5 Aug 2015

Call to back wahine in business

8:31 pm on 5 August 2015

Māori men need to step up and be more supportive of Māori businesswomen, Federation of Māori Authorities head Traci Houpapa says.

laptop computer keyboard generic

Photo: AFP

The authority runs an annual hui for Māori wahine to support the progression of women in top business leadership roles.

Haylee Putaranui

Haylee Putaranui Photo: SUPPLIED

The chair of the authority, Traci Houpapa, said wahine face challenges in progressing up the business ladder to senior leadership roles such as chief executive and manager.

Ms Houpapa said for women to move forward in business - men need to be more supportive.

"I think there is an opportunity for our Māori men to step up and to suppoort Māori women.

"We need our Māori men to recognise that the economic value and strategic input of Māori women is critical to complete sustainable and successful future for ngāi tātou te iwi Māori, and indeed New Zealand.

"The sooner that happens the greater progress we'll make."

She said about 100 women attended and engaged in last month's hui and they expressed the need to keep communicating and supporting each other during the year.

Ms Houpapa said it was good to hear many wahine are feeling more comfortable with leadership roles across the Māori and iwi sector.

However, she said it is still a man's world.

"Our economy is still led by men. While we recognise the good work that the guys are doing, Māori women bring a different viewpoint - a more holistic, more complete, joined-up and inter-generational view.

"The value that we add by simply being part of these conversations around strategic and economic development, direction, and leadership are really important."

Ms Houpapa said, if Māori wahine and men supported each other, they could make more gains for Māori economic development.

Te Ururoa Flavell

Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell: "It's one thing to be a woman in business, it's another thing again to be a Māori women in business." Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell said were several issues for wahine.

"It's one thing to be a woman in business, it's another thing again to be a Māori women in business.

"The general discussion I understand has been around some of the barriers that many of our women face in terms of business, and some of the hurdles they face in that role.

"You could wrap it all up in elements of institutional racism in some cases and the whole question about pay equity.

"Those are the things that have been highlighted constantly, those are common issues generally for woman and are highlighted in particular for Māori women who want to move forward."

Auckland senior solicitor Haylee Putaranui spoke at the hui and agreed with the minister, saying the issue affected Pākehā women as well.

Ms Putaranui said she thought the particular challenge for wahine was that Māori men were traditionally used to being called upon to lead in their iwi and with their whanau.

She sits on an iwi trust board and said she and her female colleagues find it hard to communicate with the men.

"It's quite a lot harder for us to get our points across because we almost have to walk a fine line of being polite and not offending anyone.

"Often people you can tell from their body language and the way they are received, and the questions that get asked of us - that it is just a lot harder for them to get their heads around that there is change is in the wind."

Ms Putaranui said she thought that men were open to women working in top leadership roles, but it took time for beliefs and tradition to change.

She said the ideal way forward was with both genders supporting each other.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs