Women are under-represented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), and with only 30% of the world's researchers consisting of women and non-binary individuals, it is important to reduce the imbalance in these fields. There is an inequity in the opportunities and role-models presented to and available for young women going through high school today. Gathered here are a range of women in STEM fields across New Zealand, all from different universities, backgrounds and upbringings. Each speak of their journey from high school to where they are now, the challenges they faced, the opportunities they took, and advice they have for high school students today.
Women in STEM Leadership
Dame Juliet Gerrard
NZ Prime Minister Chief Science Advisor
Juliet is a biochemistry academic, a professor at the University of Auckland, and the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor. Juliet has held the position of Chief Science Advisor since July 2018. In her role she has tried to "draw on as many science voices as possible", and to be "rigorous, transparent, accessible and inclusive". She aims to create a trusted bridge between science, society and government. Her academic research is in protein biochemistry, investigating protein-protein interactions and applied research in the food industry.
Dr Michelle Dickinson
Michelle has spent her career engineering nanotechnology solutions for the tech industry. She is passionate about creating innovative ways for everyone to have a positive relationship with science and technology. As part of her push to increase confidence around science, engage more public interaction with the subject and promote diverse role models in science and engineering, she created the character Nanogirl – a science-savvy female who uses her engineering skills to solve her way out of challenges in life.
Dr Mahsa Mohaghegh
Founder/Director of She#
Mahsa is the Director of Women in Technology at Auckland University of Technology. She is the founder and director of She# (www.shesharp.co.nz), the women’s networking and learning group aimed at supporting women. She is working to close the gender gap in technology, and has been a semi-finalist for New Zealander of the year three years in a row. Mahsa is a computer engineer with a broad background in technology, and an active researcher in the internet of things, AI, and machine learning technologies.
Dr Helen Neil
NIWA General Manager - Operations
Helen is an experienced geologist with interests in seabed mapping, oceanography, and stable isotope geochemistry. Her expertise has been applied to the management and delivery of large-scale multi-disciplinary projects and research voyages associated with seabed surveys, telecommunication cables, marine infrastructure, and ocean exploration within the subtropical and subantarctic oceans surrounding New Zealand.
Dr Elspeth MacRae
Chief Innovation & Science Officer at Scion Research
Elspeth is the Chief Innovation & Science Officer at Scion Research. She maintains strategic relationships with a range of Scion’s clients both locally and internationally, and has published over 100 refereed manuscripts in a wide range of subject areas mostly plant or biochemistry based. She received her PhD from the University of Otago in botany and plant physiology.
Dr Susan Ellis
GNS Science Principal Scientist
Susan is a Principal Scientist at GNS Science, and works as a geodynamic modeller. She completed her Bachelors and Masters in New Zealand, before moving to Canada for her PhD in geological oceanography. Currently, she works on research to do with earthquakes in New Zealand, and specialises in various forms of geophysics.
Women in NZ Leadership
Dame Jacinda Ardern
Former Prime Minister of New Zealand
Jacinda is currently serving as the 40th Prime Minister of New Zealand (3rd female), and has been the Leader of the Labour Party since 2017. She became the world's youngest female head of government at age 37, and was only the second elected head of government to give birth while in office. Jacinda is globally recognised for her response to COVID-19, leading to the elimination of the virus in New Zealand. She is an inspiration to women all over the world.
Hon Julie Anne Genter
Former Minister for Women
Julie Anne is the Former Minister for Women, Associate Minister for Health and the Associate Minister for Transport in New Zealand’s 2017-2020 Government. Julie Anne grew up in the United States, before studying in France, and later New Zealand. In Auckland she gained a Masters of Planning Practice with First Class Honours. She went on to work as a transport consultant at some of New Zealand's leading firms, working in transport economics and urban design, before joining parliament in 2011 as a member of the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand.