My pledge to put women and girls at the heart of a new Tees

Women and girls will thrive on the Tees if I am elected mayor. That is my pledge to you all on International Womens Day.

I am campaigning to be become the first female metro mayor in May’s elections. That would be a massive breakthrough moment for women in politics and if I succeed then I promise to make sure women and girls get the chance to flourish in a reshaped region fit for the future.

And I will put women centre-stage in politics in the Tees Valley with policies geared to helping women to succeed in every sphere of work and life and with a chance to shape the agenda.

I have set out a five point plan to help women in practical ways to deal with the obstacles to progress including flexible working, tech training to bridge the skills gap, support for new businesses and a womens’ assembly to help shape local policies that make a difference.

Women who work full-time get paid on average £5,800 a year less than men. We still have employers who pay women less, even when they do the same job as their male counterparts. And girls are excluded from jobs in the new high-tech jobs that will be so important to rebuilding the area ready for the green industrial revolution.

In the Tees Valley a large part of the current economic growth strategy is based on STEM careers - yet we have 50% fewer than the national average of women in those roles in the Tees Valley at 12.9% compared with 24% nationally. So 87% of women are not being catered for in new jobs creation.

Despite this, women’s voices often go unheard in decision-making, which is something I intend to change, for good. As one of the UK’s first female Metro Mayors, I will be committed to ensuring women and girls achieve.

I count myself as an ordinary Teesside lass but alongside a team of passionate and committed women, we have achieved extraordinary things. That’s why I want to inspire other women to achieve big things for themselves. I know women in this area have the ideas and energy to achieve great things for themselves and society. As the winner of the Sunday Times and Bank of Scotland social entrepreneur of the year award, having founded the innovative A Way Out Charity, I know what it takes to start something from scratch.

I have led regeneration projects in Stockton and elsewhere in the North East, set up festivals and community projects, developed and influenced policies around addiction, worked on industrial strategy and job creation at a local, regional and national level. I understand the big picture. I know what we need to succeed.

My five priorities for women on Teesside are:

  • “Get on Scheme” for women - Flexible funding and support scheme targeted at women to start a new business or take up a new vocation, particularly where there are skills gaps such as STEM. Financial support will be as simple and flexible, from buying equipment or materials to paying for child care.

  • Launch Tees Valley ‘Level Up’ Campaign, promoting traditionally male jobs to women and working with local businesses to provide scholarships and incentives to women who chose these careers.

  • Set up Tech Mums Teesside – a programme to encourage women to get into tech and upskill women into the digital workplace. We have a big skills gap in tech in the Tees Valley and many of these jobs would and could be filled by women who get the right training and support.

  • Women in the Workplace promote good working practices that help women fill their full potential in the workplace – via a Good Work Charter which will encourage flexible working arrangements that support parents’ childcare responsibilities; fair pay policies that close the gender pay gap; gender balance in senior roles and management boards

  • A Women’s Assembly – set up an equalities board that scrutinises the work of the combined authority and shapes the economic strategy for the region, setting goals and targets for women’s levelling up and ensures we have a strategy of jobs for women

I want to make a difference. I want to create a framework to unleash the energy and ambition I know there is in this area. Women and girls will thrive on the Tees under my leadership.

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