Women Victims of Divide and Conquer; Strong Role Models, a Belief They Can Succeed and Learning the Rules of the Game Early Can Help Young Women Achieve Their Ambitions and Create the North East's Next Generation of Leaders. Karen Dent Speaks to Some of the Women Who Will Be Inspiring, Informing and Motivating Teenagers at a Special Event Later This Month

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YOUNG women make up a bigger proportion of graduates than young men and employers are recruiting an equal number of males and females from university into the workplace.

But after that, the number of women in the boardroom and in Parliament plummets. Something is going wrong to stop young women achieving their full potential.

"The figures show at the minute young girls are outdoing boys at school. Young women are represent 57% of graduates and graduate employers are recruiting almost equal numbers of men and women into graduate roles," says Professor Sharon Mavin, associate Dean at Newcastle Business School.

"One of the contradictions is while there's the input - we have more well qualified young women who are now being recruited - their representation is not being reflected in senior leadership roles. On average, women are only represented on the boards of about 10% of FTSE-100 companies and they make up 20% of Members of Parliament." Prof Mavin will be addressing some of the issues she considers to be at the root of the problem in her presentation to the North East Women (New) Leaders conference at the Business School on April 24.

An audience of more than 500 of the North East's most promising 16 to 18-year-olds will be attending the event, which will also hear from last year's Apprentice finalist Helen Speight, and speakers including One North East chairman Margaret Fay, Loran Moran from Northern Recruitment Group, CBI regional director Sarah Green and Nickie Gott, a former North East Woman Entrepreneur of the Year.

The way women are depicted in the media will be at the heart of Prof Mavin and Ms Speight's presentation, The Devil Doesn't Always Wear Prada.

They will be using TV and film characters to demonstrate to teenagers the world they face when they leave education.

"The Devil Wears Prada actually constructs the Meryl Streep character as 'hell on heels' and they don't construct male character in the media in a similar way," said Prof Mavin.

"The Devil Wears Prada also sets up the women versus women agenda - the divide and conquer approach.

There is not question of the men's clubs and networks being strong but in the media, they construct that women are competing against each other.

"Look at Friends - Monica is a fairly competitive woman. But competitive women in the media are almost always portrayed as mean or a little ineffectual - compulsive, OCD, a bit nuts.

"We still have gender stereotypes about what makes an effective leader. …