Why the opportunities in STEM have never been better
Women in STEM Yvonne Coughlan and Róisín Mossop have 20 years’ experience, in providing the nation’s businesses and homes with electricity. They say the time to join STEM has never been better.
- Yvonne Coughlan
- Róisín Mossop
Head of Near Time Operations
A recent UNESCO study into female participation in STEM occupations outlined how too many girls are held back by discrimination, biases, social norms and expectations that inﬂuence the subjects they study – a concern Yvonne and EirGrid share. “It’s important to show young girls the potential within the industry and the range of opportunity,” she says. “There are fewer obvious female role models in this industry so, for young girls, it’s important to build awareness of what a STEM role actually involves from an early age.” Yvonne has worked across a variety of roles during her time at EirGrid, ranging from technical analysis of the electricity grid, through leading teams to come up with ways to connect new wind farms and generators to the grid and to ensure a secure supply of electricity for customers. “I told myself I would move on if the work got boring, but it didn’t. It is so varied and seeing the tangible results of your efforts in providing electricity for homes and businesses in Ireland is very rewarding,” says Yvonne.
Improvement in diversity
Yvonne believes gender balance is changing in the industry, and the days of being the only woman in a meeting are now in the past. “Diversity is so important for bringing new perspectives, improving performance and reducing groupthink. It’s a huge consideration for my team. It comes in many forms: gender, background, personality type, different thought processes... it’s what we strive for,” says Yvonne.
Support for women returners in industry
Yvonne is positive about the support women can and should receive when returning to work. For example, EirGrid has recently launched a new programme to help women back from maternity leave. The role of the organisation in helping in this transitionary phase is extremely important; supporting women through the transition paves the way for a smooth re-integration, according to Yvonne.
Róisín joined EirGrid in 2015 and is relatively new to the industry. Despite this, she has already achieved valuable career experiences, such as being put forward for a number of professional development courses, and spending a six-month rotation at National Grid UK. “You are constantly working with change and have to be able to adapt. You have the opportunity to get out of your comfort zone yet feel supported. It’s an exciting place to be,” she says.
Advice for graduates
Her advice for future graduates looking for similar early career success and satisfaction, is to fully consider your strengths, passions and core values. “I started looking for the end goal of contributing to a more sustainable, renewable future for Ireland. I looked at companies that can help that problem and I found one in EirGrid. Look at your strengths and follow your passions,” says Róisín. Róisín is a keen advocate for STEM studies and implores others to see the increasing value of the sector. “Right now, if you choose an engineering career, you can shape the future. We’re in a space where technology is increasingly integrated in our daily lives. The contributions that we – as engineers – make in this sphere, will deﬁne where we are heading as a world,” she says. “The opportunities are signiﬁcant.”