When I started my degrees five years ago, I had a wildly ambitious goal of one day working in the United Nations. A lot has changed since then both intrinsic and extrinsic to where I am today but this initial idea of fostering a career rooted in having a meaningful impact has navigated me to this point. So with my studies at University nearing conclusion (finally) and what feels like having developed into an entirely new person, I have been given an incredibly opportunity whereby I am off to the UN tomorrow to dabble into the world of International Relations that I have long dreamed of. How did I get here?
The obvious answer is that I have been lucky enough to receive a fellowship at the Aotearoa Youth Leadership Institute. The fellowship involves undertaking a research project, volunteer work and blog updates (like this one) based around the insights I gather from attending CSW62. I will be flying out tomorrow as a delegate of the Institute to represent youth in New Zealand at the 2018 Conference on the Commission on the Status of Women. If you can’t gather by my excessive use of run-on sentences by now, I am extremely excited.
A passion for STEM and eradicating stereotypes
Over the next three weeks I will be trying my best to attend as much of the official programme and side-events as possible, but my main focus while I am away (and reason for applying for this fellowship in the first place) was in regard to women in STEM. My own journey into the tech sector was one I never had imagined for myself as I conjured up my initial dream of working at the UN. Instead I would describe my journey and now apparent aspirations of wanting to be involved in the tech sector as more of an unintentional stumble away from my comfort zone. Like many women before me have already identified, the STEM sector can be particularly exclusive and for me this meant I had preconceived ideas around what someone who was successful in these types of careers looked like or had experience in. A stereotype that I (as an able-bodied CIS gendered mixed race woman) couldn’t relate to and no one that I knew of who could challenge my assumptions otherwise.
We all want opportunities
To be honest even now writing this post, I am challenged in framing these issues in a way that won’t isolate certain readers nor lead me down a rabbit hole of defining feminism and intersectionality. But I think it’s critical to highlight that all my posts will come from a fundamental recognition that certain groups of people have multi-facets in life that they must deal with, such as sexism and racism. With that in mind, what I want to achieve and hope to learn more about in this experience is how the opportunities in STEM can be more transparent and inclusive for everyone. In recent years, New Zealand as a whole has made significant contributions in closing gender gaps in the workforce however the same cannot be said for STEM industries.
This years MYOB Women in Tech report found men to be twice as likely to study IT at University and almost five times more likely to study engineering and related fields. In fact it showed that just 3% of 15 year old Kiwi girls see themselves pursuing a career in IT one day. These issues are particularly critical for Kiwis alike as we prepare ourselves to met the demands and influences of the future of work, where these types of careers are becoming more and more prevalent. Therefore not only do we need more people choosing to pursue these careers but without addressing the gender concerns clearly highlighted in STEM, more women will miss out.
With that all in mind, below is a video based around the types of ideas I hope to hear more about at CSW62 and the type of advocacy work I hope to partake in on my return home.
**All credit given to VICE News for this ace coverage.
My ambitions are still mostly lofty and I’m sure will mold into something else before the conference is complete but this experience has rampantly reignited my desire of wanting to do something meaningful with my career. Hearing from leading voices in various social change groups (in other words bad ass women) during the training weekend, helped me understand my purpose in being here. So in the interest of not droning on for too long, I want to finish instead with thanking each speaker with a key point or query that registered most for me in their talk. I hope it may spark others to want to find out more about other issues facing Kiwi women too.
- Firstly Jan Logie MP who gave an honest insight into the overall structural impediments facing the status of women in New Zealand. Did you know less than 1% of sexual violence ends in conviction, yet one in four women will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime?
- Fiona Gower from Rural Women NZ stressed the issues of connectivity and digital inequality for those remotely dispersed around the country. Rural women is the theme of this years CSW62 and with the tech sector being my passion, how can we ensure all women are aware of the opportunities in STEM when these disparities exist?
- Human Rights activist Aych McArdle who shared their personal journey in using the influence of various UN bodies to implement change in NZ. SOGI - an inclusive term that represents all individuals regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. This way there is no cultural bias or exclusion that the term LGBTQI often ignores.
- Lastly Anevili Taualai’s level of self awareness and ability to articulate sensitive issues like the UN’s roots as a colonizing force were so impressive I honestly have nothing more to say. GOALS.
All posts by Institute delegates reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences.