Earlier this year, on the 11th of February, was the UN's International Day of Women and Girls in Science. It was a day to celebrate the women around the world that are currently working in, or towards, a career in STEM, and are breaking down barriers that threaten to hold them back from achieving their goals. So it is only fitting to introduce several of EWBNZ’s very own powerful women, who help to make up its total of 19 female leaders (84% of the leadership team!). We asked Zainab Manasawala, Neha Raphael, Caroline Hope, Stephanie Hamel and India Eiloart about why STEM is important to them and why they think more women should get involved.
"As a female mechanical engineer, you often find yourself as a minority. But that shouldn’t stop you from being the best engineer you can! As an engineering student, I joined Engineers Without Borders. As a treasurer, I learnt skills such as finance and accounting, management, and teamwork. I have also been working with the EWBNZ organisation to streamline the grants application process. As a product development engineer at Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, I work with 3D modelling, prototyping, development and testing and launching products into the market.
Engineering has given me a plethora of not only technical skills but also soft skills such as leadership, communication, and adaptability! These have provided me a strong foundation for my future as an engineer looking to be in the midst of the changing tech world!"
"While working as an intern at Fletcher Construction I have found myself involved with various teams from commercial, engineering and now quality assurance. The most exciting part of my job has been my involvement with the various subcontractors and setting up systems in order to manage the different types of work taking place. Contributing and maintaining these systems has required a creative use of my problem solving skills in combination with good communication to make the coordination of the teams occur smoothly."
"My role within EWBNZ is In-Schools Programme Coordinator, which I absolutely love because it’s an opportunity to share my passion for STEM with our volunteers who are reaching many high-school students around New Zealand.
It is important that the demographic within the STEM sector in New Zealand represents the society we are designing for. Our In-schools programme exposes students to the world of humanitarian engineering, helping to inspire greater diversity among students up taking STEM subjects and strengthen our STEM sector in the near future.
Our outreach programme is also an awesome opportunity for the volunteers to develop their leadership and presentation skills, while adopting the values of socially conscious university students and graduates - a mind-set that has potential to create a wake within the professional world."
"I am Stephanie Hamel and am an environmental engineer or Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) engineer. I currently work as the EWB Programme Manager in Vanuatu and am loving the diversity of my role which I have only started a few months ago. One side of my work is technical, as it aims to support the Ministry of Health to develop the National Sanitation guidelines and standards. Another side is strategic, as I am leading the development of the EWB Vanuatu Program, identifying gaps and opportunities in the WASH sector but also other EWB thematic areas such as Energy, Inclusive design and accessible built environment, Engineering education and Women in Engineering. The last component of my role is to provide technical support to the field volunteers in their capacity-strengthening role for our current partners.
This encapsulates quite well what I love about being an engineer: it can be as technical as you want it to be, but there is so much more to it to make infrastructure sustainable and accessible for all, the soft side as they call it. This includes some enriching stakeholder engagement, a constant reflection, learning and sharing about what works and seeking out synergies across sectors. Feel free to get in touch, fellow humanitarian engineers!"
"During the day I am a Water Resources Engineer with WSP Opus, developing hydraulic models and water safety plans for catchments around New Zealand, and through EWBNZ I'm translating these skills out into the Pacific setting and any communities that need access to this technical knowledge. Water security and flood risks occur practically everywhere on earth, and a lot of places aren't fully equipped to handle them.
Within EWBNZ I'm the Programme Coordinator, looking after our outwards-facing programmes. I've been with EWBNZ since my first year of university and have stuck around because helping people and the environment is all I want to do in life, and that's all that EWBer's wants to do too. It attracts the most inspiring, kindest and hardest working people I know and I really do love volunteering with them. I've gained so much knowledge and experience with EWB, have a great group of friends from it, and have been presented with opportunities I wouldn't have dared dream of thanks to them all."