'Elevating women in STEM is also key'

Madeline Murray Director, Change by Degrees, Winner of the 2020 Emerging New Business Award at Network Cork, Archaeologist, successful entrepreneur and businesswoman tells us about her career ahead of speaking at the STEM South West online event on January 13.
'Elevating women in STEM is also key'

Madeleine Murray from Change By Degrees. Picture Darragh Kane

Tell me about yourself 

Originally from Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, I’m co-founder and director of Change by Degrees since 2017. Before that time I spent six great years in academia, tutoring, teaching, writing and researching as an Archaeologist in the School of Archaeology UCD and the National Museum of Ireland. Perhaps uniquely for someone with my background I also worked for years as an Archaeological Manager in the private sector so I like to think I’ve experienced the best of both worlds.

My passion for research, determining the facts, building content and taking complex elements and developing them into a narrative has been with me since the very early days of my education and career path, which has been diverse and hugely rewarding. I have always loved to learn new things and was inspired to achieve a Diploma in UX (User Experience) Design making me the first Irish sustainability adviser to use sustainability and UX as a problem-solving tool for business. And now, with Change by Degrees, set up by Dr. Tara Shine and myself back in 2017, I specialise in employee sustainability engagement, narrative crafting and messaging for organisations of all shapes and sizes, using my skills to help businesses create and tell their sustainability stories.

  Tell me about your business:

Put simply, we help businesses define sustainability goals and strategies to help reach not only corporate objectives but to deliver meaningful and positive impacts on the people that work in and on the business, on their local economy, community, environment and beyond.

Our goal from the outset was to partner with organisations to help them design sustainability solutions that deliver real, measurable results. We defined three key science-based services, – strategic sustainability advice, sustainability communications expertise and employee engagement programmes.

The impact was life-changing from my career perspective. We are fortunate to work with clients and brands that want to explore what ‘sustainable’ means to them, looking at everything from consumer product packaging options, to team workshops and strategic policy design that aligns with national and international best practice.

I’ve exceptionally proud of how we are playing our part in shaping strategies and action plans that engage employees and build th ir capability and skills. We thrive on the possibility of change, so there is huge optimism and I still get excited by our community engagement campaigns that are fun and impactful and make a difference in the world.  How does STEM impact your work I jumped at the chance to take part in this year’s STEM South West online event on January 13 th.

Everyday we work to provide inspiration for teams through motivational talks and mentoring as well as leadership classes.

What better way to reach students and their parents as they look at all of the wonderful possibilities that lay ahead of them. 

Our business is science and data-led combined with expertise in behavioural change and communications - all key components to creating action on climate change that is transformative and long lasting. We are huge advocates for and admirers of the young people that are taking a lead on keeping climate change at the forefront of the global agenda so if I can engage and chat to them on what STEM meant for my life, I am thrilled to do so.

My co-founder Tara spent 20 years as an international climate change negotiator and adviser to governments and world leaders on environmental policy. She is currently Chair of the Board of the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED) and a member of faculty and lead facilitator for the visibility stream of Homeward Bound, a global leadership programme for women in science. We applaud and support STEM South West and every initiative that supports the future thinkers, doers and innovators in this field.

Do you see STEM providing keys to the challenges you are looking to overcome?

Communicating science can be tricky with very few people being motivated by kilos of carbon or mathematical graphs. At Change by Degrees we demystify science so that it is understandable to everyone. Once people understand something, they are much more inclined to care about it.

Climate change is a perfect example of this – talking about air quality and particulate matter may not motivate many people to burn less fossil fuels of stop their cars from idling.  But if you can connect it to their health and wellbeing, and that of their children who may have asthma for example, you get a much more authentic buy-in. 

STEM has the power to change how people behave.

Elevating women in STEM is also key. Without diversity and gender balance at the STEM table, we will struggle to create the kinds of collaborative, transformative solutions needed to tackle climate change, inequality, and all the other UN Sustainable Development Goals we’ve promised to deliver on by 2030. 

STEM can make this happen and has a key role to play in realising this great ambition for humanity.

ABOUT THE EVENT - STEM South West  

STEM SOUTH WEST 2021 is being organised by the industry-led STEM SOUTH WEST cluster which was established in 2019 to nurture and promote the STEM Sector in the region. The cluster executive comprises members from industry (DePuy Synthes – Johnson & Johnson, Gilead Sciences, PLAS Consulting Engineers, PepsiCo, Horner Automation, PM Group, Orion Group and Astellas), Higher Education Institutes (Munster Technological University and University College Cork), local government (Cork County Council) Enterprise Ireland, KerrySciTech, Engineers Ireland, American Chamber of Commerce and the Southern Regional Skills Forum, who are all working together with over 150 regional STEM stakeholders (education providers, MNCs, SMEs, government agencies, public/private initiatives) to promote STEM in the region.


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