Breaking the ice ceiling—Girls* on Ice celebrate inaugural expedition

Ten young women from around Aotearoa recently participated in the inaugural Girls* on Ice expedition to Mount Ruapehu.

Girls* on Ice participants captured by Rebekah Parsons-King

The tuition-free programme, which is hosted by Te Puna Pātiotio—Antarctic Research Centre at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington, gives participants a life-changing opportunity to explore Aotearoa’s stunning landscapes, while learning from esteemed female scientists, artists, and mountaineers.

Participants on the 10-day expedition learnt the science of snow and glaciers, got involved in hands-on fieldwork, used art to observe the landscape, and got a unique glimpse into the daily life of a scientist, including a call to Scott Base in Antarctica.

Upon returning to Wellington, the girls* shared their research findings with whānau, friends, and Victoria University staff. They recounted stories of being pushed out of their comfort zones, feeling empowered, and having their interest in science nurtured.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research Professor Margaret Hyland, who oversees the Te Puna Pātiotio—Antarctic Research Centre, emphasised the significance of such programmes in providing a platform for increased diversity in science.

“These programmes give young women an opportunity to succeed, break down barriers, and inspire future generations. We all have a commitment to continue empowering young women, foster diversity, and improve accessibility for girls in the field sciences in Aotearoa.”

Originating in the United States in 1999, Girls* on Ice has expanded globally, reaching Canada, Europe, Asia, and now Aotearoa thanks to the generous support of donors, in particular Beverley McCombs, the US Embassy, Antarctic Science Platform, International Association of Cryospheric Sciences, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, and Mountain Adventure.

Thanks to these supporters, the programme continues to convey the message that science is captivating and accessible to everyone, challenging stereotypes in historically male-dominated fields.

*The programme welcomes female-identifying, non-binary, and intersex students.