Young Women in STEM

Young Women in STEM (YWIS) is a platform for young women to come together and discover study, research, and career pathways available in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics sectors.

Our mission is to close the gender gap in science and technology, and inspire future generations of female innovators and sustainable technology leaders.

The world of engineering offers a vast array of exciting career opportunities, and in the coming months, we will feature leading industry experts to share their insights into some of the most dynamic, cutting-edge, and fascinating jobs that exist in the work place today.

Graduate Engineers Share Their Experience

Curious about what a career in STEM can look like?

Read these stories from recent graduates who are already making their mark in various fields of engineering, as they share their experiences, challenges, and learnings.

Catherine Downes

Masters of Engineering Student – Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Waikato

In high school, Catherine’s favourite subjects were physics and maths.

After a teacher suggested she went into engineering, she did some research, and settled on mechanical engineerin. This field appealed to her visual nature, making it the perfect fit.

It wasn’t until her second and third year at university that she really began to understand what engineering is and fell in love with it.

She’s currently in the final stages of her Master’s project – which has seen her working alongside scientists and engineers to develop a robotic vehicle designed to thin apple orchards, pick blueberries, and prune vineyards.

Her highlight has been working on projects which make change and offer much needed solutions to problems.

For young women thinking about choosing a STEM career, I’d dispel the misconception that working in a predominantly male field isn’t enjoyable for women. You can literally be whatever you want to be, whether that be the highest paid designer, CEO, or manager!


Cat Smith

Operations Support Trainee, Orion – New Zealand, Diploma of Engineering and Bachelor of Engineering Technology, Ara Institute

Cat was inspired to pursue engineering as a career after being exposed to an electronics technology class in high school.

“I remember thinking that being able to control an LED so that it turned on automatically when the room got dark was like magic”, Cat laughs.

She now works in electrical engineering with a focus on automation for electricity networks.

“Electricity is a STEM industry where ‘you only really notice it when things go wrong’. When things are going right, our customers are supplied with power and they needn’t think twice about flicking a switch”.

“No two days are the same”, Cat says. In her last job, she could find herself eating lunch with a lakeside view some days, only to find herself waist-deep in a dirt trench in the rain, or off-roading up the side of a hill, on others.

I love being part of a team of ‘everyday superheroes’ that is working behind the scenes and around the clock to enable that.


Overall, Cat thinks it’s important to dispel the misconception that creative work and STEm are two separate pathways.

Mathematics and science are the foundations for all that we know about our physical world, and their concepts are just as beautiful as fine art. Combining technical and creative thinking broadens the possibilities of what can be innovated and created. The possibilities are endless, and in my opinion – STEM is real-life magic.


When asked for advice to students, Cat suggests “is to “look beyond the four-year university degree pathway into STEM. There are many other options (e.g. polytechnics, trades, and apprenticeships) which may be better suited to your life, and learning style”.

Hozea Lopez

Project Engineer at Vortex Group – Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) in Computer Systems, University of Auckland

Hozea has always had a love for science and maths – and this naturally led her to a career in engineering.

“Now that I have started my career, I enjoy the on-the-job learning – there are so many new things to learn”, Hozea says. “I also like that my role gives me a mixture of office-based work and site-based work. Variety is great”.

Her favourite part of her role as a Project Engineer at Vortex is helping to make electricity more accessible to the most remote places.

“It’s amazing that there are still places with little to no electricity, and it’s also amazing what we can do to get people in these remote places connected. I love seeing structures that have been around for hundreds of years and the design that went into it”.

I’d like to encourage young women to pursue STEM careers. Don’t be afraid of giving it a try. You might end up liking it, or it might be different to what you expected it to be.


Looking for more inspiration?

Read more stories from Young Women in STEM …