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Kate Hannah

Kate Hannah is the Executive Manager of Te Pūnaha Matatini, one of New Zealand’s Centres of Research Excellence.

Kate H

What do you do on an average work day?
There is no average work day! An average work week might include a trip to one of our partner institutions to meet with researchers to plan projects, an offsite visit to strategise around an event or public engagement activity with stakeholders, writing a blogpost or two about our activities, preparing a talk for students or a conference, crunching some data on gender equity in science, and constant cups of coffee with colleagues to dream up schemes …

What did you study at school? And after high school?
At high school, I focused on subjects that I really enjoyed and that I was naturally good at – English, History, Languages, Art History, and Classics. I continued focusing on the arts at university, doing first a BA (Hons) in English and History, and then an MA in American literary history. However, during my post-grad studies in history, I was introduced to quantitative history in a compulsory honours paper at the University of Waikato, and began to appreciate the importance of numerical analysis to complement the qualitative – or storytelling – aspect of history that has always been my passion.

Was your study directly related to what you do now?
In many ways, despite appearances, yes. The skills and knowledge I acquired doing my degrees are integral to my current role, providing a counterpoint to a focus on simply the data, or the numbers. I’m responsible for developing programmes for our postgraduate students and staff that provide a knowledge of the history of science, the ethical questions at the heart of contemporary scientific activity, and the importance of language in communicating science – knowledge and skills that are intrinsic to the study of the humanities and social sciences.

What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?
You too can do what you love – a Masters in American literary history – and have continuous employment in a variety of interesting and stimulating fields! Young women thinking about their career choices right now should balance out areas of strength with areas of utility, and remember that we’re living in world of lifelong learning, in which curiosity and passion go a long way.

What are some of your career highlights so far?
Highlights usually involve teaching or talking – presenting my research to others, talking about contemporary issues in science with colleagues and students, making a difference for young women in science.

I’m also extremely proud of the extra work I did when we were developing the proposal for the Centre of Research Excellence where I’m now employed – I took on managing the bid development and writing many sections of the proposal while continuing in my then role as Research Development Manager at the University of Auckland Business School. I do count increasing both the number of applications made to the Marsden Fund, and funded Marsden projects exponentially while at the Business School as another career highlight.

Why do you believe engaging in STEM – whether it’s working in the field, studying it or just educating one’s self around the issues – is important to New Zealand?
We live in an increasingly complex world, and the critical issues of our time – climate change, economic injustice, gender equity – require sophisticated understanding of the underlying science. Balancing economic, environmental, social, and cultural impacts of personal and political choices in this complex connected world requires the critical contribution of science and scientists in discourse with a science-literate public. New Zealand, a small, commodity-based economy at the bottom of the world, has a history of being smart and adaptive – engaging with STEM is key if we’re to continue that history.

Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?
Can I quote Justin Trudeau? “Because it’s 2016.”

Women are half the world, but only a quarter of the professors in New Zealand universities – and the numbers get lower when you look at fields like maths, physics, and computer science. It’s important to have more women in STEM because a science system that better reflects the world will be better at working with the world to mitigate against the critical issues of our time. It’s important to have more women in STEM because that would be fairer, and more equitable. It’s important to have more women in STEM because science and technology are too important to our shared future for the same people to keep on having the same ideas. There’s a diversity dividend, and STEM needs it.

Kate Hannah is the Executive Manager of Te Pūnaha Matatini, one of New Zealand’s Centres of Research Excellence.

This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM. 
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