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Women turning innovative ideas into a reality

open this image in new window: Banner size - students at Gracefield

This article was published on 12 February 2020

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science, celebrated on Tuesday, was about encouraging a new generation of women and girl scientists to tackle major challenges of our time.

Callaghan Innovation in partnership with Hutt Science hosted 45 Year 11-13 female students at its Gracefield site in Lower Hutt where they delved into the exciting world of hi-tech sensors, 3D printing, and precision measurement. In its Auckland location, almost 50 Year 9-13 students covered everything from engineering and big data to bioengineering and augmented reality.

Research Scientists at Callaghan Innovation for Women and Girls in Science Day
Research Scientists at Callaghan Innovation for Women and Girls in Science Day


Agnetha Korevaar is one of around 200 scientists and engineers at Callaghan Innovation helping businesses solve problems and get ahead with science and technology. “Through software and hardware I take people’s ideas and I turn them into an actual reality. I would love more young women to be able to do that,” says Ms Korevaar.

“For me what matters most is love, which is expressed in tangible ways of helping other people. And I see tech as a really cool way to do that. It’s why one of my favourite areas is assistive technologies which help people with disabilities or injuries.”

Metrology fields (measurement precision) are struggling to attract young talent with current experts moving towards retirement. Key industry players that rely on precise measurement capabilities, in aerospace and Food and Beverage for example, are desperate for fresh talent. 

“University isn’t always the only option,” says Nina Wronski who is gaining her qualifications on the job as a Measurement Technician with New Zealand’s Measurement Standards Laboratory. “Like a lot of young people I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left high school. I didn’t know what metrology was before I came here and I was curious to find out. I like learning new skills, gaining new knowledge and am challenged every day.”

Nina Wronski working with Microvu machine
Nina Wronski working with Microvu machine


Callaghan Innovation’s CEO, Vic Crone, says STEM jobs are increasingly important for New Zealand’s future and it is predicted that almost all future jobs will require some STEM knowledge. 

“We are seeing serious demand for STEM skills from the businesses we work with in frontier industries like robotics, food science, aeronautics, big data, smart transport, health technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and sustainable energy,” says Ms Crone.

“But in New Zealand there is a huge STEM skills shortfall. We simply don’t have enough young people pursuing careers in these fields - and we know in particular, it’s been a struggle to lift female representation. STEM careers are much more dynamic than many expect, now powering creative industries and solving social and environmental problems.”

Vic Crone talking to female students
Vic Crone talking to female students


Callaghan Innovation warmly thanks event partners Hutt Science, Victoria University of Wellington’s Ferrier Research Institute and Robinson Research Institute, along with our fantastic Auckland event mentors including Lisa Wong (Crown Equipment), Ngapera Riley (Figure Group), Laura Pedovsky (Auckland Bioengineering Unit), Luisa Jamieson, Jennifer Trittschuh and Helen Cuddy (Fisher & Paykel), Kimberlee Jordan (Unitech) and Hilary Barker (UoA Medicine). 

There are a growing number of programmes and services available to support young people’s STEM career pathways, including:

  • The Wonder Project programme in primary schools, designed to get young Kiwis excited about science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)
  • Puhoro STEM Academy focuses on lifting achievement rates for NCEA level 3 STEM subjects among Māori while developing science leadership potential 
  • Callaghan Innovation’s Student Grants fund work experience in innovative businesses carrying out R&D
  • Chiasma, the national tertiary student-led organisation helping students develop successful careers in STEM by providing the necessary practical skills, networks and mind-set
  • Commercially-led entry-level apprenticeships
  • Many more regional and university programmes providing upskilling, networking and career pathway advice.