Rachel Anderson's column as seen in the Northern Echo 13th March
Last Week on International Women’s Day the spotlight was thrown on the abuse women who make any comment in the media get online from people who believe their keyboard and anonymity make them invincible. They think a few lines of prose will bring us to heel quaking at the godlike Thor firing intellectual thunderbolts from their IP address whilst eating crisps and scratching something sweaty.
Having written this Column for sometime, and been on that charming site Twitter, I haven’t been immune comments, it doesn’t bother me, but, by way of balance I thought I’d throw a spotlight on how well the North East can treat women. So, bear with me whilst this “Brainless cow who nos (yes, they actually spelt it like that) nothing” celebrates some of the good things we do in this region in terms of gender equality.
Firstly, our MPs, we have 27 in the North East and 14 of them are women which is 51% as it should be and, better than any other region. All our women MPs have suffered horrendous abuse online and yet all represent their constituents diligently and with absolute professionalism.
We have 14 Further Education Colleges in the Region and 50% of them have female Prinicpals dedicated to delivering outstanding vocational training.
Two of our largest businesses, Northumbrian Water and Virgin Money are run by women, the regional editors of our daily newspapers are women. Of the 12 Local Authorities, by May, 5 will have female Chief Executives (so a little way to go there) and both Local Enterprise Partnerships are run by women.
OK, so there are still a few areas where women are underrepresented, the Universities and the wider business community are two. We still need to do more to encourage girls into STEM and have more support for balancing work and family life for both sexes. We also need to be a serious discussion about the level of criticism women receive for their career and family choices, whatever their choice.
However, my point is that the North East, which has traditionally been a macho industrial region, can hold its head high when it comes to supporting women. Whilst it is obviously not all down to gender balance, our current social climate has brought us to some of the best economic results since the industrial boom at the turn of the last Century.
So, the next time a woman sticks her head above the parapet who knows where support and encouragement rather than abuse can take this region.