By: Aimee Shaw
The 18-year-old Aucklander is the founder of GirlBoss, a social enterprise which aims to empower women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Hilbertidou started GirlBoss when she was a 16-year-old student at Albany Senior High, the result of being the only girl in her IT and physics classes.
“When I was in high school in Year 12 I was the only girl studying IT in my digital IT class, and when I was 18 I was the only girl studying advanced physics at my school,” she says.
“I really felt there needed to be a community for ambitious young women in New Zealand, and really create a space for young women who are passionate about leadership, entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering, IT and maths.”
Hilbertidou finished school last year and has spent this year working fulltime on GirlBoss.
GirlBoss targets high school students and aims to empower them through school clubs, workshops and presentations.
Dr Michelle Dickinson (NanoGirl), My Food Bag founder Theresa Gattung, Green Party candidate Chloe Swarbrick, deputy Labour leader Jacinda Ardern, and Xero’s Anna Curzon have spoken at GirlBoss events.
She has quite the CV.
The former intern at New Zealand Treasury and 2016 winner of Westpac’s Women of Influence Award received a scholarship from the Ministry of Education last year for her work on supporting the national objective of generating economic growth through science, technology, engineering, maths, and innovation.
Hilbertidou was born in Cyprus and moved to New Zealand as a baby.
The fact that only one CEO of the NZX50 is a woman and that women represent only 2 per cent of all NZX-listed companies, fuels Hilbertidou’s passion for change.
Hilbertidou says GirlBoss equips women for the future.
“If we’re looking at the future of work and how automation will impact the future of work, women in particular will be the most impacted by these changes because they are in the fields highly likely to be automated; retail, administration, and also because of the fact that they are currently nearly absent in the field and sectors set to grow – science, technology, engineering and maths.
“A World Economic Forum report suggests that there will be growing rates of gender and social inequity and mass unemployment for women, so there’s this new found sense of urgency to encourage women into these fields.”
She identified three problems as to why women are under-represented in STEM fields: misconceptions of difficulties, lack of community and lack of representation.
“Girls can’t be what they can’t see,” she says.
Nasa selected Hilbertidou to take part in its Strategic Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (Sofia) project through her involvement with GirlBoss and empowering women in technology.
The overnight flight will take 10 hours, travelling to 45,000ft over the Southern Ocean.
She says she’s over the moon and can’t wait for the flight later this week.
“To be up there with some of the top Nasa scientists in the world is going to be an absolutely mind-blowing opportunity, to be part of exploring all the possibilities that are out there.”
Hilbertidou says her long-term plans are to continue to grow GirlBoss.