The chairman of one of the North East’s best known companies is spearheading a campaign to get more women into the world of business.
Greggs chairman Ian Durant has spoken of his support for the 30% Club, an international organisation committed to achieving better gender balance at all levels in business.
As part of that campaign, he has spoken to female students at South Tyneside College to encourage the young women to consider careers in business.
The event was coordinated by Speakers for Schools, an independent charity founded by BBC journalist Robert Peston to help progress diversity from schoolroom to boardroom.
Currently, 23% of position positions on the boards of FTSE 100 companies are filled by women, up from a low of 12.6%.
At Greggs, a third of the nine-strong board are female, as are 70% of employees in the company as a whole.
Mr Durant told The Journal: “There has been a lot of emphasis lately on women in leadership positions in business, especially when it comes to FTSE 100 companies.
“But actually one of the main challenges involves encouraging women to get into business in first place, before they can go on to develop great careers.
“Hence, we will go into schools and colleges and talk with young women, presenting them with examples of women who have done that and been successful.”
Diversity in the workplace, he added, led to a stronger business, in which better decisions were made.
“There has been some change of the last 20 years and companies are now responding to their talent needs by becoming more flexible in working arrangements and creating a culture that encourages women in business,” he said.
“What we also want to do is to encourage students to think about the skills that they will need to develop.”
Also speaking at the event were Greggs’ people director Roisin Currie, head of retail (North) Gillian Long and Beverley Churchill, creative director at property investment firm Capco, where Mr Durant is also chairman.
Alison Maynard, principal of South Tyneside Professional and Vocational College said: “We are indebted to Ian, Roisin, Gillian and Beverley for their highly interesting and motivational talks. They provided the students with excellent insight into their careers and gave great pointers to the determination and drive, but also very human qualities, needed to get to the top in business.
“Women should be highly valued in any workplace and face no other barriers to success than men. The hugely successful careers enjoyed of our female speakers show that traits such as talent, hard work and initiative should be the determining factors – there should be no limitations due to gender.
“South Tyneside College strongly believes that women and men should be given opportunities equally, and it is important that our young students – be they male or female - know that they can succeed if they work hard enough and are ambitious.”
Also in attendance were students from St Wilfrid’s RC College and Mortimer Community College, both in South Shields.