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Women in Science

Today is the United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

11 February, 2022

Today we highlight some of the women in science trades within our Air Force. This day is a reminder that women play a critical role in science and technology communities and that their participation should continue to be strengthened.

A significant gender gap has persisted throughout the years at all levels of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines all over the world. Even though women have made tremendous progress towards increasing their participation in higher education within STEM, they are still under-represented working in these fields

Hear from some of our women in science.

Don’t stop yourself from doing something because you’re a woman wanting to be in a ‘man's’ job. If you want it, go get it!

Leading Aircraftman Shannon Créne

Leading Aircraftman Shannon Créne

Meet Leading Aircraftman Shannon Créne, who hails from Matamata, and has been a member of our Air Force for five years. She’s passionate about all things STEM - hear her story.

“I have a family history of military service, but I always admired those who served and the ethos they carried – I aspired to be like them. As a teen I liked to do practical projects, although I wasn’t heavily involved in mechanical work in any way, or had a lot of knowledge around it. I had an interest, and thought why not give it a go?

One of the best things about working in science in the NZDF is being able to take technical skills that you have learnt at work and apply them in your personal life. It’s a great skill set to have experience with tools and knowledge in mechanical engineering, you can assemble your bedroom furniture easy-peasy! You start to notice your technical knowledge outside of the military too, it can really open your perception and add to your curiosity. 

I always thought women in science had to be super smart, only interested in science-related fields or trades and had to dial down their feminine traits. That is so not true – your feminine traits add value to your work performance. Plus you can have so many interests and still be great in a science field or trade! I love anything design-related - art, gardening, gaming, music, sports, and baking – the people at work appreciate my cakes. You don’t have to know everything about science and engineering before entering a technical trade in the RNZAF. You don’t have to be the girl that grew up tinkering on cars to be eligible. If you didn’t have any tech or mechanical classes at high school, that’s okay too. You learn what you need to know when you join. If you are interested, give it a go! You might surprise yourself with how capable you really are. The world is your oyster – you are not limited to be just one thing.

I will always remember when I was in high school, I heard my classmate’s father say ‘women shouldn’t be in trades and shouldn’t be allowed to touch tools’. I love proving people wrong! 

Don’t stop yourself from doing something because of what someone else thinks. Don’t stop yourself from doing something because you’re a woman wanting to be in a 'man’s' job. If you want it, go get it!”

Just because we’re a minority, doesn’t mean it has to be that way. Join up and lap up every opportunity.

Leading Aircraftman Nani Koro

Leading Aircraftman Nani Koro

Meet Leading Aircraftman Nani Koro - hailing from Palmerston North, and a Safety and Surface technician in our Air Force, she leads by example in the realm of STEM. Hear her story. 

“What influenced me towards joining a science trade within the NZDF is that I didn’t see a lot of brown faces in the Air Force, let alone the technical trades. This led me to pursue a career in the field of science in the Royal New Zealand Air Force and to show other Pasifika females like me that you can accomplish anything with the right mindset.

Every day there are new challenges and there is so much to learn. Knowledge and experience is shared within my trade and to take up the challenge is an opportunity in itself.

One common myth I am aware of is that the Air Force is dominated by males, specifically in the tech trades. However, what I have actually experienced is that this is nothing to be intimidated about as everyone treats each other like family.

Just because we’re a minority, doesn’t mean it has to be that way. Join up and lap up every opportunity.”

I enjoy the opportunities within our unit to share scientific knowledge with others and help create a stronger, healthier defence force

Leading Aircraftman Sarah Lockwood

Leading Aircraftman Sarah Lockwood

Meet Leading Aircraftman Sarah Lockwood - a Force Health Protection Technician in our Air Force, she’s put to use her environmental sciences skills in multiple ways. Hear her story.

“My dream has always been to join the RNZAF, and I chose to be part of a trade that would enable me to utilise my environmental science and resource consenting background. Force Health Protection appealed to me as it involves utilising a combination of scientific and analytical skills to monitor the health of deployed forces, assess the risk of adverse health outcomes through infectious disease assessment, epidemiological analysis, entomology, researching arthropods of medical significance, disease vector surveillance, and implement control measures to manage the associated risks. I want to be able to provide support to our deployed forces in humanitarian aid, disaster relief and peacekeeping missions by mitigating environmental health risks from the environment. I feel as though my scientific knowledge and skills will be able to be best utilised in this unique trade. This is what drew me to join the NZDF. 

One of the best aspects of working in science within the NZDF is the amazing educational and travel opportunities that I am given. For example, I am able to study abroad while attending the US Army Preventative Medicine Course at Fort Sam Houston, Texas for my primary trade training over a period of four months. I also have support from my unit to continue studying towards my Graduate Diploma in Environmental Health through Massey University.

Another highlight is the range of scientific equipment that we are able to utilise in our work. We have a variety of equipment ranging from drinking water quality devices, industrial hygiene monitoring devices, entomology microscopes, heat stress monitors and more. While on deployment, our team will utilise these devices to gauge the level of environmental health risks and manage these appropriately. As I become further qualified and experienced in my role, more opportunities to deploy will arise. This will enable me to support my team’s primary aim, which is to prevent NZDF personnel from becoming sick while on deployment, therefore strengthening the capability of our force. 

Force Health Protection provides many leadership opportunities, such as instructing and teaching other NZDF units specialist skills such as water treatment, and principles of environmental health for medics. I enjoy the opportunities within our unit to share scientific knowledge with others and help create a stronger, healthier Defence Force.

A myth about women in science is that they all wear a uniform. Not all NZDF women in science wear our uniform; we have many civilians that work in our team alongside us, who provide valuable experience, expertise, and knowledge to our work and the way we operate.

The RNZAF strongly promotes women in all aspects of work, particularly in science. For example, the School to Skies programme promotes this area of work for up and coming Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) females, and I would strongly recommend it for anyone wanting to get a touch of the NZDF lifestyle.”

It is important to me that the work I am doing is contributing to the greater good and having a positive impact.

Flight Lieutenant Yvonne Reid

Flight Lieutenant Yvonne Reid

Meet Flight Lieutenant Yvonne Reid - a Communications and Info Systems Officer in our Air Force, she’s been in our ranks for 12 years. Hear her story. 

“My family has a military history with the most recent history seeing both my parents and my younger brother serve in the RNZAF. My brother was a Communications and Information Systems Technician (CISTECH) and I would get jealous when he talked about the things he got to do for a job. It sounded like way too much fun! So I began looking at the RNZAF as an option and I liked the fact that the Communications and Information Systems trade gave people qualifications that were recognised in the industry. Plus in 2010, the IT sector seemed the ‘place to be’ and I wanted to have options for my future.

During my time as a CISTECH, I learned a wide variety of skills including but not limited to; high reliability hand soldering, Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) qualifications, antenna theory, how to drive a Unimog off-road, and the list goes on.

I’ve been fortunate to have travelled around New Zealand and overseas multiple times in the course of my job which was to provide the Computer Information Systems (CIS) services from radio voice to the full CIS suite in whatever location we were sent.

While I enjoyed being ‘hands on the tools’, I wanted to have a greater influence on my trade so, after the RNZAF paid for me to go to university, I commissioned from CISTECH to CISO in 2019. Three years later I am still climbing a huge learning curve; how to lead a team of high performers, navigate the NZDF structure and policy to obtain resources and support so my team can generate CIS capability and plan delivery of CIS services in support of air operations. One of the key skills is to translate ‘tech speak’ into a clear picture so senior leaders from other trades and services understand how CIS can enable air power. 

I am constantly challenged and learning new things. The NZDF provides a wide variety of work environments which keeps things interesting, plus it is important to me that the work I am doing is contributing to the greater good and having a positive impact.

It is a myth that gender determines whether an individual will be good or bad at their job. As the years go by I have learned that it does not matter your gender, your age, your ethnicity, absolutely everyone can be great (or not so great) at a job. The key is to find what you enjoy, work hard, learn constantly and never give up when it’s tough.

The RNZAF offers amazing opportunities, and it’s tempting to think it’s not the right time, but seize every opportunity as there will never be a ‘perfect time’ and there may not be a next time.”

Find out more about a career in our Air Force here