As a National finalist for the Eureka Science Competition, at 17, Alexia Hilbertidou was the youngest person to lead a research project at the New Zealand Treasury. Just returned from an astronomy mission with NASA, her own mission is to close the gender gap in STEM and believes that the decisions made while young are crucial in paving the way. Alexia’s passion for future-focused education is why she was named the most influential woman under the age of 25 at the 2016 Westpac Women of Influence Awards.
Q: How did you get started and what or who inspired and empowered you to?
When I was 14 I was the only girl in my IT class and at 16 I was the only girl in my advanced Physics class. I established GirlBoss New Zealand — an organisation which encourages young women to embrace male dominated STEM fields to address this. In just 18 months, GirlBoss has 8000 members and over 1900 GirlBoss Ambassadors from across New Zealand. Engaging young women, and other underrepresented groups into STEM fields is instrumental in improving outcomes and addressing inequalities within New Zealand. The first step is to show young people that they don’t have to look like Alan Turing or Steve Jobs or even Isaac Newton to have a stimulating and well paid career in STEM.
Q: What mindset distinguished you from others who were doing the same thing? How did you develop it?
An important mindset for me is to ensure that GirlBoss is not a prerogative of the privileged.To overcome the challenge of event costs limiting equity of access I negotiate with sponsors to ensure ticket prices are low. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution progresses, the impact on women and low income communities — who are a majority in the fields set to be automated and largely absent from the areas set to accelerate — will be economically devastating.
Success for me will not come when I break through the glass ceiling, rather it is in the shattering of that ceiling by those who I seek to empower, that I will experience success.
Q: What do you think is the main reason why some people face failure when going after their vision?
To avoid failure you must understand your “WHY.” I think this is particularly true in entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is liberating because you are free to be creative and choose how you decide to use every 24 hours, however, it also means that you solely have to face and resolve challenges. It is in these difficult times, the unglamourous, “oh man, I have made a mistake” times that understanding your “why” becomes imperative. If you don’t clearly understand why you do what you do, you will struggle to find the passion and strength to make it through the hard yards. In those times, I remind myself of my WHY and ask myself what small steps can I take to make that vision are reality.
Realise that you are not alone. Realise the importance of finding “your tribe.” You become the average of the people you spend the most time around so make sure you’re spending time with people who inspire, empower and encourage you. Realise that you do not need to wait until your out of school/ turn 21// you reach a certain milestone/ to get involved and have influence. If you notice a problem, and have the skills to offer a solution, then go for it.
To learn more about Alexia Hilbertidou, visit www.alexia.nz
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