This week in the week that is important to women everywhere we are celebrating our home grown role models and introducing our Tees Valley #ThisNorthernGirlCan ambassadors. Today I have pleasure in introducing the #ThisNorthernGirlCan interview with Caroline Theobald.
Q. Tell us a bit about yourself.
A. Hello! My name is Caroline – I’m an honorary Geordie/Northumbrian: a storyteller, facilitator and connector, mum and granny! Passionate about education and entrepreneurship I’m also an honorary diplomat (Sweden) and have a bee in my bonnet about the need for more responsible and ethical business practice.
Q. What have you loved about growing up in the North?
A. I spent my childhood in the South East. I was at University at York and have been fighting my way back to the Northern region ever since. The best decision I ever made (and the greatest education this ageing yuppie ever had) was to marry a Geordie Fisherman. He died tragically young (46) of a massive heart-attack at sea not having made a will so I went to work and juggled that with the needs of two small children. We pulled through – although it wasn’t always easy – the children are happy and settled adults and I’m now a proud granny of three.
Q. Have you or do you face any challenges being female?
A. When I first moved up to the North East to work (and before I met my late husband) I found it both different and difficult. I’d been engaged to manage a North East environmental arts charity, but I had to hire a male assistant to set up appointments!! Rather different from my high-achieving professional life in London. Thank goodness things have changed a bit over the last 30 years! On the positive side the North East business and social community was far more generous and welcoming than the South. I was welcomed into both with open arms and, thanks to much needed place-based education from Common Purpose and my husband and his family was able to establish and run a successful networking business (Bridge Club Ltd) focused on helping early stage companies meet the people they needed to grow their businesses.
Q. What or who inspired your journey to where you are now?
A. This apple didn’t fall far from the tree. I took inspiration from both my parents: my mum and her ambition and ability to bring up a well-rounded family; and my dad, who’s business mantra was ‘do the right thing for the right reason’ – or try to. Family is very important to me, when I was younger I got that wrong. I thought it was more important to aspire and achieve without defining first what success meant to me. My short life with Alan and the highs and lows of bringing up children as a single parent showed me that when all comes to all it’s family and true friends that endure. Doing the right thing for the right reason is connected to that: we all know that the decisions we take have an impact and I’ve learned to think hard about my choices (at work or at home).
Q. What advice would you to give to girls growing up in the North?
A. Be yourself and be as clear as you can what life-success means to you. Where I come from (emotionally) is that it’s important to work hard and take responsibility for your actions and to be brave and fight for what you want. I’ve been a victim of corporate bullying – I allowed myself to be bullied. What I learnt from that is that no one will stand up for you if you’re not prepared to stand up for yourself, but in an assertive not an aggressive way. My other advice is that if you think you can, or if you think you can’t both are equally true. I’ve spent my adult life trying to persuade /influence people that they can.
Q. How do you think we can encourage more young people about the importance of gender equality?
A. In my view it doesn’t matter who you are, what age you are, where you come from, your religion, creed or gender you should be treated equally. Respect and tolerance are important words to me, but if you want to be treated equally you need to respect others in the same way. Equality is a two way process – treat others as you’d like to be treated yourself, but in terms of gender equality girls need to stand up for themselves. I didn’t and that lack of self-respect rebounded.
Q. Tell us some of your favourite Northern places.
A. The countryside, the heritage, the sea and the sky. The sky is why I moved to the North East in the first place – it reminds me of Africa which is where some of my family are from.
Q. Who are your favourite Northern people (alive or dead?)
A. Stephenson because he brought the world freedom of movement; Armstrong because of electricity and light; Ellen Wilkinson MP because of her commitment to social justice; support of the Jarrow Crusade and achievement in raising the school-leaving age to 15.
Q. Explain your love of the North in one sentence.
A. I love its people who extend welcome, warmth, humour and honesty – and it’s fabulous land, sea and skyscapes.
Q. What would you like to see the #ThisNorthernGirlCan movement do?
A. I’d like to see each campaign member encourage at least one young woman to think that she can (achieve her ambition, take a bold career move, leave a difficult relationship, challenge abusive behaviour) – and give her the confidence and support to do that.
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