Increasing diversity in sciences


An example of a female scientist, Dr Victoria Metcalfe, conducting research which has taken her to Antarctica, pictured here in 2005 with a Bovichtus variegatus, common name Thornfish, one of the species she studied.

This week, Christchurch film-goers have helped fundraise for a new tertiary scholarship for a Kiwi woman in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Hundreds of supporters have turned out for special screenings of Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures around the country to help fundraise for an undergraduate scholarship to cover the fees for a woman based in New Zealand to study the physical or mathematical sciences or engineering at a NZ tertiary institution from 2018.

Having already raised around $20,000 – more than $4000 in Christchurch alone – the fundraising idea which sold out in Auckland and Christchurch is being replicated in Wellington, Palmerston North and Hamilton.
Some of the Christchurch fundraiser organisers at Monday’s screening, Victoria Metcalf, Susan Rapley, Kara Kennedy and Patrice Rosengrave.

I love the fact that people are coming together for a worthy cause, said one of the Christchurch organisers Dr Victoria Metcalf.

​It was a real snowball effect.

Metcalf, whose day job is as the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, is stoked they will be holding a second fundraising screening of the film on Monday 20 due to popular demand.

More than 130 people attended the Monday showing in Christchurch and around 80 tickets for next Monday’s showing have already been sold.

That makes all the work that I’ve done for years and years to try and support women in sciences and technology worth it. It validates it for me, Metcalf said.

Metcalf said the scholarship was a clear call to action because women were significantly under-represented in physical sciences, mathematics and engineering.

This is even more true of minority groupsThis isn’t just about gender, it’s all diversity.
Criteria for the Association for Women in the Sciences (AWIS) scholarship are still being drawn up, but Metcalf said it would extend to these under-represented groups, such as Maori, Pasifika and transgender communities.

She said diversity and inclusion were key to creating better ideas and enhancing science and innovation.

We want to raise awareness of the issues that women face, and to show that there are things that we can do that can make a difference.

There’s a real need for positive change, she said.

Metcalf said sponsors and donors have come to the party to support the cause, including the University of Canterbury and New Zealand scientist Jilly Evans. She said AWIS will decide how to allocate the funds, depending on how much the other cities raise.

Hidden Figures depicts the untold, true story of the African American women mathematicians at NASA during the Space Race in the early 1960s.

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