Women in Wellies – stepping out to encourage female pupils into STEM and rural careers

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a female in a man’s world, the only person holding you back from achieving your full potential is you!”

That was the message from ‘Women in Wellies’ this week – an innovative conference hosted by East Ayrshire Council in partnership with Dumfries House and the Royal Highland Educational Trust, aimed at encouraging female school pupils to consider a career in rural and STEM sectors.

Women in Wellies offered valuable insights, advice and guidance on how women can forge a successful career in these sectors and the value their own perspectives and experiences can bring to the businesses and organisations in which they might work.

Funded by Education Scotland’s Career Long Professional Learning Fund, the conference was opened by Linda McAulay-Griffiths, East Ayrshire Council’s Head of Education.

She remarked that the event proved incredibly popular and the number of pupils applying for places, and those wanting to speak at the conference was significantly over-subscribed – with another similar conference now being planned.

Keynote speakers included Liz Barron-Majerik director of LANTRA Scotland (National Training Organisation for Land Based Industries) who is tasked with developing a skills action plan for the rural economy and Helen Lightbody, Head of Fleet Technical Services at Babcock International.

Both talked candidly of their own career path highlighting the importance of qualifications and experience in order to succeed, rather than gender.

The day was divided between workshops and speed speakers looking in detail at employment opportunities in sectors such as farming, renewables, construction, engineering, tourism, food, drink, gardening, STEM and education.

In addition, a series of 15 minute ‘speed speaker’ sessions included representatives from a host of local and national organisations, all offering advice on opportunities for women in the rural and STEM sectors.

Councillor Fiona Campbell, East Ayrshire Council’s Cabinet Member for Skills and Learning said: “Women in wellies was an innovative and clever way to highlight the many opportunities for female pupils to consider when choosing career options.

“That so many attended is phenomenal and I think the event has really struck a chord with pupils and organisations alike.

“The news that it is likely to happen again is most welcome and I look forward to seeing many more of our fantastic young pupils going along and putting their best feet forward as Women in Wellies!”