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Home » Women in STEM » Women engineers aim for low-carbon electricity systems future

Emma Fagan

Principal Engineer, Future Operations, EirGrid

Heather Spain

Graduate Engineer, Eirgrid

The diverse skillsets of women in STEM have never been more important in decarbonising energy, as two engineers in the organisation that develops, manages and operates the electricity grid explain.

Emma Fagan and Heather Spain are engineers in EirGrid at different points in their careers, with a passion for doing their part to tackle climate change.

Purpose in power systems work

“We can’t say that our work isn’t meaningful,” Spain points out. She’s a graduate working on a portfolio management team, making sure the projects required to decarbonise the electricity system remain on track.

Fagan, meanwhile, has over 25 years of experience working in power systems and is currently Principal Engineer in Future Operations. The team she leads is studying, trialling and implementing operational changes to bring more renewables onto the grid, which is an extremely complex task.

“We have set out step by step what we need to do to meet the Government’s ambitious targets. Seeing the different deliverables being achieved is really rewarding,” she says.

Importance of women role models

Both Fagan and Spain studied Mechanical Engineering at University College Dublin. They both cite a good gender balance in their courses.

Spain says the graduate programme in EirGrid, which has rotations every eight months, has enabled her to work in different areas of the business. “I’m also part of the first graduate programme in the company to have more female engineers than men,” she notes.

However, they both say there is a need for more diverse voices at the top tables to solve the big issues. “When you look at the more senior roles in the energy industry, there are much fewer women than men,” according to Fagan.

We have set out step by step what we need to do to meet the Government’s ambitious targets. Seeing the different deliverables being achieved is really rewarding.

Emma Fagan, Principal Engineer, Future Operations, EirGrid

Encouragement from a young age

Spain points out that students should be offered a broad range of STEM subjects, with positive reinforcement from teachers. “I had a very encouraging physics teacher. There were about 12 of us in the class, and six went on to do engineering,” she says.

Fagan points out that a workshop she attended in EirGrid with two secondary school teachers discussed how some all-girl schools offer a limited number of STEM subjects. “I even heard that a science book in school had only one example of a female scientist.”

Learning from each other

Spain and Fagan speak of the benefits of learning from female engineers at different levels in their careers. “We need to bring all levels of experience together to challenge each other, to take on the mammoth challenge of tackling the climate crisis,” insists Fagan.

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