Our Blog

where we write about the things we love



Giving young New Zealand girls a start in STEM with Hello Café

For the last six Tuesdays I’ve spent the after school shift in the classroom! No, I am not back to school – I’ve been involved in the Hello Café initiative run by FutureInTech.

What’s FutureInTech? Glad you asked! The FutureInTech programme is run by the New Zealand government with the express objective of getting more young people to choose careers in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM). I’ve been actively supporting the junior members of my team to become FutureInTech ambassadors since I first moved to #SunnyDunedin over 14 years ago but I’ve only been an ambassador myself for a couple of years – the ambassador job description talked about graduates and I used to think that counted me out!!

Hello Café specifically targets girls in low decile schools and is based around the United Nations goals for sustainable development. The thinking behind linking the programme to these goals is a) girls lean towards humanitarian work and, b) girls want to understand what a particular skill will be used for rather than just enjoying learning the engineering for engineering's sake.

During the six weeks we’ve made mud bricks, designed traffic systems, filtered water, built emergency relief shelters, turned plastic ‘trash’ into treasure and assembled solar powered lights which we sent to similar aged children in third world countries.

Why engineering (as opposed to information technology)? Well, I have a foot in both camps having started my career as a Mechanical Engineer but it’s more than that. Dr Jenine Beekhuyzen (CEO of Adroit Research) has discovered that girls as young as six are opting out of STEM. I’m aware of – and a member of – many women in business and women in tech networks, groups and conversations. These groups provide support and maintain my confidence in what I’m doing but they generally don’t actively seek to address the career choices young people make.

Hello Café does do that and while I’m working with the girls I’m talking about what I have done and what I’m doing now. I believe that it’s these conversations along with the cool lessons I facilitated that will open their eyes to the wide world of career possibilities out there. I also reflect on my career path – it's anything but a direct line between Mechanical Engineering and what I do now! What is important is that young people continue to study maths and science and let's be honest the word does need more engineers as well as more digital technologists.

Yeah yeah – yada yada (she’s on her soap box again). This isn’t about me telling you how wonderful I am that I’m giving my time to do this. It’s a call to action for all women in tech in New Zealand to sign up as a FutureInTech ambassador. By doing so you will be providing role models for the girls, as well as encouraging the both girls and boys to think about technology careers. I’m also challenging all the men in tech to do the same thing!

As a post script, Bathgate school, here in Dunedin, want to run the Hello Café programme in term 1 2018 – there is currently only eight women on the FutureInTech ambassador list to facilitate this (three of us spent time at Carisbrook). Given that we need two ambassadors per session and realistically each session is two hours – plus travel time –that’s just not enough to maintain and support this programme. You too can help.

We're not unique in Dunedin - yes this really is a case of your country needing you!  

Posted by: Cheryl Adams, Practice Manager, Enterprise Solutions | 22 December 2017

Tags: Career, Women in Tech

Top Rated Posts

Blog archive

Stay up to date with all insights from the Intergen blog