By Victoria Metcalf 19/02/2016 1


We have a plethora of talented women in diverse STEM-related careers within New Zealand. Profiling some of these incredible women on the web is one aspect of the Curious Minds initiative.

Supporting those women who enter into a science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM career is just as important as using those same women as positive role models for young people to engage them with STEM. We think we’re striking a balance that helps to achieve both through our Series of Profiles on girls and women in (and involved with) science and technology and located on the Curious Minds website.

The Curious Minds women in STEM profiles

At least one new profile is published each week and yes I feature¹. But that’s not why I’m sharing this information. The profiles include some really inspirational women, all involved in some way in STEM. The latest profile is on insect and spider weaponry expert Dr Chrissie Painting, just returning to an academic career in New Zealand after time in Singapore as a postdoc.

Then there’s the recent profile on Dr Ocean Mercier, a Senior Lecturer, Te Kawa a Māui (School of Māori Studies), Victoria University of Wellington. She has a PhD in condensed matter physics, and was the presenter of Project Mātauranga, a science series on Māori TV celebrating Māori innovation in the science sector.

Or Kate de Ridder, an Aeronautical Engineer for the Royal New Zealand Air Force, based in Auckland. The rest of the inspirational and fascinating profiles can be found here. All the current profiled women (bar Chrissie who is featured above) are pictured below in the slideshow.

 

Each profile is based on seven questions:

  1. What do you do on an average work day?
  2. What did you study at school? And after high school?
  3. Was your study directly related to what you do now?
  4. What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?
  5. What are some of your career highlights so far?
  6. Why do you believe engaging in STEM – whether it’s working in the field, studying it or just educating one’s self around the issues – is important to New Zealand?
  7. Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?

Why do these profiles matter?

One aim of the profiles is to create positive role models, that encourage young people, and especially girls to engage with science. We hope they will see that they can identify with being a scientist and that there are many ways to connect with science, through learning each woman’s background. They will be able to see that there are many women working in STEM, beyond the more well-known ones.

We also hope young people will see from the profiles that there are many different areas of science, if they are considering science as a career option. In upcoming profiles we will also be showcasing women who are working in science-related careers; that is of science and for science, but who haven’t come from a science background per se.

The low numbers of women in STEM has been a longstanding issue, as has the career experiences of women in STEM, which in turn contributes to the low numbers. It is indeed one of our ‘wicked problems’, where as Dr Elena Bennett explains:

Pull at one thread and discover 10 more just as unsolvable. Science draws a lot of women, but can’t keep them.

One other aim in creating these profiles is celebrating women in STEM and raising their collective and individual profiles. This is one way our New Zealand women in STEM can feel more connected to each other. It also provides a visible presence to say “We’re here, we’re doing cool stuff, this matters and this is being recognised on this page”.

February 11th was the first International Day of Women and Girls in Science. In my other blog,  Ice Doctor, I wrote about my reflections on women in science and where we’ve been and where we’re going. This explains some context around why profiling some of the many faces of women in STEM is so important.

Our aim is to have 100 profiles by the end of this year. We’d love to hear from you, if you’re a women in STEM that hasn’t yet been featured. Or alternatively, if you want to suggest someone to be profiled, please do.

Liz Cleary from the Ministry of Education is putting together the profiles and is looking to showcase the diversity of what women in STEM do. She can be contacted with self-nominations or name suggestions at Liz.Cleary@education.govt.nz.

¹I happened to be the inaugural profile published. You can read more about what I do and my background here.


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