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Celebrate Your New Zealand Science Heroine

On 14 June, all New Zealanders are invited to celebrate their science heroines for Dell Day.

Dell Day marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dame Miriam Dell, a botanist, science teacher and advocate of women’s rights. To honour Dame Miriam, the Association for Women in the Sciences (AWIS), of which Dame Miriam was Patron, hopes to bring together all New Zealanders to celebrate New Zealand women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths).

“Women make up about half of the STEM workforce, but when we look at recognition and advancement, women are still not at the same level as men,” says Emma Timewell, National co-Convenor of AWIS.

“New Zealand was the first country to give women the vote. Some of our key science positions are held by women, like our Minister of Science, Innovation and Technology, our Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor, and the incoming President of the Royal Society Te Apārangi. However, only about a third of senior scientists and science managers are women. About a third of people appointed as Fellows of the Royal Society Te Apārangi each year are women. Less than a third of Endeavour Fund applications are women. There is still a significant gender pay gap. There is an improvement on where we were 30 years ago, but the science system seems to have stalled in terms of bringing women successfully along the career path.

“Women have been major contributors to New Zealand science, but we only ever really hear about the men, like Rutherford and MacDiarmid. Women in science need to be seen, recognised and celebrated more. We’re hoping to encourage more of the conversation with Dell Day, celebrating our New Zealand science heroines.”

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AWIS will be hosting an online celebration, including talks from women such as Dr Gill Jolly, Chief Science Advisor at MBIE; Dr Megan Woods, MP for Wigram and formerly Minister of Science & Innovation; Dr Lucy Stewart, co-President of the NZ Association of Scientists, and more.

Details for the online event can be found on the AWIS website awis.org.nz. Follow the conversation on social media using the hashtags #DellDayNZ #ScienceHeroines.

If you’re an organisation, share your organisation’s #ScienceHeroines staff on your social media channels (don’t forget to tag #DellDayNZ).

Meet some famous NZ science heroines

Dame Miriam Dell (1924-2022) studied Botany at the Auckland University College before working as a science teacher. She was a founding member of the Hutt Valley Branch of the National Council for Women, becoming national president of the council in 1970. She was instrumental in driving legislative change in New Zealand, first as the only woman on the Committee of Inquiry into Equal Pay in 1971, then as the only woman on the National Development Council from 1969 to 1974. She was the chairperson of the Committee on Women and was the New Zealand coordinator for the landmark International Women’s Year in 1975, attending all three United Nations Conferences for the Decade of Women as part of the New Zealand delegation. She was recognised for this work with a CBE in 1975, the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal, and was made a Dame Commander in 1980. In 1993, she was appointed to the Order of New Zealand, the highest civil honour.

Entries in Te Ara

Beatrice Tinsley, Astrophysics https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/6t5/tinsley-beatrice-muriel

Nancy Adams, Botany https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/6a3/adams-nancy-mary

Kathleen Curtis, Mycology https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/4c48/curtis-kathleen-maisey

Mavis Davidson, Ecology https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/6d6/davidson-mavis-melville

Marjorie Dingley, Horticulture https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/6d7/dingley-joan-marjorie

Beatrice Kidson, Soil science https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/4k13/kidson-elsa-beatrice

Other Women in STEM collections

Royal Society Te Apārangi 150 women in 150 words https://www.royalsociety.org.nz/150th-anniversary/150-women-in-150-words/

University of Auckland Suffrage 125 Women in Science https://suffrage125science.auckland.ac.nz/

Otago Museum Full STE(a)M Ahead https://infinitepossibilities.otagomuseum.nz/

Women in STEM statistics

The Diversity Agenda (for engineering) https://diversityagenda.org/

AWIS https://www.awis.org.nz/resources/statistics/

TechWomen https://techwomen.nz/get-informed/

Other Women in STEM initiatives

She Sharp https://www.shesharp.org.nz/

Girl Boss https://www.girlboss.nz/

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