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The Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) is helping to lead the way in addressing the gender gap if the numbers of women scientists on its staff are anything to go by.

At ESR, women make up 63 percent of the workforce, with 80 percent of ESR’s laboratory technicians being female.

International data shows less than 30 per cent of the world’s researchers are women.

Today (February 11) is International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

In New Zealand, and internationally, there has been a drive over the past 15 years to inspire and engage women and girls in science.

However, research shows they are still excluded from participating fully in science with long-standing biases and gender stereotypes putting girls off science related fields

One of ESR’s newest scientists, Charlotte Gilkison, says she was very surprised by the number of women on the staff when she joined ESR last year.

“It is really encouraging.”

An epidemiology analyst, Charlotte (25) says she is loving the work.

She says she didn’t particularly feel encouraged to take up sciences at secondary school with a view to working in science.

“I’ve always loved science. At college, I took biology, chemistry and physics. But it felt like I and other girls in my year were pushed towards more traditional careers, such as nursing.

“High school was not good at pointing the way to jobs in science. But, I followed my interest. When I started tertiary study I was put off by the thought of lab work, which didn’t appeal to me, but I persevered and discovered a passion for microbiology.”

Charlotte says she hasn’t found that she has been treated any differently from male counterparts.

“Not at university. But after I graduated what I did find was that I just lacked the confidence when it came to applying for work. My male peers seemed to have no second thoughts putting themselves forward for jobs, while it was a little harder for me.”

She says she’s very happy with the choice she made and has discovered there are a wealth of opportunities.

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Charlotte Gilkison

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Gael Woods