Why NZ needs more female technology role models

New Zealand needs more female role models in science, maths and IT if the country is to meet future industry demands.

New Zealand needs more female role models in science, maths and IT if the country is to meet future industry demands.

That’s the view of the new principal of one of the nation’s most respected private girls schools, who believes that the education requirements of today’s girls have changed significantly since the school’s inception.

“The challenge in educating the next generation of girls is ensuring that we not only provide the most up-to-date learning resources for science, technology, engineering, and maths education, but help them find the passion to carry them through into successful career paths,” says Kathy Parker, Principal, Chilton Saint James School, based in Lower Hutt.

“With nationwide skills shortages in IT and other technology related industries, it is critical that we address the level of support and encouragement we provide as parents and as a society for the next generation.”

Parker, says girls need a wide range of role models to aspire to if they are to pursue technology based subjects that the country is most in need of.

“Establishing and promoting role models at an early age is an essential part of framing the career development of our next generation of scientists and technology industry leaders; in many ways it is even more important for young females,” Parker adds.

Parker says when female students see the same role models regularly publicised, it sends a message that these are more the exception than the rule.

“I believe we need to see each technology industry seeking out successful professional women and proactively developing their profiles,” she adds.

“As educators, we also have a role to play in better facilitating girls’ exposure to these women.”

Alongside a greater focus on technology, and teaching of the curriculum, Parker believes it's important that today's young women are armed with skills such as resilience, flexibility, leadership and initiative.

“My goal is to ensure that we prepare young Chilton women for the rapidly changing world they now inhabit by constantly reviewing our offering and ensuring that our curriculum remains relevant to them,” she adds.

“We want to keep our girls engaged with material that is diverse, challenging and satisfying. Part of this diversity includes a strong emphasis on service and the artistic disciplines the school offers.”

Parker says the increasing emphasis on development of STEM science, technology, engineering, and mathematics subjects also complements Chilton’s traditionally strong performance in the arts.

“Although not commonly paired together, traditionally analytic subjects can be enhanced through creativity - particularly where a degree of lateral thinking can put forward unique solutions - we have found the cross pollination of ideas from disciplines leads to better innovation,” Parker adds.

Parker is only the 14th principal in the school’s almost century long history with the school opening its gates in 1918, and will leave her role at ACG Senior College to take up the new Wellington position in October.