Conference theme – ‘supercharge your future’

Female leaders from the world of business, education, technology, journalism and the arts shared their knowledge and expertise with over 450 young women from schools across the region during the third North East Women (NEW) Leaders conference, hosted by Newcastle High School for Girls in partnership with Northumbria University on Wednesday 27 September.   The Conference is also supported by lead sponsor North East LEP as part of its NE Ambition strategy.

The aim of the event was 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 (Arts) and Jacqueline De Rojas (Technology) were joined by high ranking women including our own Mrs French, 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.

Five partner schools joined us to take part in this year’s event, St Mary’s Catholic High School in Newcastle, King Edward V1 School, Morpeth, Ponteland High, Whitburn Academy and Heaton Manor.  Over 450 girls from the Sixth Forms of these schools, Years 12 and 13, were in attendance.

The girls enjoyed keynote speeches from Jacqueline de Rojas, President of Tech UK named in ‘Europe’s Inspiring Fifty’, most inspiring female role models for 2017 as well as Kate Denby, Executive Director of Northern Stage.

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 career.

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.”

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