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Spirit & Soul: Encouraging young women into STEM

Posted 9 months ago in Xero news by Ruth James
Posted by Ruth James

Meet Jaskiran: she’s 12 years old and on a mission. Jaskiran wants to encourage her female peers to develop a passion for careers that do not traditionally have high female representation. This includes careers in STEM (science technology, engineering, maths).

Her passion

Jaskiran’s passion for STEM came about when she went along to The Mind Labs school holiday workshop where she discovered she wanted to learn more. This lead to her finding and signing up to a local Code Club running at Capital E.

Having discovered the joy of programming and tech, she noticed that a lot of her female peers were distinctly absent from these opportunities.

Sadly, this is not unusual. NZTech reported in 2015 that only 3% of girls aged 15 years old were interested in pursuing a career in computer studies.

This reality motivated Jaskiran to enter a submission for the Westpac and Sir Peter Blake Trust Dream Bank where she shared her dream to encourage more girls into STEM. And lucky for her, her ‘dream’ was picked. The team at Westpac help her with setting up Spirit & Soul, her non-profit organisation. Since setting this up, Jaskiran has run two very successful events for girls who are of a similar age to her.

Spirit & Soul at Xero

Her latest event was sponsored by Xero, where we greeted just under 100 girls, parents and speakers into our Wellington office. We kicked off proceedings with an ice-breaker to encourage the girls to get to know each other and feel comfortable amongst their peers.

This was followed by a series of lightning talks. From Dr Michelle Dickinson (aka Nanogirl), to Penny Gifford from NZ Police, to NanoBiotechnology researcher Dr Renee Goreham. There was also Jo Cribb (CE strategist and gender and policy expert), Lucy Morris founder and studio director of Starcolt  (a Wellington-based game development studio), and Chloe Swarbrick – a Green Party MP. There were women from all sorts of places who spoke.

After hearing from these inspiring women, the younger members of the audience were put into small groups and started a rotation with 11 different ‘stalls’. These stalls had representation from Engineering NZ, NZ Defence Force, NZ Police, NIWA, as well as scientists and lawyers – to name a few. Being in groups of no more than six ensured that the girls had an opportunity to talk to these professionals and understand the skills that motivated these women to do what they do.

During this time the parents and caregivers congregated to talk about ways to support and encourage their daughters into STEM opportunities. There was talk about local opportunities and online learning tools, as well as ways to encourage these young women to be confident and adopt a growth mind set.

We wrapped up the proceedings with a quiz and some giveaways. Overall this event was a success for Jaskiran, Spirit & Soul and most importantly for all the girls and caregivers who attende

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