Past YWE winner Arlene McConnell highlights the many ways she benefited from winning this award. Have you considered nominating yourself or a colleague for the 2012 title?
Arlene McConnell, a systems engineer for SELEX Galileo was awarded the title of Young Woman Engineer of the Year (YWE) in 2010 after being nominated by her company. She calls the award her “rocket launch”, as it has given her many opportunities including a high profile platform to promote engineering and female engineers.
“It meant a great deal to me as it’s such a prestigious award,” she says. “I’ve been a student member of the IET since the moment I began university and to receive an award from the IET was a great honour in the first instance.
A platform to raise the issues affecting women in STEM
“It’s benefited me in many ways, but mostly it’s given me a platform to speak about the issues affecting women in STEM,” she explains. “This is something I’d been doing for a while at SELEX but being able to say I’m an IET YWE winner really does help get your message out there.”
Arlene has found that the award has given her a chance to not only speak to school pupils about careers in STEM but also influence decisions and policies at a strategic level, and she has the opportunity to speak to the Scottish government as well as heading to the Houses of Parliament.
“I can't believe I got to speak at Westminster,” she enthuses, “especially being a Glaswegian from a council estate!”
Can I get your autograph?
“It’s been gratifying to see the amount of attention she’s got and obviously opportunities to go to places like Westminster, but what most tickled me about her events was something at the other end of the scale,” highlights Allan Colquhoun, SELEX Galileo’s university liaison and emerging technologies manager.
“After her talk at one school event the young ladies in the audience were coming up and asking her to sign their programmes. It’s great to get the Lords and MPs to listen to you, but having that obvious and direct influence on young people is what’s going to make a real difference,” he explains.
Making a difference
Arlene’s also had amazing networking opportunities and met people from all walks of life. Getting to visit so many places and people has helped her formulate a better understanding of the problems related to getting more women into STEM.
“Hearing the different opinions on what the problems were has helped me to formulate ways to solve them and it’s given me a real boost to carry on the work and highlight the issues myself,” she explains.
YWE is for life – not just one year
Although Arlene passed on the award to 2011 winner Captain Charlotte Joyce, her opportunities have not ended.
“The award is simply a springboard. It’s not just a year long thing, it’s a rocket launch and it’s down to you to continue,” she explains.
Indeed, Arlene’s work has not slowed down. She believes that it was through the YWE award that she was invited to join the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Young Academy where she has continued to promote STEM careers and discuss the issues stopping more women from getting involved.
How being a YWE winner has helped Arlene’s career
Becoming a well known respected campaigner for women in STEM has only helped Arlene’s career and she believes the award has helped widen her career options and given her new opportunities to progress.
“I was given a promotion this year,” she says. “[Winning the award] certainly opened up a lot of different avenues: I’ve had a lot of job offers since being given the award but I’m quite happy here at SELEX.”
Now it’s your turn…
Nominations for this the YWE Award 2012 are still being accepted – the deadline for entries is 30 July. If you’re a young female engineer passionate about your industry why don’t you rise to the challenge and nominate yourself or a colleague? Details can be found on the official YWE website.