Women innovators celebrate suffrage day

Over 200 guests were inspired by current women leaders in innovation, celebrated the 121st anniversary of women’s suffrage and had an opportunity to visit the National Library’s Leading Edge exhibition.

The circular saw, kevlar, submarine telescope, marine flares, shelves in a refrigerator door, the COBOL computer language and first suction milking machine – all of these are innovative products invented by women.

Hosted by Dr Michelle Dickinson from Auckland University, three women leaders gave their thoughts on how to encourage more women and girls to consider innovation-related careers.

Dr Mary Quin, Chief Executive Callaghan Innovation, said astronomy sparked her interest in science at a young age and this interest was supported by teachers, parents and her family. Mary went on to complete a PhD in materials science and engineering from the Northwestern University in Illinois and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

She said we all have a role to promote science options to women and girls.

“New Zealand’s economy needs more skilled workers in innovation fields. We need to make sure women and girls are utilising their skills and talents in the best way,” she told guests.

Victoria Crone, Managing Director Xero New Zealand, said that the digital world offered many opportunities for women to be entrepreneurial, to design innovative solutions and to work in a collaborative way.

“We have to educate girls on all career options early on and ensure they see science and innovation careers as fun. We have to support women in managing careers and their family, and we need to encourage women to be who they are,” she said.

Maru Nihoniho, Chief Executive Metia Interactive, described her journey from hospitality to breaking the stereotype of game developers. Maru has developed a new ‘e-therapy’ that uses an interactive 3D fantasy game to teach self-help for depression.

“I have always had a curious mind and it took a lot of hard work and whānau support for me to get where I am today. My advice to women is ‘you will find a way, keep walking until you get there’.”

“I develop games that are entertainment but also educational and helpful for people.I don’t design games for boys or girls. I design games that everyone can enjoy,”she said.

Michelle summed up the presentations from the speakers with this final advice to guests; “Get innovating, be inviting, have imagination, inspire others and ignore the negatives that stop you progressing.”