A few years ago I did an interview for The Northern Niche on how coming from the North hasn’t held me back in life. Today is International Day of the Girl and it is a key global moment to celebrate the power of girls and highlight the barriers they face. I thought I’d re share my interview to inspire any other Northern Girl’s who might have been told (wrongly) that coming from the North is a barrier to them – it most certainly isn’t.
Hi, I am Claire Gregory and I am a fitness entrepreneur and mum of two, specialising in Pre & Post Natal exercise and well-being. I am a fierce opponent of the fad diet culture and passionate about promoting a healthy body and mind over weight loss and dress sizes. Its my mission to help women put the fun back into physical activity and to change their mindset to embrace what you can gain by exercising as oppose to what you want to lose.
What did you love about growing up in the North?
I loved growing up in a town with a real community feel to it. I loved playing out in the street, hearing the roar from the old Ayresome Park and listening to Ali Brownlee going wild on the radio when Middlesbrough scored.
I loved that we could be anywhere within a short drive – the beach, the countryside, the town centre, the hills…… so many beautiful places on our doorstep.
Did you have any challenges growing up in the North?
I found it hard finding employment in the field I wanted to work in when I finished university. I had studied Sports Biomechanics and at the time, dreamed of working in elite sport as athlete support. There were very few opportunities for paid positions within high level sports in the North East at the time and with the legacy of the Manchester Commonwealth Games, I felt that my best option at the time was to move across to the North West.
Have you or do you face any challenges being female?
I am incredibly lucky to have not had to deal with any challenges so far based on my gender both growing up as a girl in the north and currently as an entrepreneur in the business world. However, im not naïve enough to think its not happening around me to other women. I do believe this year is going to be a year of Change and I’m optimistic about the future for my daughters.
What or who inspired your journey to where you are now?
I grew up in a family filled with strong women and strong (supportive) men and so was constantly told and encouraged that I could do absolutely anything I wanted to and that they would support me to get there. My mam has been such a strong female role model in my life, raising four children while my dad worked offshore when we were little, working full time once we were in school and going back to night school at college to gain further qualifications to progress in her career.
She was always so driven and motivated and looking back, we had no idea at the time how hard it must have been for her. I always remember her saying to us when we were younger “You can be absolutely anything you want to be” and me replying “What about an astronaut”, thinking she would laugh and tell me to be sensible. Instead she replied, “If you really want to be an Astronaut, me and your dad will do everything to make sure you are the first woman on the moon”.
What advice would you to give to girls growing up in the North?
Not to believe that you can only achieve big things if you live South of the Watford gap. The North is thriving in the business world and there are so many new opportunities on the horizon. Believe in yourself and your ability to succeed in whatever path you choose. Its not about where you come from – its all about where you are going.
How to do think we can encourage more young people about the importance of gender equality?
I think its got to start from a young age in primary schools – not necessarily through teaching about gender equality, more so about applying it in everyday practice eg not referring to gender stereotyped careers. I think its really important to be exposed to strong role models (men and women) from a young age and to have those discussions at home that we had, that anyone can be anything if they are prepared to work for it – not whether you’re a man or woman.
Tell us some of your favourite Northern places.
Saltburn Beach is probably my favourite place when I go back home. I have such fond memories of spending time there as a child and more recently, taking my young children there also.
Who are your favourite Northern people (alive or dead?)
Ali Brownlee, Katherine Copeland, Steve Gibson, Steph McGovern, Jeff Stelling, Liz Carling
Explain your love of the North in one sentence.
“We built the world……every metropolis came from Ironopolis”
What would you like to see the #ThisNorthernGirlCan movement do?
Raise awareness of the amazing women from the North that have gone one to achieve success – in many aspects of life, not just in business. Get schools involved and have girls and boys engage with projects around gender equality and self confidence.