In 2009, we launched a biannual conference called North East Women (NEW) Leaders which aims to inspire and help 16 – 18 year old girls from across the region to focus on leadership, as well as helping to raise the aspirations of young women in the North East.
The fact remains that while girls outperform boys at school, women are still under-represented in the top positions in the work place and we aim to confront this issue by giving girls the opportunity to hear from inspirational women who have been successful and to learn about leadership characteristics and skills.
Working in partnership with Northumbria University, we have successfully run three NEW Leaders conferences. The Conference is also supported by lead sponsor North East LEP as part of its NE Ambition strategy. Our last conference took place on 27th September 2017 at Newcastle High School for Girls’ state of the art facilities in Jesmond. Girls from five partner schools Heaton Manor, St Mary’s School in Newcastle, King Edward VI in Morpeth, Whitburn Academy and Prudhoe High School as well as Newcastle High School for Girls were all in attendance.
Female leaders from the world of business, education, technology, journalism and the arts shared their knowledge and expertise with over 450 young women, the aim of the event to supercharge the future of the next generation of female leaders by providing exposure to women who have reached the top of their professions.
Keynote speakers Kate Denby (Executive Director, Northern Stage) and Jacqueline De Rojas (President of Tech UK) were joined by high ranking women including Kim Inglis (Media – TV), Lucy Winskell (Higher Education), Lisa Hogan (Police – Chief Inspector), and Helen Dalby (Journalism – Editor). They all talked to the girls about their rise to the top and what it took to get there.
Organisers and sponsors are united in their desire to see more women in leadership positions over the next two decades. Together they have mobilised female leaders from inside and outside the region to share their knowledge and experience in the hope of combating gender inequalities and inspiring young women to strive for the top in whatever career or profession they choose. This is the third time the NEW Leaders Conference has been held, the first took place in 2011. While the format has changed the ambition remains the same, to raise the aspirations of young women in the North East and provide them with role models, mentors and career goals.
Over 30 of the region’s top female leaders also ran mentoring sessions on the day giving girls an insight into what it takes to make it to the top in their chosen careers. A range of industries and roles were represented during these sessions providing a particular leadership focus. Successful women leaders from EY, Nestle, The Trinity Mirror Group and other leading organisations all took part.
As well as focusing on the highs of their careers, the business women spoke candidly about the lows and what they have had to do to combat gender bias and any hurdles they have encountered on their rise through the ranks. The sessions were be both lively and interactive.
Conference delegates also had the opportunity to get creative and identify the characteristics that make a great leader, as well as learning more about their own personal leadership identity and brand. The individual assessments were carried out during a unique workshop developed for NEW Leaders and delivered by leading academics at Northumbria University, specialists in leadership and gender equality.
Natalia Blagburn, Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at Northumbria University’s Newcastle Business School, said: “It is a very important agenda to raise the aspiration of young women in the North East. Women make up around half the world’s population, but if they are under-represented at the top levels then companies are effectively missing 50% of the talent pool.
“Research by Newcastle Business School shows that a shortage of female leaders is bad for the workplace and the overall economy. We have been working with a number of high profile organisations, including the seven North East County Councils, professional services company Accenture and other IT solution providers to help tackle the gender imbalance.
“Having more women in top positions is not only good for individual careers but can open up new growth and profit opportunities for businesses of all sizes and across all sectors.”
Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director, North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said:
“Our ‘North East Ambition’ is for each and every young person to be able to access excellent careers guidance. We are supporting NEW Leaders because it will identify opportunities in areas where females are traditionally underrepresented, so we can map the full range of routes on offer.
“We want young people to be able to access inspiring information showing the breadth of opportunities in the North East, and are looking forward to NEW Leaders, which is a great example of independent and state schools working together to share experience.”
It has been an enormous privilege to work with Northumbria University and so many leading women from across the region to support young women in the development of their skills. We look forward to planning our next NEW Leaders conference and will continue to champion our region’s young women and encourage them to be the courageous leaders of tomorrow in whatever career they choose to follow.