Founder of GirlBoss New Zealand Alexia Hilbertidou has been selected as a National Geographic Young Explorer - a group of people National Geographic says, "prove there is always a reason for hope".
The 21-year-old of Samoan heritage is the first New Zealander and Pasifika person to be selected among the 24 exceptional individuals from around the world, aged between 17 and 25 years old.
They represent a wide range of causes, including ocean and biodiversity conservation, food insecurity, plastic pollution, and the impacts of drought and water scarcity.
In late 2015, Alexia founded GirlBoss New Zealand, a network of 13,500 young wahine from across Aotearoa with a single mission in mind - to close the gender gap in Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths, Entrepreneurship and Leadership, she says.
“We empower confident, resilient, future-ready, young women to lead and change the world – only two percent of NZX Chief Executive Officers are women - we're changing that,” Alexia says.
Alexia says it is beyond her wildest dreams to join National Geographic, the organisation behind some of the documentaries, magazines, and heroes (such as fellow explorer Dr Jane Goodall) who inspired her growing up.
“I will be working with National Geographic and a community of young global leaders for the next 18 months to initiate a new GirlBoss New Zealand project to empower the wahine of Aotearoa, New Zealand,” Alexia explains.
“As the first National Geographic Young Explorer from New Zealand, I feel humbled to bring this incredible opportunity to the young women I work with.
“As the first National Geographic Young Explorer of Pacific descent I pay tribute to my late Samoan nana who always taught me the power of our people as navigators and servant leaders.”
Being encouraged and nurtured on your leadership journey is important for young Pacific people, and this is something Alexia has been fortunate enough to receive through the Ministry for Pacific Peoples initiatives, the Toloa Community Fund, and being named as a Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Award recipient.
“I am grateful to MPP for providing opportunities to celebrate Pasifika Excellence – we need to continue to celebrate, highlight, and uplift young Pasifika leaders.
“My dream is to see more Pasifika wahine step forth into the world of entrepreneurship, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) and leadership.
“Pasifika people are innately entrepreneurial and purpose-led, and I believe in the unlimited possibilities for Pasifika young women to change the world through business.”
Since it was established, GirlBoss New Zealand has gone from strength to strength.
It has launched New Zealand's first internship programme for high school aged young women called GirlBoss Advantage, providing wrap-around internship experiences for 75 young women in organisations such as ANZ and Fletcher Building.
It has also launched GirlBoss Edge - an online career accelerator providing young women with access to 1:1 Mentorship and real-world experience.
Over 1200 young women and 600 global corporate mentors have taken part in the GirlBoss Edge Programme.
Alexia has a vision to continue expanding all the programmes, but with a particular focus on expanding the GirlBoss Edge Programme.
“We have already had GirlBoss members from the Cook Islands take part with incredible results - I would like to expand this to the wider Pacific.”
Scaling its impact so the organisation can serve more young women is also a priority, Alexia adds.
“We have more demand from young women than we can currently meet.
“We are always looking to partner with like-minded corporate and government organisations to ensure we can provide our programmes free of charge to young women.
“We work with young women from the Cook Islands currently, and I would like to continue to work with young women based across the Pacific, particularly in Samoa as that is where my family is from.”