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Business & Economy

Women business leaders leave students beaming

Women from some of Sunderland’s leading employers joined forces last month, to inspire the next generation of talent to consider careers in business.

Staff from Knight Frank, Ocado, Penshaw View and Sunderland City Council hosted a Q&A session with a class of female students from Thornhill Academy, giving them an insight into their roles and the challenges they’ve faced when climbing the career ladder.

The event was hosted by The Girls’ Network, a not-for-profit organisation which aims to inspire and empower girls aged 14 to 19 by connecting them to a mentor and a network of professional female role models.

Each of the students participate in the initiative inside and outside of school and college hours and receive their own mentor, providing them with one-to-one support and advice as they plan for their future careers and smash through any glass ceilings above them.

Stacey Wagstaff, senior network manager at The Girls’​ Network, said: “The network empowers and inspires young girls in the region by providing them with professional female role models who they can relate to and talk to about their future, especially post-covid.

“Our message is very much that the future isn’t cancelled, and our mentors help drive home that message by helping them focus on their futures and help give them the confidence to embrace the opportunities that come their way.”

She added: “To have the women from Ocado, Knight Frank, Penshaw View and Sunderland City Council join us for the event at The Beam was fantastic and the girls absolutely loved it.

“They got to hear from a range of professionals – who they wouldn’t usually meet – about how they started and developed their careers, what they enjoy about their roles and ask the questions they really wanted answers to.”

Kelly Swinney, customer services general manager at Ocado, said: “Ocado signed up to The Girls’ Network as part of our commitment to create a workplace with inclusivity and work-life balance at its core and we were thrilled to be asked to speak at the event.

“I’ve been involved in The Girls’ Network previously and know just how much of a great cause it is. Initiatives like this play a key role in inspiring the next generation of talent to explore careers in business and it was fantastic to see how enthusiastic the girls were about their futures, especially after such a turbulent 18 months.”

Kay Fairbairn, client relationship manager at Penshaw View, said: “As soon as we heard about The Girls’ Network, we wanted to be involved as it links perfectly to our ethos of championing training and apprenticeships.

“As a company born and bred in Sunderland, we are passionate about the local area, be it creating opportunities for local people or promoting the region whenever possible, so it was great to speak at the event and hopefully inspire the girls to follow their dreams and realise that they can tread any path they wish.”


For more information on The Girls’ Network, visit:


For more information on The Beam, visit: