STANDING at the top of Eaglesham Moor, Kirsty Bowman surveys all around her as she takes in the surroundings of Whitelee Wind Farm.

She is in heart of the largest onshore windfarm in the UK and with it 215 turbines generates enough electricity to power more than 300,000 homes.

But for Ms Bowman she could never have imagined that this field of renewable energy would one day become her domain.

She is now carving out a career as an engineering technician while still combining her studies at university. And after one false start where she opted for accountancy initial, she believes she is now on the right path.

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However, she is in a select group which is hoped will grow in numbers with ongoing initiatives to encourage women take up careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and the fast-growing renewables industry in particular. Currently in Scotland, around 11% of women work in engineering, 23% in technology. While UK Government data for 2019 showed, women make up 24% of the core-STEM workforce.

Ms Bowman admits she had never planned a career in engineering – but knew she wanted to do something involving maths which she enjoyed and excelled at. She studied accounting, dropped out and then settled for a HNC in graphic design, then a HND in civil engineering and then joined Arcus, Glasgow-based environmental and planning consultancy, in a junior role.

One of her colleagues suggested studying for a degree in tandem with work and she embarked on a BSc in Environmental Civil Engineering at Glasgow Caledonian University. She studies one day a week, has two years left and Arcus pays for her fees because the company values education, learning and wants to invest in its staff. She says the course is 70% male but she was pleasantly surprised at there being 30% women.

“When I was at school I knew I wanted to do something with maths so I went to do accountancy at university, but I realised it wasn’t for me and I ended up dropping out," said Ms Bowman. "I then went on to college to do graphic design followed by civil engineering. After that a job offer came up at Arcus and I found out I could combine working with going to university.”

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The 24-year-old from Barrhead, East Renfrewshire, is the first engineer in her family and believes that if she knew at school that engineering involved technical skills and maths, she’d have confidently pursued this route sooner.

“I really don’t remember us being told much about STEM or the education opportunities and I hope that in the future it is something young women can learn about early on so they have the opportunity to decide if they want to go into that area," she added.

Now her days could not be further from what she imagine, whether it be it be looking at peat management plans, using 3D technology to assess and estimate excavations to get her hard hat and hi vis clothing on and getting out on sites.

She added: “My day could involve preparing peat management plans, peat slide risk assessments or looking at construction environmental management plans, traffic management plans and desk based land contamination studies.

“I also look produce outline wind farm design using some very cool technology. I really hope that other young women can see what opportunities are out there in STEM and are not afraid to go down that route as a career path.”

Gender balance in STEM was one area highlighted in the Scottish Government’s second annual report released earlier this year on progress with the STEM Education and Training Strategy.

One of the key achievements last year was having six Improving Gender Balance and Equalities (IGBE) Officers embedded within Education Scotland's regional teams. Up to December 2019, the officers engaged directly with 50 school clusters, and had over 2,200 engagements with practitioners.

The report added one of the aims was to finalise and pilot a self-evaluation framework for Improving Gender Balance in early learning and childcare settings and schools.

Stuart Davidson, Operational Director for Scotland at Arcus, says they have been supporting women into STEM careers as part of the company’s philosophy since it was established in 2006.

And being involved in a rapidly expanding renewables and environmental industry, their doors are open for new talent with vacancies in areas including engineers, ornithologists and hydrologists.

Mr Davidson said: “Kirsty is a great example, and we have a number of them coming through, where they have made opportunities for themselves. Supporting women into the industry is something which was established as an ethos and with new renewable energy targets set for Scotland we are looking to recruit the very best candidates we can.

“Renewables is a rapidly growing industry and in order for the industry to meet those targets we need to think about the skills levels in order to make sure that companies like Arcus can grow.”

Earlier this week the Scottish Government set a new ambition to increase offshore wind capacity to 11 gigawatts (GW) of energy installed by 2030 which would be enough to power more than eight million homes. The aim of substantially increasing the offshore wind capacity in Scottish waters supports the delivery of Scotland’s 2017 Energy Strategy and the decarbonisation of heat and transport.

Scotland’s Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, described it as is a pivotal moment for the development of our offshore wind sector.

He added: "Our seas are host to some of the best offshore wind resources in the world and our ambition to capitalise on our offshore wind generation capacity is part of the bold action we are taking to support economic recovery and become a net-zero society."

Arcus is acutely aware of where to apply resources and recently helped deliver consent for the UK’s biggest solar farm and the team is also integral to the world’s largest offshore windfarm project off the East Coast of Yorkshire.

Mr Davidson added: “We are approaching 100 people within Arcus and have been growing for the past couple of years and we are looking to fill around 15 new roles so we are set up for the future.”

Renewable industry leaders are in no doubt that a diverse workplace is key for its future.

Scottish Renewables is currently running its second energy festival until November 6 which highlights some of the projects and places involved in leading a shift to a clean energy future.

Claire Mack, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, said: “The Scottish Renewable Energy Festival provides an opportunity for businesses working in this £5.5 billion industry to shout about their successes and the efforts they are making to improve on business as usual.

“That's never clearer than on diversity: while energy has traditionally been male-dominated, the feeling in our industry is different. Our members show time and again – through their actions, not just their words – that they’re striving to put diversity at the heart of their workplaces and projects.

“With a new energy industry comes a new mindset, and it’s one that I believe will build a better future for us all.”