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Speaker: Women, science and superheroes

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  • Tamara,

    Thanks for telling us about this. My girls are too young for the event unfortunately. I come from a Stem family and enjoy popular science but I'm not in that area professionally myself. I'd love my girls to have more opportunities in science and tech but it is hard to add that to the family routine, especially when the parents aren't strong in that area. I wish there was more out there for primary school girls, that didn't also cost an arm and a leg. Are there any sciencey clubs out there??

    New Zealand • Since Oct 2010 • 115 posts Report

  • tatjna,

    I like the idea of STEAM, in fact have long been frustrated at the arbitrary division that's placed between art/design and technology/engineering. The development of a concept into a real object involves many of the same skills whether the item created is a tech gadget or an item of clothing, a building or a large scale interactive artwork. Yet we constantly make value judgments regarding the end product, dismissing young women's interests as 'arts and crafts' instead of encouraging them to understand what they are doing in engineering and development terms. Thank you for doing something to address this.

    Wellington • Since Dec 2010 • 22 posts Report

  • Ian Dalziel,

    a full head of self e-STEAM...
    That is a great initiative - mechanics and civics are both much under encouraged in this country.
    The shades of Hypatia and Ada Lovelace beam down encouragingly I'm sure - vive la difference engine!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report

  • David Hood,

    My daughter is generally seen as a high preforming young (highschool) scientist, and does an answer science questions on Tumblr (as that is a young peoples domain). Her one minimum page biology homework report she wrote last night was two pages and included graphs with error estimation.

    While she is going into the sciences, there are a number of branches she does not want to go near because of what she has seen of people in the area. She much prefers the idea of being in physics doing signals analysis with computers, to the idea of being in computer science doing signals analysis with computers. And part of the is the culture.

    That said, she would probably make the point that a lot of stuff discussed for children is Engineering rather than Science (and that most mad scientists are actually mad engineers).

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report

  • Rich of Observationz,

    most mad scientists are actually mad engineers

    There is the fact that in our "rock star" economy there are bugger all jobs for science graduates (anecdotally, I know several life sciences grads who had no luck at all finding a job in the field, and NZ is supposed to be a leader in life sciences*).

    It seems that if you plan doing a science degree, you should either see yourself going down the PhD/academic/CRI path or treat it as useful general knowledge before you become a teacher, computer programmer or barista. There's nothing wrong with the latter, but it rather indicates that for most students a science degree isn't really more "useful" that a BA or whatever?

    * I'm not sure why this is. Is it that there are actually no jobs that don't require either a PhD at one end of the scale, or a school leaver with a checklist at the other? Or is there a sufficient excess of PhDs such that there is no reason to hire graduates?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report

  • richard,

    A bit of blatant advertising, for which I hope Russell forgives me, but fans of Nanogirl should check out


    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 268 posts Report

  • Alyona Medelyan, in reply to Tamara,

    Hi Tamara,
    Thanks for your comment!
    The age group isn't set in stone. If you and your daughters would enjoy such an event, please come along. It's free!
    Routine could be hard, but if you just get them to go to an event or a class twice a year, it will already be useful.
    Here are all opportunities I'm aware off: www.steam-ahead.org/resources/ and I will keep adding more.
    Richard posted here the link to the Auckland Festival event with Nanogirl, and you could also check out the regular OMGTech.co.nz events. They definitely start with primary school.
    I hope you find something suitable and well done for looking out for such opportunities for your daughters!

    New Zealand • Since Feb 2015 • 6 posts Report

  • Alyona Medelyan, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Hi Rich, I believe there may be a different problem here: NZ companies look out for people who have at least some work experience, but many students don't strive to gain such experience while studying. Internships are super important, and I would recommend students to write to companies and seek out ways to improve their practical skills and make contacts. Many students take on summer jobs that have no relation to what they are studying. That's what leads to difficulties in finding a job later, once they graduate.

    New Zealand • Since Feb 2015 • 6 posts Report

  • Amy Gale,

    I really like the way the Tech Girls Are Superheroes bios show people whose lives and interests combine arts and sciences. This seems like a big improvement over the old-school posters and book sections that seemed to suggest that if you Did Science then that was all you did (except for general life maintenance things like eating and sleeping and mowing the lawn, presumably).

    Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just not how everyone is.

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 471 posts Report

  • Hilary Stace,

    I went to my niece's 21st birthday recently. Her cohort were heavily into the sciences at school with several now at medical school or similar. Career aims are to work in scientific research or groups like Medicins Sans Frontieres. The speeches from her friends were along the lines of 'what we got up to in chemistry class'. A significant change from my generation when few girls did any chemistry at all past 4th form (year 10).

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report

  • Andrew C,

    The top two most-desired careers are airhostess and hairdresser

    Out of interest, has there been a survey of boys the same age too, and if so what were their top 2?

    Auckland • Since May 2008 • 169 posts Report

  • Alyona Medelyan, in reply to Andrew C,

    I'd also like to see the complete survey, but I couldn't find it so far.
    If anybody comes across it, please share here.

    New Zealand • Since Feb 2015 • 6 posts Report

  • Bart Janssen,

    As a crusty old male scientist, can I just say this is freakin' awesome.

    Any efforts to get more girls keen to apply their talents to science is very much appreciated. Far too many grant panels and planning meetings are bathed in testosterone. One day we might even get some women in science actually running our CRIs ... we can but hope.

    As an aside my field of research is dominated by about half a dozen groups most of which are led by amazing women (including our own).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report

  • mpledger,

    I'm kinda weary of promoting internships unless they are paid because
    a) if they are not paid then only the rich can afford to take them up and
    b) if they are not paid then it tends to be an informal process in the "hiring" which means they go to "the bosses nephew" etc.

    In States and Canada they have turned into a racket where companies used unpaid graduates for a year and keep turning them over instead of hiring someone full time to do the job. And in the end the graduate with experience can't get work anyway because a newer graduate gets employed for free. And the former just keeps on taking on more unpaid work.

    Since Oct 2012 • 97 posts Report

  • Amy Gale,

    I think internships and treatment of interns depend heavily on the industry as well as the country.

    I’ve never met anyone who has done an unpaid science/tech internship in the US, and don’t really ever expect to. It’s much more typical to work for a summer at a reasonable pay rate, have a bit of money left over from your expenses – for some people I know, this was enough for a new car! – and then after you graduate have an extra bit of foot in the door if you hope to be hired full time. This is not the same as a hiring guarantee, but nor should it be. Not all interns turn out to be any good.

    On the other hand, industries like publishing seem to have unpaid intern labor built into their business model, which is clearly despicable.

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 471 posts Report

  • David Hood,

    I think I’ve found the data, Edit {I thought at a glance there was one subset that had the two at 1 & 2 in 1979, but I was wrong, it does seem to be the data though}


    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report

  • Andrew C, in reply to David Hood,

    Thanks David.

    I have listed the top 20 from the 2010 survey.

    1. Hairdresser
    2. Kindergarten teacher
    3. Air hostess/steward
    4. Primary school teacher
    5. Lawyer
    6. Doctor
    7. Police officer
    8. Architect
    9. Chef
    10. Veterinarian
    11. Journalist/reporter
    12. Waitress
    13. Physiotherapist
    14. Fashion Model
    15. Florist
    16. Nurse
    17. Scientist
    18. Farmer
    19. Pilot
    20. Armed forces

    I would really like to see the equiv for boys the same age.

    Auckland • Since May 2008 • 169 posts Report

  • Margie Elley-Brown,

    This is a great and timely initiative - three cheers for it. Have been thinking for some time that there needs to be more out there in media land profiling creative young women who have design expertise and artistic flair as well as strategic and scientific thinking skills and have combined these in their career choice.
    Interesting about the comments from others about the influence of her Mother - in determining a daughter's career direction. In my doctoral research the influence of her Mother emerged as key in forming a woman's career agency and self-belief. As a Maths and Science graduate myself it disturbs me to hear that career advisors in some schools still put talking about STEM careers in the too hard basket - because "I don't understand that stuff."
    Finish where I started: This is a great initiative. Congrats Alyona Medelyan

    New Zealand • Since Feb 2015 • 1 posts Report

  • Tamara, in reply to Alyona Medelyan,

    Thanks Alyona, I've pledged for the Tech Rangers event. It'd be great to see this kind of thing get off the ground regularly. My daughter is keen to go so I hope they meet the target!

    New Zealand • Since Oct 2010 • 115 posts Report

  • Holly Grover,

    Nail on the head.

    STEAM is fantastic, STEM alone always really bothered me.

    That city • Since Jan 2014 • 2 posts Report

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Amy Gale,

    On the other hand, industries like publishing seem to have unpaid intern labor built into their business model, which is clearly despicable.

    It has only recently started to become more common in New Zealand. But this news came through yesterday: the British branch of the US newspaper company Gannett wants to charge journalism students to get bylines in its papers. News is becoming a desperate business.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Amy Gale,

    I’ve never met anyone who has done an unpaid science/tech internship in the US, and don’t really ever expect to.

    Yes BUT.

    While it's true undergrads are usually paid and paid quite well, after the PhD it is a completely different story. I have seen several post-docs asked to work for periods on projects "while their stipend is sorted out" and when they do get money it is nowhere near what could be considered a decent salary. There are many reasons for that but ultimately it comes down to a willingness on the part of PIs to pay very low wages in order to spin the grant money out further. I've also seen it argued that importing cheap labour in the form of overseas post-docs effectively broke the labour market in the US.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report

  • Don Christie,

    Thanks for this initiative. Very inspiring. As per above, I hope forgiveness for the following...

    If you have daughters (and sons) interested in open source technologies please do consider telling them about the "Catalyst Open Source Academy". It's been going for over 5 years and we are seeing over 50% participation from young women. http://catalyst.net.nz/show-and-tell/blog/five-years-catalyst-open-source-academy

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1645 posts Report

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Don Christie,

    Glad to hear that, Don! Thanks for noting it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • st ephen,

    On STEM/STEAM - at intermediate school level there is now a huge Design element in Tech. It's no longer a matter of the class simply following a set 'recipe' to make identical items - students go through a full design process with loads of scope for creativity. If anything it now penalises the kids who aren't strongly creative, because they end up staring at a blank piece of paper for an hour. For some kids it's probably better to give them a design and let them set about solving the technical issues of how to realise it.

    dunedin • Since Jul 2008 • 254 posts Report

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