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Kōrero! Wānanga shines a light on how and why tech sector should become more diverse


Hosted by Elle Archer from the Greater Christchurch Schools Network with guest speakers from the tech and engineering sectors, Elle Archer, Sina Cotter Tait and Kendal Flutely, this wānanga in the form of a panel discussion shared solutions, provocations and practical recommendations about how and why the tech sector needs to prepare workplaces for Māori and Pacific youth.

Innovation requires diverse thinkers yet only 27% of the IT workforce are female, 4% are Māori and only 2.8% are Pasifika.

“It’s about whether we can look across the room and see ourselves,” said Janelle, “at the moment we’re not seeing enough of each other in the digital spaces. The tech space has so many diverse challenges, yet we don’t talk enough about how we can integrate our own tikanga (culture) and whakapapa (culture of origin) enough.”

The importance of employing those who have different world views and experiences, was discussed along with the dangers of monocultural workplaces. Concerns around the lack of Māori and Pasifika people in director’s roles were highlighted as well as the lack of cultural representation in areas like coding.

“It’s really dangerous if we lack diversity,” said Kendall, “the people who are crafting code are very important. Their values are being injected into code and algorithms, and that affects how we engage, interact and represent each other”.

Key ways to engage more Māori and Pacific youth, into technology and engineering sectors were also shared and a wero to change our education system into one that is non-linear was also laid down.

“The world is different now, with non-linear pathways,” said Janelle. “The way we are framing how and what the world looks like into the future is changing. We need to create non-linear pathways and enable people to contribute and develop in line with their own values. We are stuck in the “me” mentality when we need to think about “we””.

Other solutions included making leaders in the tech and engineering sectors more visible, communicating pathways to rangatahi early on, and the tech industry working more closely with rangatahi at all levels in schools.

“We know that Māori and Pasifika are less likely to put their hands up, and put themselves forward,” said Sina, “so we need teachers and people in the industry to recognise the talent and enable them to step-up.”

Māori and Pasifika recruitment into the tech industry could also be improved through more kānohi ki te kānohi (face to face) engagement from industry professionals. Workplaces also need to question why they want more Māori and Pacific staff and genuinely answer and discuss this with existing staff.

“Businesses need to ensure that it is a culturally safe space,” said Kendal, “and invest in the pipeline by going to where people are. A changing workforce with more diversity will change culture for the better.”

The importance and benefits of organisations embracing Māori values, for both rangatahi and the organisation was also discussed.

“We need to prioritise people and ensure that we are problem solving in a human way.” said Kendal, “It is crucial to be helping the people, not just the profit objectives of the firm.”

The creative nature of technology solutions could also be highlighted more to engage young, Māori and Pasifika people.

“We need to reframe digital away from being something you consume to something you create,” said Kendal.

Panelists also shared valuable insights into how Māori and Pacific peoples can add value to the strategy and creative solutions of workplaces. Janelle Riki-Waaka explained how Māori are natural weavers and how connecting things together from a macro to a micro level is inherent in Māori whakapapa.

“Weaving is part of our identity and because we are so connected to the natural world, we are naturally inclined to think of ecosystems,” said Janelle. “How can we recognise, enhance and bring that natural collective foresight to the workplace? We need to think more about how the sum of the parts can be brought together.”

“Kōrero!” was supported by Spark Foundation and GCSN and was part of Ōtautahi Learning Days, an Ako Ōtautahi Learning City Christchurch festival celebrating learning in its many forms, exploring Innovation in Equity, by connecting rich conversations, encouraging hands-on learning and focusing on future opportunities.

More information on Ōtautahi Learning Days Festival can be found here.