Massey celebrates women in science

Massey University Horticulture students in 1974.

The role of women in the science profession is being recognised and celebrated at Massey University as part of the United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

Today is the first observance of the day, which aims to promote the full and equal participation of women and girls in education, training, employment and decision-making processes in the sciences worldwide and reaffirms the vital role women play in science and technology communities.

A web page has been developed to celebrate both trailblazers in a traditionally male-dominated discipline as well as some of today’s science leaders and the growing number of young female graduates who are passionate about the discipline.

Among them is Enid Hills – the first woman to graduate with a Massey University qualification, who died in Palmerston North in 2012 aged 99. Mrs Hills (nee Christian) graduated from what was then Massey Agricultural College in 1933 with a Certificate in Poultry Farming. She was a poultry farmer, journalist and mother of four, who maintained regular contact with the university as a regular attendee of alumni events.

Another pioneer to be recognised is Dame Ella Campbell, after whom the university’s herbarium is named. Dame Ella joined Massey in 1945, lecturing horticulture and agriculture students about plant morphology and anatomy. She became a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 1997, as “a pioneer in the field of university botanic research” and received the Massey Medal in 1992.

Today's leaders inspire others

Today’s science leaders include deputy director of Massey’s Animal Welfare Science and Bioethics Centre, a World Animal Health Organization collaborating centre, Dr Ngaio Beausoleil. She says it is important to encourage girls and women to pursue science as they offer valuable perspectives and innovation in the field.

“Women make up half the population, so they represent half the perspectives and knowledge generation the world has to offer. They have a unique way of understanding the world which can lead to exciting innovations.”

Associate Professor of Engineering Jane Goodyer says, in her profession, women are a “dying breed”. She says the way to combat this is to change public perception of what engineering is. “You hear young boys and girls saying things like ‘oh engineering is what my Dad does’ or ‘it’s dirty’. But really, engineering is incredibly creative, interesting and innovative.”

Last year, 415 women graduated with a science degree (including engineering, food technology, information science and agriculture) compared to 353 males.

To commemorate the day a high-level forum will be held on 11 February 2016 at the United Nations Headquarters by The Royal Academy of Science. More information can be found on the United Nations website.

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