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Fair Go: Invercargill student helps to launch more Kiwi women into space

An Invercargill student is helping to launch more Kiwi women into space – and her very own classmates are in her sights.

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With a little help from Fair Go, Invercargill student Sophie Ineson, 12, raised her concerns with the New Zealand Space Agency, the Prime Minister and Rocket Lab. Source: Fair Go

Sophie Ineson surveyed her peers at Southland Girls' High School and found almost no one knew of a female working in the New Zealand or international space industry.

The 12-year-old says her growing interest in space discovery came after a visit to a NASA centre in 2018.

Knowing her peers hadn’t experienced such an eye-opening opportunity, she knew she needed to act to show them what was possible.

She raised her concerns with the New Zealand Space Agency, the Prime Minister, and Rocket Lab.

She called for action to create better pathways for young women into the sector.

She suggested that a careers website be created to guide young people as they consider their next steps. She also asked for more to be done to connect girls with female role models who are currently working in the industry.

The space industry is taking off in Aotearoa. Between 2018 and 2019, it contributed nearly $1.7 billion to the country’s economy and employs 12,000 people.

With help from TVNZ1's Fair Go, Sophie received a letter back from the New Zealand Space Agency, which outlined a number of initiatives about to launch, as well as others already underway.

General Manager Dr Peter Crabtree told her that they’re currently working on a careers website, which will include advice on working in areas that some might not even associate with space; like artificial intelligence, robotics and satellite technology.

“In all the work we have done so far, encouraging more women into space careers is a top priority,” he said.

The agency is also making an online series on women working in space and they’ve asked Sophie to be a part of it.

Rocket Lab told Fair Go it is passionate about “nurturing the new space generation” through education outreach and scholarship programmes. Its engineers have visited 120 schools across New Zealand and the US over the past two years.

It offers an annual $20,000 scholarship for a student pursuing a degree in science, technology, engineering or maths. In the years 2017, 2018 and 2019, each recipient was female.

Sophie Ineson was a recipient of Fair Go’s annual Consumer Heroes competition, which includes $1000 for her school, sponsored by TVNZ, and a Canon prize pack.