NZ network “empowering” young women in STEM

May 3, 2023

NZ network “empowering” young women in STEM

Alexia Hilbertidou created Girlboss with the aim to reduce gender-based stigmas and encourage young women to pursue STEM. Photo: Supplied.

A New Zealand organisation is leading the charge in empowering young women to pursue a career in STEM, in hopes of closing the industry’s gender gap.

Girlboss NZ was created in 2015 with the aim of giving high school aged girls the soft skills and confidence to pursue study in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Girlboss CEO Alexia Hilbertidou created the organisation at the age of 16 after being the only female in her Auckland high school’s digital technology and advanced physics classes.

“I wondered why there were no young women in these industries. I thought ‘someone’s got to do something about it — if not me then who, if not now then when?’”

Today, Girlboss is New Zealand’s largest network for supporting young women in STEM.

Hilbertidou describes the process of helping young women "defy stereotypes" as an "incredible journey".

“It’s inspiring to use my own experiences to encourage women to realise that you’re never too young to create change."

AUT software engineering student Jasmine Amohia attended a single-sex high-school and was not exposed to the male dominance in STEM subjects until she began to experience “micro-aggressions” at university.

“It’s discouraging. It means I feel the need to prove myself,” she says.

“When someone asks a question or for help or notes, I’m super quick to jump onto it, to the point where you kind of get taken advantage of because you’re trying to prove that point that you are worthy.”

Amohia took part in a Girlboss programme in 2020 and says that initiatives like these are important for reminding women that they have every right to be pursuing a career in these industries.

Marlborough College student Sophie Maclaren says her involvement in the two-week 2023 Girlboss Edge programme helped give her the confidence and connections she needed to pursue a future in healthcare.

“There were one-on-one mentoring sessions offered by female professionals in the healthcare industry that we booked and were able to speak to and ask questions to."

“It was so helpful and truly inspired me to pursue this career path, and it made me think about what I want to change within this industry. It was very empowering and is seriously creating change for young women,” says Maclaren.

Girlboss NZ partners with over 100 schools each year, and Hilbertidou looks to continue reaching more young women and encouraging them to take their place in the industry.

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