As our #ThisNorthernGirlCan movement and use of the hashtag grows we wanted to start sharing inspirational stories, experiences from Northern women and men. We want to hear about and share all that Northern pride and passion.
Here’s our first …..
Q. Tell us a bit about yourself.
A. I’m Di Keller, a Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager at Sage. My passion is people and supporting people to reach their full potential. But mostly I’m a mum – that’s my favourite job!
Q. What did you love about growing up in the North?
A. The beaches. I love the beach and watching the sea ripple and bubble. It’s very hypnotising. I know there are beaches elsewhere, but I’m sure we have the best fish and chips in the North. Today I travel more with work especially in London, it makes me a robot, nobody smiles or talks and make me appreciate the North even more.
Q. Did you have any challenges growing up in the North?
A. I was extremely lucky, my dad made the brave move when he started his career. We lived in a town where everyone followed their father’s footsteps and joined the railway works. When that closed it devastated the town, I remember it well – a poem I wrote about it was published in the local newspaper – but I didn’t understand the full damaging effect this would have on families. My dad had chosen an engineering apprenticeship and my mum had her own business. I guess quite modern for their era.
Q. Have you or do you face any challenges being female?
A. Until I started doing this job, I guess I hadn’t really realised how many challenges I had faced and put it down to other influences. Not being able to return to my manager role after maternity leave with my company, I thought was the norm. Being referred to as ‘wife of’ when my husband was in the army, however compared to stories I hear from some people the challenges I’ve experienced as female have been nowhere near as limiting.
Q. What or who inspired your journey to where you are now?
My husband’s military career has probably been one of the biggest factors in who and what I am today. Being faced at a relatively young age that I may never see the man I love again, and worse being asked that question by my 5-year-old son was life changing for me. I’m not sure that has influenced where I am now, but it’s certainly gives me the courage to believe, ‘if no-one has died – then we can fix this’. My life and my experiences along the way have given me the courage to be who I am.
Q. What advice would you to give to girls growing up in the North?
My advice would be the same for girls and boys, if we’re going to nail diversity and inclusion, we must start this from as early an age as we can. The advice would be to do what you enjoy, take every opportunity you can. Look back only to learn but not to regret and grow from every experience. Believe in yourself and champion your every achievement. If they only listen to 50% of this they’ll do ok
Q. How to do think we can encourage more young people about the importance of gender equality?
I think we need to start this from an early age, but it will take a while to breakdown the gender stereotypes that have been created generationally. I have brought two gorgeous boys into the world and have tried at every opportunity to explain why it’s important for gender equality, but some of it is genetic and some driven by the influences of their older generations. Yes, they will still open the door for someone or offer their seat to someone older than them or a lady but they do understand the importance of treating everyone equally. We do have regular banter about my job, but deep down they do get it. They also both had pushchairs and dolls when they were toddlers!
Q. Tell us some of your favourite Northern places.
Oh my, I could talk for so long, but the diversity of what is on our doorstep is awesome. I love beaches, I love walking – Hadrian’s Wall is awesome! Equally, the hustle and bustle of Newcastle and all the transport links, from airports, roads and cycle tracks. I have all of this within a 40-minute drive. Oh, and home – my home is here.
Q. Who are your favourite Northern people (alive or dead?)
The Angel of the North! I love it and as soon as I see it in the trees I know I’m home. I’m inspired by lots of everyday Northerners – of course we all love Ant and Dec but in real terms the strong women I meet day in and day out are my inspiration.
Q. Explain your love of the North in one sentence.
It’s where my heart is, I feel warm and fuzzy.
Q. What would you like to see the #ThisNorthernGirlCan movement do?
I would like to support women to reach their full potential.
If you want to be become part of our growing #ThisNorthernGirlCan movement then you can join over 1,ooo like minded women and men in our Facebook group. We’d love to see you there!