share their views of the world, followed by engagement with local schools and colleges, and finally a coffee-table book celebrating the Power of Women campaign and illustrating the life stories of our region’s women.
Development of the initial stages of the campaign has been made possible thanks to a significant donation from Stockton-based Euro Lottery winner Frances Connolly.
Guisborough-born Jane explained: “It’s amazing that Frances’s donation will allow us to kick-start this important campaign and I still can’t speak about her donation without getting emotional. It means so much.”
“We aim to create a campaign that girls and women can engage and debate with.
“A big part of that as we move forward will be engaging with schools and colleges, making educational resources available and creating an ambassadorial network of girls in the region.”
Local companies and individuals are being asked to make a financial contribution to the future of girls and young women in the Tees Valley. A GoFundMe page has been set up at gofundme.com/f/the-power-of-women-2021.
To offer your support or request a Power of Women media pack, please email email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
The campaign website is powerofwomen.org.uk.
The campaign can be followed on social media via Instagram at @pow_campaign or Facebook.