Back to All News Articles

How Can Māori Talent Thrive in the Tech Industry?

Featured 2

"Is there a place for me in IT, being brown and of Māori descent?" This question loomed large as I decided to enter the tech industry back in 2009. Rather than stepping into a place that was pre-defined, I decided to forge my own path in the industry.

Navigating the digital and technology world as someone who didn't fit the stereotypical image of an IT professional has presented its challenges. As a Māori, you must work hard to reshape others’ perceptions, especially in tech jobs. I’ve refused to let my ethnicity dampen my determination to succeed. Instead, I’ve embraced the opportunity to thrive in a space where I could be uniquely myself.

Now, I want to encourage others to do the same!

My Journey Through the Tech Industry

I initially started my career by pursuing an IT qualification, but ended up in a customer service role that didn't align with my interests. Someone suggested I consider combining technology with design, which hadn't occurred to me before.

By taking up further studies in IT, which took about three years part-time, I eventually landed a job with IBM, where I found the field I really enjoyed – but I was the only person there who looked like me. Eventually, I made a similar journey into recruitment – headhunted by Beyond Recruitment while I was working as a PT – and haven’t looked back. It’s a privilege to help people build their careers in tech.

When I started in 2009, I was virtually the only Māori person in the IT team. I've since encountered others who've forged similar career paths, but there is so much more scope for Māori people to consider tech as a viable career option.

Barriers to Entry for Aspiring Māori and Pasifika Tech Professionals

The challenge for diversity in tech, as I see it, has always been people's preconceived notions based on what someone looks like.

When I entered the technology field, people would often assume I didn't belong because of my appearance. They'd say things like, "You look more like a rugby player than someone in IT." There's this stigma attached to appearances where people quickly judge and pigeonhole you. But it's only when they take the time to get to know you that they realise your capabilities. This is why it’s so important for us to continue breaking down those barriers and stereotypes.

The most recent available workforce data shows just 4% of tech workers in New Zealand are Māori and 2.8% are Pasifika – whilst each group comprises 17.3% and 8% of the population respectively.

Barriers to entering the industry also stem from disadvantages related to access to education and resources for training. As the Mapping the Māori Tech Sector report shows, it’s difficult for many rangatahi to engage in formal studies whilst maintaining their financial commitments, meaning that digital and tech apprenticeships are a better option – but there aren’t enough of these available.

More challenges certainly lie ahead for us. With the coalition government planning to cut back the use of the Māori language in the public service, it seems more is being added to these barriers rather than being taken away.

Māori and Pasifika Role Models in Tech Jobs

For inspiration, we can look to the Māori professionals who have made a mark on the tech sector in New Zealand. Kiwa Digital founder Rhonda Kite, Robotics Plus CEO Steve Saunders, Te Hiku Media CEO Peter-Lucas Jones, iSparx executive producer Joff Rae, Mode Technology’s Dallas Vincent. These names, of course, are just a few.

These individuals are part of a growing ecosystem of Māori tech professionals and entrepreneurs who are contributing to New Zealand’s economic growth. As the Toi Hangarau report highlighted, over 70 Māori-owned tech companies employ over 1,300 people across New Zealand, with 32% operating internationally.

We still have a long way to go in improving representation for Māori people in the technology sector, but these figures are encouraging signs of progress and an inspiration for Māori people considering entry into this field.

Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Personally, as a Polynesian, I want to see more diversity in tech and more people like me in the technology field.

As the barriers that Māori and Pasifika people face in the workplace are very real, it’s an ongoing challenge for them to discover where they belong in the world – a key issue for diversity in tech in New Zealand.

Many people lack the confidence or understanding of themselves to know where they fit in. They often limit themselves to a particular area and often have doubts about whether they can fit into certain industries based on their appearance.

It’s vital that Māori and Pasifika people feel pride in their identity and background, regardless of the industries they’re working in.

I strongly believe you shouldn’t be afraid to try something new, even if you face challenges based on your appearance or background. There's a place for everyone in the technology space, especially for people like us!

Talk to Me

If you've ever questioned your place in the tech world or faced similar hurdles, know that you're not alone. Let's break down those barriers together by sharing our experiences and supporting one another.

If you're interested in connecting further, whether it's for a casual coffee chat or some-thing similar, I'm more than happy to arrange a meet-up. Together, let's continue the conversation and work towards building a more inclusive and welcoming environment in the IT industry. Your voice matters, and your story can inspire others. So don't hesitate to reach out to me or the team at Beyond.

Charity Storyboard