Brenda Yearsley: Driving change in STEM

“I started work before the internet’s official birthday, 1983, and it has been both a
challenge and a pleasure - keeping abreast of all the amazing innovations in STEM
and new ways of learning [has been] a real rollercoaster ride.“

As a woman in STEM, Brenda Yearsley has worked for some of the leading engineering brands of the world. She started her career as an apprentice at BAE systems and is ending her career at Siemens, where she will soon retire.

From senior management to lecturing and teaching, Brenda has taken a leading role in both helping aspiring engineers to develop and linking with major employers to improve business strategies. She’s seen it all: Industry 4.0, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things - she says the challenge has been to keep learning and embracing the fast pace of change.

A passion for STEM

With only 33% of worldwide researchers being women, Brenda has spent her career educating those younger than her on the world of STEM, sharing her passion and encouraging others to get involved.

“I love creativity and innovation - no two days are ever the same. It’s both fun an fulfilling. I wish that more under-represented groups had access to role models, within the sector, that showcase the reality rather than the misconceptions and myths. It’s well paid, with so much variety, a huge spectrum of roles and progression
pathways to enter. There is the opportunity to travel, excellent job security and the ability to constantly  develop new skills.

Unfortunately, there is still a stigma around females in STEM, although not for the reasons you might think - Brenda advises “I looked at this stigma, and it wasn’t recruitment bias - when we looked at applicants, females actually out-performed males. The problem is encouraging women to apply in the first place!”

In light of this, Siemens, where Brenda has worked since 2011, created and launched a programme called Seewomen (now called SeeMe), which was driven by the need to get girls excited by engineering subjects at school and encourage them to further study STEM subjects.

“A wealth of evidence confirms that diversity leads to better business decisions. And there are two pivotal points for increasing gender diversity; the first is early life choices. If we lose them in their early life choices, then they will never be our technical experts or leaders of the future. There is a need to raise the profile and
understanding of the variety, range and scope of jobs.”

It is for this reason that Springpod believes in the importance of raising awareness of industry roles and opportunities for all, driving diverse and inclusive programmes and events that showcase the equality  available within the businesses we partner with.

Not only is it important to introduce females to the variety of career paths available, but also to motivate them to become women in leadership roles through providing them with connections with those women who have beaten the inequalities many face.

“We are good at recognising high potential women early in their careers, but as we look at more senior levels there is a dramatic erosion in female role holders and successors. Partly it’s culture, the norms of behaviour, the ways of working and so on and Siemens have been using initiatives which consider unconscious bias to
support a change. It's hard to see yourself as an engineer or senior leader if most of our potential role models are not like you.”

Brenda has been lucky to have inclusive employers throughout her career, something Gen Z finds very important when applying for their future roles, but she points out how notably supportive her current employer Siemens has been.

“We have a number of initiatives such as Lean In circles and Diversity and Inclusion champions – both internal to Siemens and external on Siemens sites for those within STEM and related industries. We have a Diversity and Inclusion champions network that encourages staff to mentor, attend and create events and become SeeMe role models.”

Putting education first

Aside from D&I, Brenda is incredibly passionate about education and sustainability - both of which are conjoined in her current role as Education and Social Innovation Manager.

“Sustainability is in our very DNA at Siemens. It’s not optional - it’s a business imperative. Sustainability related education for young people is so important. We need more ELT engineering and advanced technical skills aligned to roles.“

Educating young people and potential employees of Siemens in person was just the beginning for Brenda, who attributes Siemens Education website as her biggest success.

“The Siemens’ Education Portal allows teachers, students and parents to access a central hub of information, which is to be used in the classroom or home and explicitly designed to encourage young people to engage with technology, engineering and manufacturing related subjects with a sustainability thread throughout.”

Combine this with the innovative virtual work experience programmes Siemens created with Springpod and it’s fair to say Brenda has transformed the education structure at Siemens during her time there.

“It’s been a seamless experience, from end to end: starting with the design of an engaging Siemens’ STEM programme, the safe recruitment of students, delivery with Springpod’s intuitive platform and excellent presenters, through to receiving outstanding evaluations from participating students - we really couldn’t praise Springpod enough.

“Nothing is too much trouble for the Springpod team and we have been absolutely blown away by the diversity of the cohorts reached in terms of gender, ethnicity, geographical spread and social mobility. We are delighted to have been part of this impactful and innovative programme.“

As Brenda goes on to retire, she leaves us with some advice for those looking to pursue a career in STEM:

“Gain experiences: all the skills needed for a STEM career are transferable. Look at our website , attend STEM career fairs and if you are an entry level applicant, I would join a virtual work experience programme such as Springpod. This will not only give you a flavour of the types of technical and engineering roles you may enjoy but also the support functions within STEM, so you can see what skills you already have.”

Find out more

You can find out more about the work we did with Siemens here

To explore partnership opportunities with Springpod, get in touch


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