New Zealand needs more female role models in science, maths and IT if we are to meet future industry demands says the new principal of private girls’ school Chilton Saint James.
Kathy Parker says the education requirements of today’s girls have changed significantly since the school’s inception.
“The challenge in educating the next generation of girls is ensuring that we not only provide the most up-to-date learning resources for science, technology, engineering, and maths education, but help them find the passion to carry them through into successful career paths,” Ms Parker says.
“With nationwide skills shortages in IT and other technology-related industries, it is critical that we address the level of support and encouragement we provide as parents and as a society for the next generation.”
Girls need a wide range of role models to aspire to if they are to pursue technology-based subjects that the country is most in need of, she says.
“Establishing and promoting role models at an early age is an essential part of framing the career development of our next generation of scientists and technology industry leaders; in many ways it is even more important for young females.”
Ms Parker says when female students see the same role models regularly publicised, it sends a message that these are more the exception than the rule.
“I believe we need to see each technology industry seeking out successful professional women and proactively developing their profiles. As educators, we also have a role to play in better facilitating girls’ exposure to these women.”
Alongside a greater focus on technology, and teaching of the curriculum it is important that today’s young women are armed with skills such as resilience, flexibility, leadership and initiative, she says.
“My goal is to ensure that we prepare young Chilton women for the rapidly changing world they now inhabit by constantly reviewing our offering and ensuring that our curriculum remains relevant to them. We want to keep our girls engaged with material that is diverse, challenging and satisfying.”
Part of this diversity includes a strong emphasis on service and the artistic disciplines the school offers, Ms Parker says.
“The increasing emphasis on development of STEM science, technology, engineering, and mathematics subjects actually complements Chilton’s traditionally strong performance in the arts.
“Although not commonly paired together, traditionally analytic subjects can be enhanced through creativity – particularly where a degree of lateral thinking can put forward unique solutions – we have found the cross pollination of ideas from disciplines leads to better innovation.”
Ms Parker is only the 14th principal in the school’s almost century-long history with the school opening its gates in 1918.
The school’s board chair Michelle Luping says more than 50 candidates from New Zealand, Australasia and other parts of the world applied for the role but Ms Parker was the standout educator.
“Kathy demonstrated a clear understanding of the various levels of learning within the school from early childhood and primary through to secondary and the educational demands of each level. She also had a clear vision for the future growth of the school and the demands facing our students in the dynamic global marketplace.”
Ms Parker will leave her role at ACG Senior College to take up the new Wellington position in October.