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Matire Harwood

Matire Harwood (Ngāpuhi) is a doctor in Auckland. Her work focuses on primary health care and rangahau hauora Māori (Māori health research), for which she has been awarded the 2017 L’Oréal UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowship.

Matire in a maraeWhat do you do on an average work day?

I have a lot of different jobs so my day is never average!

In a week I teach medical and health students, I run a research group, I practice as a GP in a really busy clinic, and I get to make decisions on boards about health care and research.

I love every bit of my work!

What did you study at school? And after high school?

At high school I studied maths (statistics and calculus), chemistry, physics and English.

I was one of four girls to be the first females to study physics at my high school - our science department and the male students told us it would be a waste of time! 

From high school I went straight to studying first year medicine at university.

Was your study directly related to what you do now?

Yes!  The first three years at medical school were mostly lectures and labs.  The final three years were spent in hospitals and clinics with patients and wonderful health teams. 

I learnt so much on the job; I tend to learn better when I can see it happening.  But just as important is the life experience that I bring to my job, and this helps me immensely.

What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?

First, don’t be afraid to talk to someone about your dreams.  If you have no luck with the first person get another opinion!

Second, get a good foundation.  I knew that I wanted to be a doctor and so I studied and worked hard in the necessary subjects (maths, science and English). There have been times I’ve wanted to give up on study but I knew that if I finished and had ‘that bit of paper’, other exciting opportunities would open up. 

And finally, things change.  If it sparks something in you, go for it.  There are so many choices in STEM, the world really is your oyster!

Matire and Waimarie

What are some of your career highlights so far?

A major highlight was being awarded the L’Oréal UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowship in 2017. The award, the fantastic opportunities that come with it, the fabulous women scientists I’ve met, have all been brilliant.

I’m also thankful for the wonderful people I work with; the opportunities to travel to places like Hawaii, Paris and next year the US; being able to support future health leaders; and having my tamariki and whānau see, and be proud of, the work I do.

Why do you believe engaging in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is important to New Zealand?

STEM are exciting fields that challenge us to be better people and make the world better. 

These fields allow us to extend ourselves across so many spectrums - to be questioning and answering; to carve our own paths and work as a team; to learn and teach; to discover and to be certain; to observe and yet be blinded; to critique and reflect.

Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?

First because we have the right to be here; and a responsibility to uphold those rights on behalf of women coming into STEM.

Second because we add something extra to the extraordinary world of STEM – so it would be ordinary without us!

Third because equity in STEM (whether it’s numbers of students, in occupations or pay), particularly by gender and ethnicity, is great for everybody.

Matire at ISQUA conference

Matire Harwood (Ngāpuhi) is a doctor in Auckland. Her work focuses on primary health care and rangahau hauora Māori (Māori health research). She received the 2017 L’Oréal UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowship for addressing the inequities of health outcomes between indigenous and non-indigenous people.

This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.

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