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Home » Women in STEM » Culturally diverse climate solutions company empowering women in STEM

Caitríona Sheridan

Senior Engineer, Bord na Móna

Caroline Martins

Electrical Engineer, Bord na Móna

Lisa McEntee

Forward Trading Lead, Bord na Móna

Sharon Doyle

Head of HR & Corporate Affairs, Bord na Móna

An Irish climate solutions company is making strides in their commitment to the green economy, with a strong culture of inclusivity and opportunity for women working in STEM.

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields have traditionally been dominated by men. Women have faced considerable barriers to entry, from historical societal expectations and limited access to education to the more contemporary issue of workplace discrimination.

Empowering women in STEM careers

However, the topic of women in STEM is quickly becoming the talking point of the moment, with the culture of many organisations changing to not only increase female uptake of roles but to actively support, encourage and empower women to thrive in this career environment.

Bord na Móna is doing exactly that — creating equal opportunities for women in STEM, while at the same time making strides to transform their company ethos to become a force in the space of renewable energy and positive environmental ambition.

They are an Irish climate solutions company operating four business units focused on renewable energy, infrastructure and delivery of renewable power, rehabilitating peatlands, waste management and waste processing. Historically focused on peat extraction for fuel and energy production, the company has seen a seismic shift in priorities in recent years, with a renewed commitment to sustainability and the green economy.

Fostering a positive company culture

Through effective leadership, a culture of inclusivity and strong team communication, Bord na Móna has become a culturally diverse organisation where shared values, beliefs and attitudes drive their goals and ambitions.

Sharon Doyle, Head of HR and Corporate Affairs, speaks on this very topic as the first female head of HR in the company. “A good company culture is about shared values, beliefs and attitudes, and we have made a shared decision to make climate solutions and sustainability at the heart of everything we do.”

For Doyle, teamwork and collaboration are key. To deliver on the company’s strategies, teams healthily challenge each other. “We have had a rapid five years of change where our company is now fully sustainability-focused. With that change, we have seen a huge culture shift; our workforce is younger, more diverse, dynamic and with a much higher female representation,” she says.

Supporting women’s success in STEM

Recently, one of Bord na Móna’s female engineers led the delivery of a wind farm project, highlighting to other female project managers and engineers within the company that opportunities are available for them to lead.

With a strong culture of helping women within STEM to navigate their careers, the company provides them with the support, mentorship, confidence, encouragement and opportunity to achieve their goals.

With internal policies allowing for flexible working arrangements, an education support programme and recruitment practices that embrace a diverse range of employees, female talent within the organisation are being given the tools they need to succeed. It should come as no surprise that Bord na Móna has achieved the KeepWell Mark accreditation from Ibec, silver accreditation from the Irish Centre of Diversity and is currently on the Great Place to Work journey.

A good company culture is about shared values, beliefs and attitudes,

Sharon Doyle, Head of HR & Corporate Affairs (Chief People Officer), Bord na Móna

Why we need STEM role models

Caroline Martins, an Electrical Engineer at Bord na Móna, spoke about the importance of having a strong female role model in fellow countrywoman and prominent Brazilian scientist Beatriz Alvarenga, a physicist and educator who made significant contributions to her field.

Martins describes Alvarenga as being ahead of her time: “She was the first woman in her college to do civil engineering and the first woman to teach physics in my city. She wrote all of the physics textbooks I used throughout high school.” Martins had the opportunity to meet Alvarenga when she visited her school to show the children ‘how amazing physics could be.’

“She had a personal lab inside her house where she would teach school groups; she kept doing this until she was over 90 years old. She made physics more accessible, and she inspired the younger generation.” As a result, when it was time to decide what to do at college, Martins had the confidence to pursue engineering, regardless of the fact none of her female friends were going into the field.

Today, Martins has the privilege to inspire the next generation of women as she attends career events and workshops across Ireland to guide students’ knowledge of STEM careers, the challenges involved and the opportunities available to them.

The importance of mentorship

Lisa McEntee, Forward Trading Lead at Bord na Móna, says her mother was her first role model and mentor, who encouraged her to go for a one-week women in STEM residential course. This has since turned into a PhD in chemistry and multiple roles as a woman in STEM.

“I have had many strong informal mentors throughout my career; a conversation with one such mentor changed the entire trajectory of my career. We had a conversation about the potential challenges of the glass ceiling working as a woman in STEM, and she encouraged me to go for my PhD early in my career.”

The introduction of female mentoring academies and a 12-month programme have seen many female employees not only gain confidence but flourish in their roles. “I had a mentor through the Bord na Móna female mentoring programme who was instrumental in helping me regain my career focus following a change in roles. She helped me not only professionally, but personally, helping me to regain focus on my professional goals and development,” says McEntee.

Networking and encouragement with allyship

“Well-respected mentees and allies have sought out and created opportunities for me through networking and encouragement, and they have taken action on our discussions. They make sure everyone in the room is heard, equal and supported.”

Both McEntee and Martins also stressed the strong male mentors they have had throughout their careers, who are always encouraging of the opportunities available to them, supporting a culture for female success throughout the organisation as a whole.

Pursuing a career in STEM

As a teenager, Caitríona Sheridan, Senior Engineer, was always interested in maths and physics. She liked solving problems and indirectly helping people. “The biggest challenge is having the confidence in your ability in a predominantly male-dominated industry.”

As her advice to young people, she says: “Believe in yourselves; be curious; and ask questions. I am fortunate in my role and that I work for a company that aligns with my values, which makes the role easier and more fulfilling. I get to understand new technologies and how we can implement them. I work on the next generation of renewable energies across Ireland, and I work with a lot of really great people.”

There are many, varied opportunities across the organisation — not only in STEM-specific roles but across finance, legal and even archaeology.

Collaboration boosts renewable energy

With the recent announcement of a strategic collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS), which will see AWS become the first business to join the Bord na Móna Energy Park in the Midlands, the future is bright. The company is delivering a first-of-its-kind, renewable energy solution for large companies to decarbonise their operations within Ireland, and they need new talent to keep up with the growing needs of the organisation.

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