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Special visit for Southland schoolgirl pushing for more women to explore careers in space

A Southland schoolgirl is encouraging more women to explore a career in space after noticing it is mostly men who enter the industry. 

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Twelve-year-old Sophie Ineson noticed it’s mostly men who enter the industry, so she did something about it. Source: 1 NEWS

Twelve-year-old Sophie Ineson, who attends Southland Girls' High School in Invercargill, hopes to one day work for the likes of NASA or Rocket Lab. 

"I really like the space industry, not just the person who launches the rocket, not the person who's in the rocket but all of the different things behind it," she told 1 NEWS.

But her dreams lie in an industry mostly dominated by men, something she wants to change by getting more women interested in the job. 

"I'd like to see that space is for everyone," Sophie says.

Sophie featured on Fair Go raising her concerns with the New Zealand Space Agency, the Prime Minister, and Rocket Lab.

She also surveyed her school and found almost no one knew a women working in both local and international space agencies.

After hearing her story, she's now getting support from other New Zealand women who are sharing their stories of success in the field. 

Emily Kendall, Rose Swears and Lynley St George have all worked as interns at NASA, and visited Southland Girls' High School today.

"There are people that do astrobiology, there are people that do astrophysics like me, there are people who do all the computing stuff… There are opportunities for people in any kind of field," says Kendall.

The women recognise the impact it can have on young girls to see other women working in the male-dominated fields.

"I think it's a lot easier to do things if you have seen someone do it already and it makes it easier to shut up that little voice in your head saying you can't do this," Swears says.

St George added: "When I'm working every day, I don't necessarily consider myself a role model… but the light in those girl's eyes really says something."

The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment and the US Embassy offer scholarships for Kiwis to work for NASA.

"Women want to go to space... They deserve to go to space. They deserve those opportunities," says Kevin Covert, who is the chargé d'affaires from the US Embassy.

He says the number of women entering the sector is starting to take off. 

"We have more female science leaders and astronauts and they're paving the way for the future. So they're showing it can be done."

Southland Girls' High School principal Yvonne Browning is pleased with the visit from the three NASA interns today.

"We promote women in any career that they actually want to be in, that's the really important bit. But I think [this visit] has given a chance for the girls to think beyond the accepted norms," she says.