The first three Tees Businesswomen of the Year were in the virtual audience as a campaign to raise the aspirations and ambitions of the region’s girls and young women got off to a flying start – with a call for more local businesses and leaders to get involved.
Jane Armitage of Jacksons Law Firm, the reigning Tees Businesswoman of the Year, was joined by her predecessors Claire Preston and Sharon Lane for the launch of the Power of Women (PoW) campaign, hosted by Tees Business.
PoW aims to create female role models and mentors to inspire young girls and women to reassess their hopes and dreams.
Starting with an interactive website and powerful social media, there will eventually be a network of mentors, ambassadors in schools and a coffee table book showcasing stories of women who have fulfilled their ambitions despite setbacks and adversity.
Spearheaded by Teesside University pro vice chancellor and gender champion Professor Jane Turner OBE, the PoW campaign is supported by fellow directors Caroline Theobald CBE, who was also the launch host, Tees Business executive editor Dave Allan, Girls’ Network leader Rosalind Stuart, Allies Group CEO Chris March and Katrina Morley, CEO of Tees Valley Education and executive headteacher at Pennyman Primary Academy in Middlesbrough.
The campaign launch was sponsored by engineering design and project management specialists Faithful+Gould and Atkins, while PoW has received a significant financial boost from Stockton-based lottery winner and businesswoman Frances Connolly.
The seed of the PoW campaign was sown five years ago when Guisborough-born Jane discovered that Middlesbrough had been voted the worst place for a young girl to grow up by the Plan UK Report.
“It just really hit a nerve,” said Jane. “I was very upset and angry. I was also aware that no one was doing anything about it.
“I wasn’t aware of any other strong females in the region and I wanted to know where the powerful, amazing women running their own businesses and doing amazing things were. They were all under the radar. Nobody was talking about them.”
Jane was supportive in Tees Business launching the Tees Businesswomen Awards three years ago to help raise the profile of female leaders, and last year she was presented with the Lifelong Inspiration Award.
But she was determined to do more for the next generation of young girls and women, contacting Chris March to discuss publishing a book containing inspirational life stories of Teesside women.
“I thought it would be empowering for young women to read success stories, to realise that not everybody is born with a silver spoon in their mouth, that everybody has setbacks and challenges and that’s what defines them,” she explained.
Though the book was delayed due to Covid, its development is now back on track and Chris, dad to two girls aged 11 and 13, came on board as a PoW director.
“Research suggests that young women discount certain jobs and sectors because they think the opportunities are not there,” said Chris.
“This campaign says don’t write off your dreams. If others have made it, then so can you!”
The directors plan to make story telling a powerful tool in the PoW armoury.
“When you share a story, it very often has an emotional connection and if it creates that emotional hook, then it’s very memorable,” said Jane.
“There’s just something about northern women and their stories. They have great grit, determination and resilience.”
Rosalind Stuart’s role with the Girls’ Network involves connecting girls from disadvantaged areas to mentors from a network of positive female role models. She is thrilled to be collaborating with the Power of Women campaign.
“As a community and as a collective, we have the power to make a real change,” she said.
“There is so much potential and a wonderful future ahead for our young women and girls, as long as we ensure they have opportunities and they know what is available for them, and what they can achieve.”
Katrina Morley believes that girls should be inspired from primary school age.
“There are awful figures around young women from disadvantaged areas not going onto further education and we have to offer a beacon of hope,” she said.
“These girls need someone around them to show them that they can achieve their dreams.
“How do we do that? By supporting the Power of Women campaign and encouraging girls from a young age to dream big.
“It’s only by sharing and caring and paying it forward that we can create a better future.”
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 https://www.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 https://powerofwomen.org.uk/
The campaign can be followed on social media via Instagram at @pow_campaign or Facebook https://m.facebook.com/powcampaign