Having built a social enterprise around women supporting other women, who better to ask about how to be a GirlBoss than Alexia Hilbertidou?
At 14 years old, Alexia Hilbertidou was surprised she was the only girl in her IT class. At 16, she was perplexed to find she was the only female in her advanced physics class. “I could not understand why, when it was clear that the future was in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math], I was the odd one out,” she says.
In her last year of school Alexia set up GirlBoss to encourage young women to join her in considering career pathways in business, leadership and STEM. The social enterprise does this through a network of mentorships, ambassadorships and workshops. “My mission is to get women to the table — the boardroom table, that is — and I believe the decisions made while young are crucial in paving the way,” she says.
GirlBoss’ slogan is “Only 2% of NZX 50 CEOs are women. We’re changing that!” In two years the network has amassed 8000 members and more than 2000 ambassadors. It certainly amounts to being the change Alexia (19) wants to see. It’s also earned her numerous accolades, including a Queen’s Young Leaders honour, which she will be personally awarded by Her Majesty this year.
The motivated millennial says encouraging young women into male-dominated fields can improve both the economic and social potential of New Zealand, as a diverse workforce will ensure innovations will better represent all citizens. “We need to recruit the most talented people to STEM fields, and not including half the population (women) in the pool is short-sighted and self-limiting.”
Alexia Hilbertidou greets the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at the Queen’s Young Leaders Award Ceremony at Buckingham Palace on June 26, 2018.
Aware of the World Economic Forum’s forecast of growing social and gender inequity, she’s urgently focusing on closing the digital divide, fighting gender stereotypes and raising awareness of future-focused education.
Alexia’s role models are many and varied, from Dr Michelle Dickinson (aka Nanogirl) to businesswomen like Theresa Gattung and “feisty feminists” such as Sue Kedgley. “They buck the belief that there is some sort of mould of what a leader should be.”
A mentor herself, Alexia helps others find their purpose. 17-year-old Maja Wilbrink, for example, was GirlBoss’ Changemakeher Australia Chapter Leader last year and has now been named Brisbane Young
Social Entrepreneur of the Year and accepted into New York University Abu Dhabi on a full scholarship. Maja calls Alexia “the definition of empowering”.
A pressing goal of GirlBoss is to develop technology to better connect mentors and members. “One of the keys to success is seeing role models, having networks and getting the right advice,” says Alexia.
“Whilst this is accessible for people who are privileged enough to grow up in these environments, I am determined to create this access for everyone.”
While she says she was a quiet child, the young entrepreneur was always interested in the art of persuasion. As New Zealand’s first Eisenhower Youth Fellow, Alexia has represented New Zealand at the international Future of Work Summit and the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. She’s also been named a Global Teen Leader, a Ministry of Youth Development Top 5 Young Leader and in 2016 was one of Westpac’s Women of Influence.
She’s certainly shooting for the stars. Last July, Alexia went on a special mission with NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, affectionately known as SOFIA, based out of California. In a 10-hour flight, she helped measure stardust while soaking up the breathtaking displays.
While being a GirlBoss is great, being your own boss can be a demanding task. When back on earth, one of her favourite ways to unwind is seeking out the best Japanese food in Auckland — “I am a total foodie!”
Surrounding herself with a network of other GirlBosses is her own biggest support. “My tribe, my community, and the GirlBoss network are what keep me going, keep me centred, and above all, inspire me.”
Go get ‘em Girl Bosses.
This article originally appeared in Miss FQ Issue 1, 2018.