Disparaging remarks from boys in her class when she won a Year 12 coding competition lit the fire that inspired her Pacific-wide programme, GirlBoss.
“No girl needs a permission slip from the boys in her class to follow their dreams,” she told the One Young World Summit in London last year.
Hilbertidou is determined to make sure today’s girls are well-equipped to be tomorrow’s strong and resilient leaders.
The young entrepreneur founded GirlBoss when she was 16 – its mission is to close the gender gap in leadership and science, technology, engineering and maths.
She says her latest programme, GirlBoss Edge, helps prepare young women to be future industry leaders, pioneers and problem solvers, “and in the midst of Covid-19, there’s no shortage of problems.”
“Now is a very scary time for young people; many of them will be stepping into the workforce for the very first time in a recession.
“I think now more than ever, the purpose of this programme is to really keep the hopes of these young women up, keep them inspired, motivated and give them a connection to employers.”
The New Zealander took her programme to Tereora and Nukutere Colleges on Rarotonga, and Araura College on Aitutaki.
“A real highlight for me was when we ran GirlBoss programmes in the Cook Islands and later I saw a photo of four of those young women at the Auckland University Cook Islands Association, all enrolled in engineering together.”
One of the students who took part, Brianna Lewis from Tereora College, is this year studying a Bachelor of Science majoring in Sport Development and management at the University of Otago.
“Alexia’s accomplishments were crazy amazing for someone so young,” Lewis says.
“She pointed out facts about the gender gap in science programmes that made me really think about my future studies.
“At the time I was figuring out what I wanted to study at uni and Alexia helped me see the potential in a science pathway.”
At Araura College on Aitutaki, one of the participants was Ruby Bragger. “Alexia spoke to us about leadership and about following your dreams,” she says. “And at the time my goal was to complete my schooling to the best of my abilities.”
Hilbertidou is glad her programmes are making a difference. “A big part of this programme is really around equity of access and democratising role models,” she explains.
“We’ve always been really passionate about supporting regional and rural New Zealanders. Half of the young women on this programme are Māori or Pacific; all of them are being mentored live and online by inspirational role models,” Hilbertidou says.
For Alexia, the greatest satisfaction is when she hears from young women: ‘I’ve just got into med school’, or ‘I’ve got my first internship in my second year of engineering degree. If I didn’t have that GirlBoss community, I could never have imagined I would be working in a tech company as an intern’.
So where to next? GirlBoss Edge plans to do intakes for a variety of career interests. The next cohort will be for young women with a passion for law, policy, and governance.
“As we rebuild our nation, now, more than ever, we will need effective leadership and equitable outcomes. Currently only 20 percent of board members in our NZX [listed companies] are women. Only two per cent of our NZX chief executives are women, and numbers for Maori and Pacific women barely register.”
The first online course has been so effective that Alexia says she is now thinking about how they can make more elements of the business become more efficient and future focused.
Schools, teachers, parents and students can register their interest in a future cohort at girlbossedge.com. –