Waitaki Girls’ High School may be a small school in a small town, but that doesn’t mean its pupils can’t take on the world, head of maths Louise Lane says.
“Girls can do anything – and it’s not just about taking opportunities, it’s about making opportunities,” Mrs Lane said.
On Tuesday, the Oamaru secondary school held a Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (Stem) Day for its year 9 pupils.
The guest speaker was 20-year-old Alexia Hilbertidou, the owner and founder of GirlBoss, an organisation which runs workshops and seminars to inspire young women to get involved in science, technology, economics and mathematics.
Ms Hilbertidou was named the most influential New Zealand woman under the age of 25 at the Westpac Women of Influence Awards. In 2018, she was awarded a Queen’s Young Leader Award for Services to the Commonwealth by the Queen at Buckingham Palace. She was selected from more than 20,000 nominations and is the youngest Commonwealth citizen to hold this honour.
Mrs Lane invited Ms Hilbertidou to Oamaru after hearing her speak at a recent conference.
Ms Hilbertidou helped give young girls the tools to be able to make opportunities for themselves and the Year 9 pupils at Waitaki Girls’ were “really inspired” by her workshop, Mrs Lane said.
“They’ve come out buzzing and just a little bit more confident about saying want to be that, let’s just explore it and see what we can do’,” she said.
The Stem day also included police forensics sessions, the science behind facial treatments and experiments with an award-winning Otago University chemist.
“It was about opening their eyes to what science and technology and maths can actually lead to . . . and opportunities to show that women really can do anything,” she said.
“It was a really, really great day.”
One of the benefits of single sex education was that subjects did not become seen as “girl subjects” or “boy subjects”.
“All girls can do all the subjects,” she said.
However, young women did not necessarily always explore options in science, technology, engineering and maths and the Stem day showed them what opportunities were available for them.
“It’s just about showing them that there’s more beyond the classroom and, actually, there’s a lot of crossover between our subjects,” she said.
“Just because they’re taught in different rooms doesn’t mean they don’t link together.”