5 women awarded £25,000 Women in Technology scholarships from Sky

26 Jun 2019

From left: Rachel Clancy, Colleen Wong, Olga Kravchenko, Rebecca Saw and Mary Murphy. Image: Sky

Two Irish women were among those selected for Sky’s latest scholarship programme for women in technology.

In March 2019, British broadcaster Sky announced that after the success of 2017’s Women in Technology Scholars programme, it would be reopening applications and inviting five more women to take part in the programme.

The prize for successfully making it on to the programme is a £25,000 (€30,000) bursary and assistance from a network of expert mentors in their chosen field.

Yesterday (25 June), Sky announced that two of the five successful applicants to the Women in Technology Scholars programme are Irish women.

One of these winners, Mary Murphy, is the youngest participant in the programme. The 20-year-old Mayo woman grew up on a farm alongside four siblings. Working on the farm, Murphy noticed that her family was continually running into the same problems. Along with her twin sister, Murphy attempted to solve some of these problems, which resulted in her designing and manufacturing the Sheep Marking Gun.

“Unlike the standard option available, the Sheep Marking Gun is a single-handed device, allowing the farmer to hold the sheep in one hand and mark it with the other,” said Sky.

Murphy plans to use her scholarship to develop and engineer more agritech products, including a GPS tracking system she devised to protect sheep from being stolen or attacked by predators.

After it was announced that Murphy had received the scholarship, she commended Sky’s efforts to support women in technology and said: “Our goal is to use technology to solve simple problems that farmers encounter and make their day-to-day lives easier.”

Get Closer

The second Irish woman taking part in this year’s scholarship programme is 27-year-old Rachel Clancy from Limerick. Clancy studied graphic design in Limerick before completing a master’s in independent game design and working as an art director.

Along with her girlfriend, Ida, Clancy developed a text adventure game called Get Closer. In the game, players are in open dialogue with a forest creature that needs their help. Clancy created the game with the aim of teaching children how to identify and cope with difficult emotions such as sadness and fear, as a way to talk about wider mental health issues.

When Clancy was told she had won the award from Sky and would be participating in the scholars programme, she said she hoped to use her success to encourage young people who have been diagnosed with ADHD. “People with ADHD tend to think that something involving logical thinking isn’t for them. I’m happy to be represented as a coder with a learning difference as I think there isn’t a lot of visibility for people like us.”

Clancy also expressed her gratitude towards Sky for the resources it offers on the scholarship, saying: “I’m hoping to make the most out of the professionals that work [with Sky] and get a better idea of how to optimise, build and distribute the game.”

Attracting women into technology

Sky’s group chief information security officer, Elaine Bucknor, said she was blown away by the ingenuity, talent and creativity displayed by this year’s applicants.

She added: “It’s widely acknowledged that attracting women into technology is a challenge, so we have a responsibility to bring about change. Boys are more than twice as likely to be encouraged to work in tech, so it’s little wonder that half the girls we spoke to had ruled out working in the industry by the time they reached 18 years old. Our Women in Technology Scholars programme enables us to nurture new talent and highlight inspiring role models to encourage others to follow.”

Aside from these two Irish women, the other successful applicants included Olga Kravchenko, who built a virtual reality (VR) app that makes cultural institutions such as museums more engaging for children; Colleen Wong, who has developed a watch that doubles as a tracking device, aimed at elderly people and young children; and Rebecca Saw, whose project combines television and gaming to create a blended reality.

The young entrepreneurs who participated in the programme in the past have experienced a great deal of success since completing it. They have gone on to work with companies such as Rolls-Royce and Airbnb, and one participant, Kike Oniwinde, was recognised in the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 list.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic