Justice inspiring the next generation

GirlBoss NZ's CEO Alexia Hilbertidou developed GirlBoss Edge,(external link) a 10-day online career accelerator to lift the spirits of high-school-aged women and to keep them focused on their goals in what are likely to be tough economic times.

The programme was designed to give young women access to role models, networks and workplaces which they may not be able to access in their everyday communities. Māori, Pacific peoples, and regional and rural young women are the priority groups for this program.

The Ministry of Justice partnered with GirlBoss on the 'Justice Challenge', a real-world problem-solving challenge which participants take part in while on the programme.

A call for volunteer mentors went out via the Ministry's internal networks, and senior management team. Over 50 respondents came from across Justice, including Provider and Community Services, Sector, People and Performance, JVBU, Property, Policy, OSD, Communications, CSI, ICT and Courts and Tribunals.

"We were blown away with the number of employees who put their hands up to volunteer," says Katie Fitzsimons from People and Performance, who co-ordinated the response.

The mentoring took place between 10-12 July via Zoom, Skype or MS Teams, with participants being given the opportunity to book a 30-minute online mentoring session with Ministry of Justice staff. The session involved discussing the young women's career aspirations, and mentors sharing aspects of their career journey and offering support and guidance for the Challenge.

"I want to thank everyone who volunteered their time so willingly," says Tina Wakefield, Deputy Secretary, Corporate & Digital Services. "It is fantastic that the Ministry was able to support such an important initiative."

The Ministry's Digital Channels Manager, Kalena Jordan, mentored Stella from Auckland, who is studying philosophy in the United States and is interested in a career in journalism, and Abby from Nelson, who is considering a career in the law or the NZ public service.

When Kalena was asked if she'd participate again, she said she definitely would.

"I found the experience really humbling. It was refreshing that they were both determined to find careers that will enable them to make a difference and to change the world for the better - to take on roles that matter. The girls I mentored probably taught me more than I taught them!"

Media Manager Jerram Watts, says it was inspiring to hear their stories - "especially one young lady whose family has fostered a number of children, now she wants to be a Family Court lawyer and/or do overseas aid work to help children in need. I'm really thankful for the opportunity to take part and would do it again in a heartbeat."

Senior Comms Advisor Annie May, mentored three young women: two in the Manawatu who were in their last year of high school, and the third in her first year at AUT. She was really impressed about their enthusiasm and desire to help others. "All three had a keen interest in human rights law and want to do something that is, as one of them said, 'more than just sitting in a cushy office and helping businesses make money'. I really enjoyed mentoring and would encourage other people to take up the chance to do so."

Services Manager Pippa Nicholson, thought GirlBoss was a fantastic initiative - "I really enjoyed meeting the 3 young women I mentored. They were all motivated, and well prepared for their session. We talked about how they intend to achieve their goals, and their special interests. I really enjoyed the opportunity, and I’d be very happy to support this again in the future."

We also received some great feedback from the participants.

"I ended up talking for over an hour with an Analyst from Te Arawhiti, and I really enjoyed the session. Mentoring was by far my favourite part of GirlBoss!"
Ella, 17

"I had a great session with Victoria McLaughlin at the Ministry of Justice, she even convinced me to reconsider my career path and broaden my options when at University."
Courtney, 17

"It was so amazing, a fan girl moment for sure. So amazing to talk one on one with people you aspire to be like one day. 100/10!"
Sarah, 17

"The one to one sessions with mentors were just so amazing and the mentors were great. They were able to talk to me about their experiences, knowledge and they answered all questions that I had."
Sumita, 16

"OMG MY MENTOR SESSION WAS AMAZING! I was so privileged to go with Hayley (from the Ministry of Justice) and it was so fascinating learning about her career and the steps she took to get where she is. Amazing also learning about the subjects she took at university since I plan to study the same ones!"
Ella, 17

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