Don’t Feel Sad For Boro Girls

Megan Lillie, Award Winning Blogger: #ThisNorthernGirlCan

Don’t feel sad for Boro girls – feel sad for girls the world over that in the 21st century we still need to be having discussions like those that hit the press last week. When Declan and I started this blog just four short weeks ago one of the things we hoped to talk about were Northern issues. Well, here goes — I’ve got my first chance.

I’m born and bred in Teesside and have worked in Middlesbrough most of my life with stints in cities across the UK including London, Edinburgh and Dublin. Always coming back! I’ve also worked in some of the ‘worst places to be a girl’ too that were mentioned in the State of Girl’s Rights in the Guardian’s article like Liverpool and Hull. As a woman there have been times when I’ve felt unsafe everywhere I’ve worked and travelled but I had to say my heart sank when I saw Middlesbrough singled out (again) for more negative publicity. We never seem to get much good PR do we?

While it’s very important to carry out studies like this it’s also vital that we see it for what it is. Girls still aren’t getting access to everything they should and it’s not always about deprivation or lack of throwing money at something.

I work in marketing for one of the largest law firms in the North East and from the news that floods my timeline every single day it’s clear to see sexual harassment, FGM, gender stereotyping in workplaces and online harassment on social media is rife and again to be clear its not just Middlesbrough or Teesside or even the UK that girls and women still struggle — it’s world wide. So lets look at the bigger picture here.

Before anyone says I’ve jumped on the feminist band wagon in my old age well all I can say is-

Why the hell not?

Sometimes you just have to speak out when something pulls on your heart strings and why shouldn’t I shout out when I feel the younger generation is being done down? Sometimes that’s the only way things get sorted and how the potential for possibilty and improvement is lead. I don’t have any daughters but I have two young sons who I’ve brought up to understand that women are their equals. They are always appalled that gender inequality is even an issue. I love that they are like that and I haven’t had to try even remotely hard to make them understand that women struggle. They just get it and I know will champion anyone who is the under dog .. and that goes for male as well as female.

I’ve been building a career for myself for over 35 years now and I’ve re-invented myself a couple of times throughtout those years. I’ve always been pretty aspirational and motivated with a ‘can do’ attitude. I went to decent local schools. We didn’t have lots of money as my mum was widowed when I was only nine years old. I had some relatives who were business owners who I looked up to and everyone worked. I’ve never once thought to myself;

I can’t do that I’m from Teesside!

While I was thinking of putting my thoughts down, the women’s sports campaign from last year sprung to mind; #ThisGirlCan. We’ve seen how powerful social media can be with the use of the fantastic hashtag; #girlwhogrewupinboro started by Julie Martin, owner of successful, artisan food company, Pie Jackers. It got me thinking — how could we spread it further because there are more Northern cities in the report that didn’t make the grade?

I’ve decided to introduce the hashtag #ThisNorthernGirlCan and whoever gets behind it with me together we will share the love to let the world know that as women of the North ( young and older) we don’t want pity or sadness — we want action!

In the meantime, I thought I would ask some of my gorgeous gal pals that were the target audience used in the research to rally round and share their stories. I feel mighty proud to know these lovely,young women. They are paying it forward.

Megan Lillie, Award Winning Blogger: #ThisNorthernGirlCan

I got involved with #GirlWhoGrewUpInBoro because I believe every single thing that it stands for. I loved how it was us Boro women standing up for ourselves, putting our feet down to the media and telling them how it really is. Not all successful women have to be from a ‘historic market town’. ‘These issues don’t stop at Middlesbrough, there are girls all over the North who are being slated by false articles in the media… Let’s show them that #ThisNorthernGirlCan

Abi Dennison – Sunday Girl Magazine Founder: #ThisNorthernGirlCan

I think it’s brilliant that we have so much success in Middlesbrough. I feel like the North East has become such a lovely creative hub and it’s so nice to be apart of a supportive community; as soon as people find out the back story of Sunday Girl they seem to become a lot more engaged by it than if I was a London girl with a wealthy background! It’s really inspiring and I really hope that more girls who want to follow their dream think that ‘if they can do it, I can’ which is always a good mantra to stick by: #ThisNorthernGirlCan

Jess Doyle, Occupational Therapist: #ThisNorthernGirlCan

My town has been voted the worst place in the UK to live with little opportunity for women and is forever being brought down in the press. Feel sorry for me? No need… I love it here. Middlesbrough has provided me with amazing opportunities! I have 12 GCSE’s 1 AS Level, 3 A levels and a first-class BSc honours degree. I have a great job as part of the Occupational Therapy team at a psychiatric hospital, paid much more than minimum wage. I play for an elite netball team, enjoy running and cycling in the beautiful countryside which is just 5 minutes away. I am surrounded by loving family and friends who too are well educated and inspirational people. When I want to let my hair down with my friends, we go to some beautiful quirky bars in town: #ThisNorthernGirlCan

Ellie Rees, Business Owner & Blogger: #ThisNorthernGirlCan

I was born here, raised here, educated here; work here, all by choice. I proudly call it my home. After leaving college with a great education & getting 4 A-levels, I went to university and completed an Hons Degree in Fashion Brand Management. All while setting up and running my online fashion blog, that to date has had over 100,000 readership. I have been recognised nationally by magazines, newspapers and brands for my hard work and dedication to the blogosphere. All before the age of 21: #ThisNorthernGirlCan

Get involved Northern girls young and old! I’d love to hear all about your achievements, hopes, aspirations and dreams in the comments or use #ThisNorthernGirlCan on your favourite platform and we’ll share.


  • I love this, the quotes made me feel proud! I remember being on holiday and when I said I was from Newcastle I’m sure they thought it was all about mining.

    I remember going to my uni interview and being told if you want a job in this industry you’ll have to move away, which wasn’t something I wanted to do.

    I was born and raised in Newcastle, got 13 GCSE’s, 2 AS levels, 2 A Levels, a 1st class BA degree from Sunderland uni, got my first design job 4 days after graduating at a global company and have recently walked straight into another job after my first interview. #ThisNorthernGirlCan

    Ami x

    • Stick to your guns when you believe you can do something, Ami. I’ve always loved it when throughout my life people have said or expected I can’t do something. It makes me even more steadfast in what I want to achieve! You sound like you are soaring 🙂 #ThisNorthernGirlCan

  • Great idea, northern lasses are badass! As one of the poorer regions in the country, you could say issues like gender inequality in the workplace can be further polarised. I was dismayed to hear a news report when my 1 year old was born, saying that women wouldn’t achieve pay equality until after she retires which is just obscene! Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks, Nyomi. I’m a big believer that we have to keep talking so things don’t get swept under the rug! #ThisNorthernGirlCan

  • I enjoyed reading your thoughts and the inspirational stories, which are just a handful of the many success stories across the North East. The stereotyping is very unfair so I hope your # spreads. I’m from a mining village in Northumberland and have lost count of the times people mention ‘flat caps and whippets’ when I tell them where I’m from! Similar to your story, there wasn’t lots of money but everyone seemed to work, business owners were respected. I now live on Wearside, which is a totally different Wearside, as in better, than the one portrayed (unfairly) in some polls! I remember my Careers Advisor saying if I wanted a career in Graphic Design I’d have to move away (similar to Ami’s comment) That wasn’t an option as I didn’t want to leave my mam who was disabled and widowed. I took a different career path and kept myself in constant employment after leaving school including setting up and running two businesses. Now, after recovering from a major health scare, I’m sowing the seeds for self employment once again, so #ThisNorthernGirlCan ?

    • Lovely to hear your story, June. Life’s a series of up and downs isn’t it? Perseverance and positivity is key. Young girls hearing/reading stories like yours — it can only help to inspire them 🙂 #ThisNorthernGirlCan

  • Great article Sharon.
    I’ve been a boro lass for 65 years and worked for 50 of them, first for other people and then having my own business. I didn’t go to uni. Just had a strong work ethic and knew if you wanted it, you had to work for it. There is such great talent in the area and it is so sad that we still get shot down in these studies. But girls- take it as a challenge and show em what Boro girls are made of.

  • We’re all about education and equality for everyone. I think you are right about media impressing on women to be a certain way. We need more Northern role models, Philip 🙂 #ThisNorthernGirlCan

  • We have a multitude of role models from Boro. I personally am extremely proud of numerous friends I grew up with. Professionals, business owners and parents – humour, respect, fairness and patience/time were their tools. They are more likely to navigate their media stereotypes with more of a raised eyebrow and a cheeky grin.
    Their stories I’m certain they’ll share.

    • Well said, Angela. I think the older Northern girls say and take it how it is but I really feel for the younger generation. They really need our help and support. Daily they have to watch while the media rolls out stereotypical personas that no real person can perpetuate. They need role models and more Northern ones at that.

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