INSPIRATIONAL speeches have been given at a conference aimed at addressing the barriers working class women face.

Over 150 delegates attended the East Durham Trust event to listen to keynote speakers including best-selling author Lynsey Hanley and Jo Farrell, the first woman to hold the post of Chief Constable in 180 years of the Constabulary’s existence in County Durham.

The Girl Done Good was held at East Durham College in Peterlee on Friday to explore the issue of social mobility as part of the charity’s annual conference.

Mrs Farrell told the audience about her experience, including the highs and lows of a career which had shaped her vision of policing and seen her rise from a beat officer in Cambridge to become the first female chief constable of Durham in the 180-year history of the force.

She said: “The theme of the day was The Girl Done Good, so I talked about my journey from childhood to becoming chief constable.

“I was particularly keen to try to inspire young women and to enthuse people about taking those opportunities that are out there, not just in policing but in all walks of life.

“I want to encourage people, particularly teenage girls, into working towards their ambitions and realising their full potential.”

She went on to outline some of the innovative work which the police have been carrying out in east Durham including Young Heroes: an awards scheme set up to honour young people who are making a positive difference in their community; Seaham Boxing Club, which opened in April with police support and has contributed to a 39 per cent fall in youth antisocial behaviour in the town this year and Peterlee Project Fitness, an initiative set to be launched later this month which will tackle antisocial behaviour through organised team sports.

Delegates also heard from Birmingham-born best-selling writer Lynsey Hanley, author of Estates: an Intimate History and Respectable: Crossing the Class Divide.

She said: “What I wanted people to hear today is that if they want to achieve things in life, but it is not smooth, and they are having difficulty in processing all of the different factors in their life, in terms of their background, then it is not their fault.

“Class is the overriding factor in all of this. While all individuals can experience problems with social mobility, it tends to be the working class. There is not a lot of downward mobility.”

The conference is the largest annual gathering for the voluntary and charity sector in the area and included sets from performers.

Trust chief executive Malcolm Fallow said: “There are many barriers facing young people from working class backgrounds, particularly young women, but there are also countless examples of where these barriers have been overcome and role models have emerged.”