Students were taught the crucial ‘three Cs of networking’ at a dynamic workshop designed to empower and inspire an all-female audience last week. The Power of Women (PoW) Campaign – a regional initiative aimed at raising the aspirations of young people and promoting inclusivity and equality for all – delivered the two-hour interactive session, with a panel of almost 20 prominent, female business leaders and professionals on hand to advise the group of 40 students.

PoW’s Head of Operations Claire Preston, the former commercial director of North Yorkshire Education Services who has a wealth of experience in networking, led the event, which included discussions with panel members, a networking carousel and an insightful Q&A session.

Ms Preston, the first Tees Businesswoman of the Year in 2018, spoke of the ‘three Cs of networking’ – confidence, curiosity, and connections. She emphasised the importance of building confidence, encouraging students to push themselves out of their comfort zones; spoke of the significance of curiosity, urging attendees to explore new opportunities; and stressed the value of building meaningful connections, both in business and in life. ‘The power of networking cannot be understated in terms of how much it will enhance your opportunities and your futures. Many successful people harness the power of networking throughout their careers to elevate their position,’ she told our students.

Erin Mclone, who studies Media Studies, English Literature and Geography, said the workshop provided students with vital skills that aren’t taught in the classroom. ‘I came away with new insight on what it means to be empowered, and I feel grateful to the organisation for championing successful women in my local area, I feel as though I’ve gained some really useful skills for the future.’

Among those attending from PoW were Lily Brothwell, Business Operations Manager at Middlesbrough-based engineering firm Intelect; Sunny Chatha, CEO and founder of executive personal and virtual assistant service Ideal PA; strategic consultant Kerrin Wilson, who had a 30 year career in the police and was awarded the prestigious Queen’s Police Medal for helping develop women and people from minority backgrounds in policing; and Darlington-based chartered marketer Laura Ryan, founder of consultancy Lavenpark and global chair of Meat Business Women, a professional community for women working across the meat industry.

Grace Gayle, who studies Politics, Film Studies and Creative Media, said: ‘All the women who came were so helpful and empowering, I left the event with confidence gained and connections made.’

PoW was founded by the late Professor Jane Turner OBE who, until her passing in 2021, was the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Engagement at Teesside University, and a gender champion for the university. Her vision was to help improve the lives of young people in the Tees Valley and beyond, motivated by Plan UK’s 2016 report that ranked Middlesbrough as the ‘worst place to grow up a girl’ in England and Wales.

The workshop was organised by Jodie Freeman, Course Leader for Media, who said the PoW women made a lasting impression on students. ‘PoW is a such a great initiative that fosters the empowerment of women and helps equip them with the skills and confidence needed to excel in their chosen fields. That sense of empowerment among our students was almost tangible, and I’m so grateful to all the inspirational women who gave their time to help our students – I believe events like these are instrumental in shaping the strong female leaders of tomorrow.’