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Myrtle Dawes – Celebrating Black History Month

31 October 2023 3 minute read
Written by Myrtle Dawes

Black History Month (BHM) provides an opportunity to pause, reflect and educate both myself and others, while also considering the progress that’s been made and what’s still left to overcome.

I think it’s easy to celebrate BHM in the general sense. But when people take the time to focus on what’s important to them, and take action in that particular area of focus, a stronger impact can be

For me, it’s about celebrating the black scientists, mathematicians and engineers that have shaped our modern world. What’s important to me is taking action to promote Science, Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) initiatives to young people and showcasing the exciting career opportunities available to them.

I am an engineer, but when I was at school, I didn’t know what engineering was, and it was only thanks to one of my teachers who encouraged me, that I ended up studying it at university. I suspect this was partly due to the lack of role models or general STEM education, and that’s why I’m so passionate and involved in promoting STEM and career opportunities for young people now. By boosting representation, knowledge and opportunity, we can encourage more people to pursue a career in these fields.

My career to date has been fun and somewhat unexpected. After studying Chemical Engineering, my first proper job was as an offshore engineer for BP, which marked the start of a career spanning over 30 years, during which I’ve embraced a wide variety of roles across numerous organisations.

Now, as the CEO of the Net Zero Technology Centre, it’s exciting and fulfilling to oversee projects and collaborations, and work with emerging developers and start-ups, all with innovation at their core. Nearly half of the technology required to reach net zero by 2050 is not yet commercially available. That’s why our centre’s mission is to drive essential technological innovation, influence policy, and leverage the existing skills and capabilities within the UK energy sector to facilitate a responsible and affordable transition.

I’m thrilled to apply this experience and knowledge to support other industries. As a Non-Executive Director on FirstGroup’s Board, I serve on its Responsible Business Committee, which focuses on safety, sustainability, and corporate responsibility, including the transition to net zero. When I look back at my career now, through rose tinted glasses, I rarely think of the barriers.

However, I read a piece by a colleague of mine, Euton Gordon, who I worked with in the same company for years. He gave a sobering account of his experiences and reminded me of the challenges that I and others went through. I thank him for sharing.

I believe everyone’s career path is different, which is why 1:1 mentoring is key. I am currently a mentor for the AFBE (Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers). I would encourage those starting out in their career, and equally, those in more senior roles, to actively seek out mentoring and networking opportunities whenever available.

A single conversation can spark a new wave of ideas, so it’s crucial to embrace different opinions, perspectives, and attitudes.

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