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Teesside businesswomen say 'Go with your gut and follow your dreams'

Some of the most influential businesswomen in the North East have called for more Levelling Up to give women 'a seat at the table'.

To mark International Women’s Day Tees Valley Combined Authority came together with The Northern Echo for a panel discussion at Teesside International Airport.

The panel was Alison Fellows – Group Commercial Director of the Tees Valley Combined Authority; Yasmin Khan – Director of Halo Project Charity and Tees Valley LEP Member for Inclusive Growth; Chloe Clover – Co-Founder of Wander Films; Sharon Lane – Managing Director, Tees Components; Asma Shaffi – Principal of Prior Pursglove and Stockton Sixth Form College – part of the Tees Valley Collaborative Trust and Bibi Rodgers Hunt - Supply Chain Transformation and Sustainability Lead – Quorn Foods..

Read more: Teesside University celebrates International Women’s Day

Yasmin Khan said: “We keep referring to these level playing fields and the table, the table can’t function effectively if not everybody has a place on there and we can all be involved. So, I think it's about recognising that there are specific barriers that affect women and there is discrimination that impacts on their economic involvement. It's important to make sure that we focus on gender equality in all strategic plans and not just as a side arm.”

Alison Fellows: “Its important generally to have a whole range of skills and experiences around the board table. We’ve all got skills and its not about your linear CV and how many GCSEs and A-Levels you’ve got. We need to think about our abilities differently and then you will have a range of people round the table who think strategically differently and bring different ways of looking at things, different ways of communicating.”

Sharon Lane: “I think we really have to question some of those ingrained issues. We all need people to come into STEM, we’ve all got job vacancies, we’ve got skills shortages. I do believe that kids have to be locked into having STEM as an option at a young age, because as they get older they’ll more and more start to close down STEM as a choice.”

Asma Shaffi: “I think its fair to say that it’s a new learned culture for women to shout about their own achievements, we’re not always very good at doing that. We need to bring our role models to the front line and proudly share what we’ve achieved to inspire girls and young women.”

The Northern Echo: International Women's dayInternational Women's day

Bibi Rodgers Hunt: “The biggest issue that’s going to be facing us in the next few years is the climate crisis. It's going to affect all of us and its actually going to affect women and girls disproportionately because more women live in poverty.

"The other element is the infrastructure, its not just the abstract to make people want to be in that business, but actually making life easier around them. In manufacturing we tend to work shifts and that’s really hard for women who often bear the brunt of elder care and childcare.”

Yasmin Khan: “It’s really important to go with your gut, I think it’s a really good moral compass that I’ve used a lot in life. Where people have said there’s no opportunities to do that in the North East’, there will be opportunities, you just need to go out and look."

Chloe Clover: “I think what young people have to ask themselves is what do they really want to do? ‘Do I want to take a rocket into space? Do I want to design the rocket? Do I want to market the rocket?’ If you think about what you really want to do, if you dare to dream big, if you have those ambitions then you can do it. You get one crack, do something that you really want to do.”

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