Through September New Zealand celebrates the 125th anniversary of women getting the vote. The bravery and leadership of the suffragettes paved the way for women to pursue broad and varied career options. The School-gen team thought it would be fun to profile some of our own Genesis women who are passionate about our favourite subjects – STEM and energy. We start with Louisa George, a Health and Safety Business Partner, who has a chemistry degree and spends some of her spare time teaching her kids and their classmates how to be ‘Mad Scientists’!

Hey Louisa! What’s your role at Genesis? My role at Genesis is Health and Safety Business Partner.

So, what does that involve on a day to day basis? I work with the teams at our generation sites (the locations where we generate electricity – like our hydro plant in Tokaanu and our power station in Huntly). I support them, and help them, to keep people working on our sites safe and healthy. Some of the work they do is pretty dangerous, so we need to make sure that they are being careful and doing the right thing so they don’t get hurt, or cause anyone else to.

One project I am working on at the moment is around people working in confined spaces and thinking of ways to make this less risky. As part of this we’re looking to utilise technological developments – like drones – to help us do some of this work.

I also help to share the health and safety learnings across different areas of the business.

What did you study at school and/or university that prepared you for this role? When I was at school I loved the sciences and math, so when I headed to university I charged into a Bachelor of Science deciding on a major in Chemistry. Finishing university, I had a sudden “OMG! I’m going to be stuck in a lab forever!” moment, but worked really hard at my first job at Hill Laboratories and within 18 months had moved into a Team Leader Position. After working there for 4 years I had the opportunity to join Genesis as the Quality Assurance Chemist at the Huntly Power Station, and during that time I had my three kids. I have had a few different roles during my time here – including in the Chemistry and Water Treatment team where I grew a passion for safety – which led me to my current role.

What do you enjoy most about being a scientist? I love that you can take numbers, patterns and data and create a message that helps to shape or influence what you or your team do next, or help you understand what is going wrong to fix it, or what is going right to get the best outcomes. I also love that you can take a sample of water or other liquid like oil, or a solid like coal, ash or dirt and use science to find out exactly what chemical elements or compounds are present in the sample. Scientific instruments are amazing!

Would you encourage kids to get into science and how? Yes definitely! There is a world of opportunity out there for our future scientists, and remember that the scientific skills you learn are extremely useful in other professions too, so they will never go completely unused. By focusing on maths and science while you are at high school you will get the foundations of what you need to move into science at university level. It’s OK if you aren’t sure what you are wanting to focus on at university; I think I changed my mind about three times in my first year!

That’s great Louisa! Anything else you want to add? There still aren’t a huge number of women working in science, or engineering roles. To me, as a woman scientist, I think there is strength in the different perspectives that women can bring to these roles.