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Empowering Girls For Life

When our students leave Iona, we want them to take away a toolbox of life skills that will enable their success in whatever journey they embark on. 

 “We must encourage our students to become innovators and strategic thinkers,” says Principal Helen Armstrong. “We aim to nurture their curiosity and creativity as well as inspire and prepare them for future social, economic, technological and environmental challenges.” 

 Leading by example, Iona staff also strive to ensure they remain on top of global trends and educational developments and feed their learnings through all aspects of school life. Our overarching objective is that Iona girls will develop skills, values and confidence that allow them to take charge of their lives, now and into the future. 

 To help achieve this goal, Iona recently undertook initiatives in support of our girls’ learning toolbox with two career-focused workshops, organised for Year 11,12 and 13 girls; run by the Careers Department with welcome assistance and input from our Iona Old Girls network.  

Iona Careers Afternoon 

International research shows that students who have four or more ‘career experiences’ make better long-term career decisions. A ‘career experience’ might include work shadowing, parttime work, interviewing someone to learn about their field, taster courses, or listening to a speaker. 

It’s this research that was the genesis of the Iona Careers Afternoon, launched in May 2019  a series of presentations providing valuable insight into over thirty different career paths.   

Clare Ryan from Vet Services Hawke’s Bay. 

 Senior students could select a number of sessions to attend, each focused on a career path within a specific industry sector including health, agriculture, law, education, engineering and industrial design, management, aviation and the defence force. Speakers were drawn from Iona Old Girls, school parents and the wider local community who generously gave their time to share their experiences and personal career journeys.  

The series has been warmly welcomed by our students who say they were invigorated by this unique learning opportunity. 

The range, quality and knowledge of the speakers was great… there was definitely a talk that interested everyone,” says Hannah Brown (Year 11)I think most people were inspired and a large number of students have found more direction when looking at career paths.”  

Josie Free (Year 13) was also delighted to attend the event. It was such a great opportunity to make connections with the men and women who came in to share their career journeys with us, and gave me a much better idea about in what direction I needed to head. It was good to be able to ask the questions that we otherwise would have struggled to get answers to and it has also given me the motivation to keep looking at career options and finding out more.”  


Becoming a GirlBoss 

Young, relevant and ‘cutting edge’ Alexia Halibertidou encouraged our girls to look forward with career optimism.  


Making connections between young women, improving their self-confidence and helping them take steps from the classroom to the boardroom is something Alexia Hilbertidou is enormously passionate about. A powerful role model for our girls, Alexia, at just 20 years old, is already operating a successful business (GirlBoss.co.nz) and has a clear mission in mind  to tackle factors limiting women’s career opportunities in traditionally male-dominated spheres such as science, technology, engineering, maths, entrepreneurship and business leadership. 

 Only 2% of NZX listed companies have female CEOs,” says Alexia. “We’re changing that. 


 Alexia Hilbertidou, a New Zealand social entrepreneur and founder of GirlBoss New Zealand. 

With the generous support of the Iona Old Girls Association who funded the visitAlexia presented several interactive one-hour sessions to small groups of Iona College’s Year 11, 12 and 1students. She focused on helping our students build effective networks, successfully manage their social media presence, and develop good interview techniqueUnderpinning it all, this was a real opportunity to continue building the girls’ self-confidence. 

The golden threads woven through Alexia’s presentation were to “chase your dreams” and be “unapologetically ambitious“. The Old Girls Association say they are pleased to have introduced the GirlBoss opportunity to Iona. When they first reached out to Alexia in 2018 to begin discussions, there was a feeling that having our girls engage with such an influential symbol of youth leadership would impact a greater number of students than the Special Scholarship that had been offered previously.  

 Her positive impact was clearly evident both during, and after, the visit.  

“It was truly inspiring hearing someone so passionate about the progress of women in the workforce,” reflects Kate Manahi (Year 13). Alexia’s message ties in perfectly with our school motto of Empowering Girls for Life.”