International Women’s Day 2024: A catalyst for confidence and achievement from Yondr

International Women’s Day 2024: A catalyst for confidence and achievement from Yondr

At Yondr, we think differently. It’s in our DNA, and it’s what has made our business so successful. Part of that approach is founded on our commitment to leaving establishing stereotypes and out-dated thinking at the door, creating opportunity for new ideas and talented people to thrive.

Chiming with the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, we want to inspire inclusivity for women and girls as part of that philosophy. Our purpose has to be supported by early engagement too. That’s why we created the Yondr Women in Engineering Scholarship; a bursary available for female students studying Electrical and Electronic Engineering (BEng or MEng) or Computer Engineering (BEng or Meng) at Queen’s University in Belfast. Here, we hear from the first recipient of the scholarship, Electrical and Electronic Engineering student, Orla Quail.

‘I have to admit I didn’t know anything about Yondr before I applied for the Yondr Women in Engineering Scholarship. I knew very little about data centers either, other than that they are an essential part of our infrastructure in the digital age. But when I received an email from the Queen’s University Belfast team informing me that the scholarship aims to inspire and support female engineering students and was open for applications, I thought I’d give it a go.

‘All I had to do to apply for the scholarship was submit an essay detailing why I had chosen engineering as the discipline for my degree and any challenges I had overcome to succeed on my course. I’m not sure I had any expectation of being selected, but it seemed like good practice for applying for placements and, eventually, full-time roles, so I applied with a you-have-to-be-in-it-to-win-it attitude.

‘It’s an interesting exercise to question why you chose the path you’re on, and what you love about it. For me, it was a natural process: mathematics and physics are two subjects that I have always really enjoyed and I chose electrical and electronic engineering because it draws heavily on both disciplines. I’m aware that it’s already a privilege to have that choice, especially as a woman. In another time, or a different place, it might not have been an option.

‘Even here, in the 21st century in the UK, my choice is still remarked upon by many and still puts me in a minority amongst my cohort of fellow students. There are around 70 students on my course; less than 10 per cent of them are women. I don’t consider myself a trailblazer in any sense of the word, but I do feel a sense of responsibility to be vocal about what I’m studying and why I love it, and I’m proud to attend events and careers fairs to inspire more women and girls to see engineering as an exciting, creative subject that could be the right choice for them too. I’m very fortunate to attend a university that is also very passionate about attracting more women to traditionally male-dominated disciplines – the balance may still be way below 50 per cent, but the scales are slowly tipping in the right direction.

Orla and colleagues at a careers fair

‘After completing the first two years of my course, I’m now in my placement year at Andor Technology, and it’s great to know that when I go back to my studies in September, the funding provided by the Yondr Women in Engineering Scholarship will take the pressure off financially and enable me to focus entirely on my studies, rather than getting a job to support me through the remainder of my degree.

‘Engineering is all about problem-solving, and the scholarship has both helped me solve the problem of balancing study and earning commitments and boosted my confidence.  I have always loved learning and applying my knowledge to solve problems and I’m getting plenty of opportunity to do that during my placement, working on live projects and learning new skills that feed into my continued learning and will enhance my employability longer term.

‘I am part of the pandemic generation of future engineers. Thanks to lockdowns, I didn’t have the opportunity to fully complete my A-levels in Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry, so, when I started my degree course, I had less in-depth knowledge than cohorts from previous or subsequent years. But resilience is a skill engineers need to nurture – not every idea is successful, and not all ideal solutions are commercially or sustainably viable. I worked hard to overcome gaps in my learning, investing time on independent study. My determination to succeed resulted in a first-class average in my end-of-year exams, and I feel that it’s not just my attainment that makes me worthy of the Yondr Women in Engineering Scholarship, but the effort I put in to reach my goals.

‘It has been daunting to be one of just a handful of women on my course, but when I look around at my workplace during my placement year, I see a different picture. The Director of Engineering is a woman, and I have lots of female colleagues in technical roles at all levels, indicating that the gender balance is adjusting much more than many might think. Initiatives such as the Yondr Women in Engineering Scholarship have an important role to play in creating that positive change, providing a catalyst to inspire inclusion and support ambition. I know it’s just one of the ways in which Yondr is encouraging and supporting talent, and I feel very fortunate to have benefitted.’

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