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ANZ's Watch Wāhine Win Report

1. Introduction from Antonia Watson, CEO, ANZ New Zealand

2. Executive Summary: The Key Findings

3. Methodology: Look Who’s Talking

4. Ousting Inequality – Headway and Headwinds

5. Employment, Ambition and the Boosts and Barriers to Advancement and Diversity

6. Postcard from the Front Line

Antonia Watson, CEO, ANZ New Zealand


1. Introduction from Antonia Watson


Did we have a crystal ball in 2021 when we released our ANZ Watch Women Win report? It would appear so. From Zoi Sadowski-Synnott’s historic gold and silver medals at the Winter Olympics to the spectacular turnaround of the Black Ferns, our women have achieved spectacular success.


They said it couldn’t be done, but the Black Ferns sold out Eden Park, with 42,579 poi-twirling supporters creating a new world record for a women’s rugby match in the unforgettable Rugby World Cup.


At the Commonwealth Games alone, Kiwi women won 23 medals of 49 – and seven were gold. We hosted seven nations for the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup and, in an impressive breakthrough, the White Ferns and domestic women’s players secured pay parity for match fees with men.


Our women are winning, individually and in teams, on the water and on the land.


Coverage of women’s sport has grown exponentially, and NZ Rugby is predicting a record 35,000 women and girls will sign up to play this season.


It’s been a stunning run. But let’s remember, stun has two definitions – amaze and daze.


While we celebrate the irrepressible energy of our sportswomen, we can’t afford to be blinded to the barriers that continue to hold so many of their sisters and supporters back in all facets of life.


As we said in our Watch Women Win report in 2021, gender inequality still exists in our homes, workplaces, boardrooms and sports fields, despite great progress being made. In 2023, it still does.


We cannot lose sight of this problem, any more than we can ease up on our efforts to raise awareness of the challenge and, more constructively, propose workable solutions.


I am proud that our 2021 report raised awareness of the inequalities which need addressing across Aotearoa. I am especially proud that we took the opportunity to look at ourselves. It is one thing to raise awareness, another to acknowledge the work has to start at home.


Last year, ANZ New Zealand went looking for our own weaknesses and the gaps we needed to close. What followed was our ANZ Equity Diversity and Inclusion strategy which sets out our aspiration to be best in class in these areas.


The strategy sets out a three-year workplan to ensure we truly live up to our ANZ behaviours of creating and delivering together. Most importantly, this work will also support our purpose to “shape a world where people and communities thrive.”


My leadership team and I committed to adopting new and important organisational behaviours to support this work, with the first priority being a shift in focus from being an equal opportunity organisation to an equal outcome organisation. We are seeing a world through a diversity lens, and it is certainly enriching our perspective on everything from product development to hiring.


We have also recognised that we must deepen our understanding of the values that are intrinsic to Māori. This, too, is fundamental to our purpose to shape a world where people and communities thrive.


Tākiri-ā-Rangi is ANZ New Zealand’s commitment to work for a better future for Māori. It is our commitment to support Māori to build their own path to a better future through economic equality achieved by Māori, as Māori. We all gain when we are seen as equal and treated as equals.


So, today, we shine a light on an important priority in our second Watch Wāhine Win report. This report recognises and celebrates the women who make up the rich cultural fabric of Aotearoa and it restates the need to continue all of our efforts to achieve an equitable society.


As we come out of the pandemic, New Zealand is facing labour and skills shortages.


In the December 2022 quarter, for example, 84,800 Pasifika women and 193,000 Māori women were in paid employment according to MBIE. Unfortunately, there is no comparable data for Asian women.


While the Milky Way has up to four billion stars, only 10 are said to shine brightly. Yet seen from the earth, the Milky Way can still impress and inspire us. The same could be said for those women.


As you might expect, our report shows there are barriers to developing this talent pool – time, money, business structures, lack of development opportunities and sometimes women’s own diffidence – but there are also enablers.


The Māori, Pasifika and Asian women – and men – we interviewed mostly expressed a desire to progress if given an opportunity. While there is respect for role models, and the concept of “if you can see it, you can be it”, there is also real value placed on being one of many in a valued and diverse workforce with opportunities to progress.


Our research suggests we have a unique opportunity for growing cohorts of engaged, capable people – the extraordinary ordinary – from which potential leaders can emerge naturally with the support of their colleagues.


It will not be easy, but nothing worth having is.


“Diversity and inclusivity are essential for any society to thrive, both socially and economically. The Watch Wāhine Win Report highlights the unique challenges and opportunities faced by Māori, Pasifika, and Asian women. It brings awareness - crucial in addressing issues related to inequality and providing equal opportunities for all. This report gives the nation access to research, data and perspective. Without data we have no idea. Now that we have an idea, we can commence meaningful support, and promote greater opportunity and success for all.”

Māhera Maihi - Chief Executive, Mā Te Huruhuru




2. Executive Summary: Key Findings


Continuing on from the successful launch of the Watch Women Win report in 2021, the below findings summarise key thematics from our research respondents. We hope these can provide a strong basis for individuals and businesses to consider as they look to their own role in advancing female leadership.


1. Job Satisfaction: He tangata, he tangata, he tangata


It’s the people who make the difference between a good and a great work place and this was especially the case for women (34%). For them, ‘people’ meant being part of a like-minded team, having a supportive boss and senior staff who looked out for their people. Being trusted to work from home was another positive for women. But the message is “thanks for the flexibility, but don’t forget the money.” Pay and workload were by far the worst aspects of the workplace, according to respondents.


2. Future and Advancement: Stable, but willing to switch to get ahead


Is everybody happy at work? Just under half (49%) said ‘yes’ and expected to stay in their job for the next two years. Māori women at 47% were less satisfied than their brothers at 63%. Of those expecting to make a switch, 39% will do so for better pay, 18% for development opportunities.


But do they think making the switch will be easy? Māori women, at 30%, are not as optimistic as Māori men, at 51%. Around a third of our respondents felt it was hard to advance in their current role, but 41% of Māori, 33% of Pasifika and 25% of Asian respondents said advancement is reasonably easy.


3. Barriers to Advancement: Structure, support, but also conflicting priorities


“Business structure” was the most cited barrier to advancement, alongside lack of management support for development opportunities. Younger respondents looked for more workplace support. But the need to prioritise their families’ needs was often cited by Māori and Pasifika respondents as a barrier. Some women felt the biggest barrier was attitude, as their upbringing had not set them mup to aim high – or have a clear direction for their future.


4. Help to Get Ahead: Support and funding


What do women want? Equal pay and more opportunities would help. So would some cost-of-living support, or funding for courses and professional development. Many spoke of the inevitable tensions between time, money, and family responsibilities when it came to their own professional development. Initiatives like paid study leave would help.


There was strong support for basic financial literacy programmes and especially for accessible role models or mentors to provide support and encouragement.


5. Cultural Issues: More diversity, less discrimination


Employers who recognise and support cultural diversity in the workplace received a big tick from half of those surveyed. But a fifth of Pasifika and Asian respondents felt more could be done. The case for more was made clear. Exposing people to different cultures leads to better understanding and a richer, more harmonious workplace – but this needs to be embraced across the company and reflected by more diversity and inclusion. A morning tea to celebrate Lunar New Year just won’t cut it.


While Māori and Pasifika workers see their culture as a strength, Asian respondents were more likely to see it as a weakness. 16% reported experiencing cultural discrimination or racism in their current workplace, with Māori, Pasifika, and Asian respondents being more likely to have experienced it.


Meritocracy rules – sort of. Our findings showed mixed views on the question, “If two candidates for promotion were equivalent in all ways, but one was of an ethnic group typically under-represented at more senior levels in a company, should their ethnicity be grounds for favouring them over the other candidate for promotion?”


While 69% of women and 66% of men said no, Māori (22%), Pasifika (23%) and Asian respondents (21%) were more supportive. Younger respondents in the 18-29, 30-44 brackets were more likely to respond ‘yes’. But the women in our focus groups were wary of setting quotas by ethnicity, saying this approach could cause resentment.


“I want to be a manager, but I think it's more about having the confidence to see myself as a leader. It's like we are taught to be grateful for what you have and not push too far.”

Māori, woman, younger



3. Methodology - Look Who's Talking


The findings in this report are based on questions asked in a Talbot Mills Research online survey of adults in New Zealand.


The total sample of 2,171 was sampled to boost Māori, Pasifika, Asian and female subsamples (see table below).


The sample was also weighted to represent the general public in terms of region, age, gender and ethnicity, so total figures can be treated as a nationally representative sample.


Many questions were asked of those in full or part-time paid employment, with the total sample of workers in the survey at 1,585. Fieldwork was conducted from February 8 to 27, 2023. All numbers shown are rounded to zero decimal places.


Talbot Mills also conducted qualitative research with four focus groups of working women; Māori aged 25-35 years, Māori aged 36-55 years, Asian women in a mix of ages, Pasifika women in a mix of ages.


Of course, our respondents were more than numbers and our demographic and employment data helps to paint a richer picture of who’s talking in this survey, their differences and their common ground. Our researchers noted that differences often influenced responses to questions posed in the survey.


In our sample, women were more likely to be in administrative and office-based roles in areas such as social and community services or professional and technical services. Men and Māori were more likely to be in more manual and technical roles – technicians, tradespeople, community and personal service workers, machinery operators or drivers. The latter were evenly spread across the age ranges of 18-29, 30-44, 45-59 and 60+. Māori respondents were 35% weighted in 18-29, 30% in 30-44, 23% in 45-59 and 12% in 60+.


For Pasifika, the weightings were 33%, 40%, 34% and 5%, and for Asian respondents the weightings were 30%, 40%, 21% and 9%.


Pasifika and Asian respondents predominantly lived in Auckland (65% and 63%), while 42% of Māori were in the North Island, 28% in Auckland and 11% in Wellington.


Our general public respondents spanned North and South Island geographies but were more weighted in Auckland 33% and other North Island locations 32%.


Men 55%, Māori 52%, Pasifika 64% and Asian respondents 70% were in full time employment (30 hours or more). The number of years in their current role was relatively consistent across genders – women 32% at 5+ years, 30% at 2-5, 37% at less than 2, men 33% at 5+, 35% at 2-5, 31% at less than 2. Māori respondents represented 42% in the 2–5-year grouping.


Men 34%, Pasifika 33% and Asian 33% respondents were more likely to have higher earnings ($90,000). Women were mostly represented in lower paid roles (less than $60,000) on a gender and ethnicity basis.


Women were less likely to agree they are the key breadwinner and were less confident in negotiating salaries than men. Among the women, 44% said their focus was on family (just 1% ahead of the men) and 41% agreed money was not the most important thing – making a difference was.


Māori and Pasifika were more likely to be renting while Asian respondents were more likely to own a home with a mortgage.


As for their mood, New Zealanders are divided on whether the country is heading in the right direction with men more confident than women. Māori respondents were overall more likely to say things are heading in the right direction, however, this was led by Māori men (65%), while Māori women were much lower (34%). Over half of the respondents expect the economy to get worse in the year ahead, and a third expect their personal finances to get worse.


Thanks to all our respondents and especially those in our focus groups. We appreciate you all taking the time and especially your honest and thoughtful answers. We couldn’t have done this without you. Ngā mihi nui.


“I'm quietly studying, but not with my boss, because I know that he is not the type of person that will help me to achieve this. So, I will quietly study on the side without his knowledge.”

Māori, woman, younger



4. Ousting Inequality - Headway and Headwinds


It’s nearly 40 years since Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox belted out “Sisters are doing it for themselves”, the exuberant feminist anthem to “celebrate the conscious liberation of the female state.”


“The ‘inferior sex’ got a new exterior. We got doctors, lawyers, politicians too.” Women were “standing on their own two feet and ringing on their own bells.”


How far have we come since their “times of change” in 1985? There’s a tremendous amount to celebrate, but there are some very serious warnings. On International Women’s Day in March of this year, António Guterres, UN Secretary General, said global progress won over decades in women’s rights is “vanishing before our eyes” warning gender equality would take another three centuries to achieve.


When we called out inequality in Watch Women Win, we noted the progress, but also the huge amount of work to be done to find ways that enable, empower and encourage women to fulfil their professional or personal aspirations. We also noted the lack of New Zealand-based research with the ability to deliver to identify the roadblocks and propose solutions to the common barriers to success cited by women.


We continued to work on that knowledge gap and now with Watch Wāhine Win, we have some valuable insights into whether women are indeed “ringing on their own bell” and confident in their “new exteriors.”


It is a mixed bag, especially among Māori, Pasifika and Asian women. For every exuberantly confident Ruby Tui in her Black Ferns kit, there is a quieter, shyer sister, keen to get ahead, but facing a path which can be circuitous as family needs, time, money or lack of development opportunities get in the way. There’s headway with excellent role models, and with work to encourage young women to pursue higher education, but also headwinds, some caused by the pandemic, but others that are systemic and deeply entrenched. So, there’s more work to be done.


Pay equality, more advancement opportunities and more education and training are still the most common themes around what employers could do to help women succeed.


A ‘good job’ doesn’t mean the same to everybody, but it does have some common factors. An OECD working paper on measuring and assessing job quality cites three; earnings quality, labour market security and the quality of the working environment. The quality component is especially relevant in the context of this research.


A quality working environment “provides workers with a chance to fulfil their ambitions, to feel useful in society and to build self-esteem.” It gives workers well-defined work objectives, autonomy, learning opportunities and constructive feedback. Good relationships with colleagues are also important.


“When jobs and workplaces combine these factors, people are more apt to manage work pressure and difficult tasks; they also tend to be healthier, more satisfied with their job and more productive.”


As we talked to Māori, Pasifika and Asian men and women for this Watch Wāhine Win research, similar themes emerged. People – such as clients and colleagues – rank right up there with pay in what defines a good job. So do prospects, with 57% of Māori, 65% of Pasifika and 40% of Asian respondents all keen to advance in their jobs and valuing training.


However, it was also clear the needs and responsibilities of dependent children under 18 took priority over personal opportunities for workplace learning, for close to a quarter of Māori and Pasifika respondents.


There are other barriers. Time, money, confidence, business structures and lack of management support were all cited.


There is a cohort comprising 15% of men and women, saying “I just can’t see myself in a senior position.” It is troubling when people cannot envisage themselves taking opportunities to expand their skills, grow their value or increase their job satisfaction.


There is certainly no shortage of role models in all aspects of life and no denying their power to inspire. “If you can see it, you can be it.”


But it is clear role models also need to be on lower pedestals, closer to home in the workforce and in the form of team leaders, mentors or managers who get out around the business, showing support for training and leading by example.


While our research is challenging in parts, it is also reassuring.


Our respondents not only identified the barriers to getting ahead, but also workable solutions for this critical time for New Zealand when we need to show inequality the door, while welcoming in productivity.


Some, like paid courses and financial literacy training, require the investment of money. But others, such as providing cultural networks, increasing diversity and inclusion and visible support from business leaders, require the investment of time to strengthen our business culture. All are valued by our respondents.


What’s clear is that Māori, Pasifika and Asian women, and men, are keen to get ahead, and they are very clear about what support would be valued and taken up. To put it succinctly “If we could see it, we would do it.”


“They live to work but I'm the opposite. I actually work to live, and I work for my kids. I've got kids, and they're my life but need every spare minute of my time. I don't want to sit there, sort of hanging out with them [work colleagues]. I can't be at this meeting at 12 o'clock because I have to go pick up my kids from kindy, and I can't come to your team drinks after work, that kind of thing. I don't know, I feel like they judge.”

Māori, woman, older



5. Employment, ambition and the boosts and barriers to advancement and diversity


To get the broadest picture of New Zealand’s working environment, especially when it relates to Māori, Pasifika and Asian women, we cast a wide net in our research.


We enquired about job satisfaction and the best and worst aspects of jobs. We investigated what keeps people settled and satisfied and what factors drive them to change roles or employers. We discussed work-life balance, how family demands wax and wane and whether these influence ambitions or aspirations.


We also asked “what’s holding you back?”, because ambitions and aspirations are not easily fulfilled without support. We talked about diversity and inclusion and whether our workplaces reflect our communities as a whole – and if not, why not?


Lastly, we asked our respondents to consider some initiatives which would encourage female and ethnic advancement and to share whether they have encountered cultural barriers at work.


Job satisfaction - generally happy


When it comes to their current work, just under half our correspondents across all groups said they were satisfied. Māori women at 47% lagged behind Māori men at 63% and professional and administrative workers 53% were more satisfied than manual or technical workers 39%.


Respondents in smaller companies (2-19 employees) were less satisfied 40% than those in larger companies 53%.


People power


What influenced this satisfaction? For 28% it was other people, such as colleagues and clients, except among sales workers, 25% of whom said people were the worst aspect of their job. Women were more likely to say “people” 34%, than men 22%.


Men were more likely to mention “personal development” 8% than women 3%. Work-life balance was the second most cited cause of satisfaction at 16%.


Workload at 18% and pay at 16% were the main causes of dissatisfaction cited.


Social Satisfaction


When we delved a little deeper into influences on job satisfaction, social aspects outranked opportunities for development and meeting financial needs.


Women, for example, were ahead of men and the general public in rating their satisfaction with the social aspects of their jobs. They came in at 52% compared to the 50% cited by the general public, and 49% by men.


In terms of satisfaction with personal development opportunities, women at 44% were a touch ahead of men at 43%. Māori at 53% were the most satisfied among the ethnic groups followed by Pasifika at 46% and Asians at 41%.


Women also lagged behind when it came to satisfaction that their jobs met their financial needs. They came in at 36%. Among men 47% were satisfied. Māori 45% and Pasifika 43% were satisfied, compared for 41% among the general public and 39% of Asians.




While there has been much talk of a post pandemic “great resignation”, our respondents are not constantly scanning job listings. Over the next two years, just under half (37% - 48% range) expect to still be in their current job with their employer.


Across the total cohort 48% of women felt this would be the case.


Between 10% and 12% of total respondents felt they would change jobs, but still be with their current employer. Asian respondents at 30% expected to change both job and employer compared to Māori at 17%.


What is keeping them loyal? Job satisfaction was cited by 37% with 16% citing pay and job stability. Flexibility and work-life balance were cited by another 9%.


“There was a job that really interested me, going back to work with the dream team, but it's just not possible because I'm a solo parent and my daughter's still young.”

Māori, woman, older



Opportunities underpin loyalty


But loyal does not mean lacking in ambition. Perceived opportunities in their current workplaces are an important driver of loyalty for 24%, with pay trailing by 14% at 10%. However, 26% were unsure whether they would change job, but stay with their current employer. A further 10% of respondents were staying put because they felt it was difficult to switch jobs at the moment.


While our respondents were generally content, the desire to get ahead trumps loyalty if another job offers better pay and growth or skills development. Better pay came in first with 39% of all respondents with another 18% saying career opportunities and skills development were also a reason to switch. These two reasons outranked all other options by a significant margin.


An abundance of ambition


Almost half of our respondents said they were keen to advance in their workplace, with Pasifika 65% and Māori 57% respondents leading the way. Generational and educational differences were apparent when we dug deeper into the data.


Gen Z at 55% and Millennials at 54% were more likely to be keen for advancement than Gen X 38% and Baby Boomers 27%.


Professional and administrative workers 49% were generally more keen than manual or technical workers 43%, however, sales workers were less keen 29%.


Of those with a university education 55% were more likely to be keen to advance than those with a level 5/6 diploma/trade certificate at 38% or those with a high school education or lower at 41%.


Barriers to advancement - structures, support, other priorities


Given the general desire to get ahead, we asked our respondents how hard, or easy, it was to advance in their current role.


The overwhelming response was uncertainty with 39% of the general public, women, men and Asian respondents unsure, closely followed by Pasifika at 36% and Māori at 30%. This uncertainty compounded when we asked if barriers to career advancement would improve or worsen. Just over half in all categories felt there would be no change.


Ease of advancement is cited by 26% men and women, but 32% and 30% respectively said it was difficult. Among Māori 41% think it is easy to advance in their current role while 23% say it is not. Pasifika are similarly mixed in their views with 33% saying it is easy and 28% saying it is not.


Among Asians, 30% say advancement is difficult, 25% say it is easy. This perspective is echoed among the general public with 31% saying advancement is difficult compared to 26% seeing an easier route.


Too old to soar?


If we think of career advancement as a running track, it’s clear our respondents see it littered with hurdles. What these hurdles are depends on many factors – age, gender, occupation, family demands, confidence or lack of it, time, money and office politics.


Age was considered a significant barrier to advancement by 42% of the general public, 41% of women and 43% of men. However it was considered slightly less so among Māori 39%, Pasifika 34% and Asian respondents 36%.


Among workers in the 60+ group, 59% saw age as a significant barrier, while 31% of 30-44 year olds believed that. Among the 18-29 year olds, they said age and lack of workplace support were significant barriers at 38% and 47% respectively. Lack of workplace support was noted by 37% of women as a barrier to advancement.


While 45% of the general public and 49% of NZ European did not consider ethnicity a significant barrier to advancement, that view was less strong among Māori at 39%, Pasifika at 33% and Asians at 31%.


Gender was seen as a significant barrier to advancement by around a quarter of respondents and that ranking was similar among both men and women. It was rated slightly higher as a barrier by Māori men as well as Pasifika and Asian women.


Family before self, self before family


For many of our respondents, the ability to get ahead was also influenced by timing and personal circumstances. Parents of dependent children under 18 and particularly solo parents were clearly juggling work-life priorities. In total 18% from the general public, 22% of women, 16% of men, 25% of Māori, 23% of Pasifika and 16% of Asians said families came first.


These different priorities also came through when it came to weighing up more pay against the demands a promotion might represent. The weighting varied with 21% of men and 20% of the general public deciding more money was “not worth the hassle.” That view was shared by 18% of women, 20% of Māori, 18% of Asians and 15% of Pasifika.


Other factors included time, money, support from management, lack of confidence and office politics.


In our focus groups with working women, some felt that their ethnic background and upbringing had not set them up to aim high in their career – or have a clear direction or dreams for their future. Some did not view their career as a priority. They preferred to focus more on family and friends than chase promotions.


Their goals were often less career focused and were expressed as fluency in Te Reo, finding a job with more flexibility, or spending more time with family and friends.


Māori and Pasifika appeared to look at career development differently which may warrant different frameworks being developed that align better with their outlook and values.


Younger participants were more career focused, wanting to change roles and to advance Māori/Pasifika interests in the workplace. Many could clearly articulate expectations and career strategies. In our focus groups, women spoke of the importance of even simple “how to” training, such as gaining financial literacy and budgeting skills, developing self-worth and confidence, seeking out mentors, advocating for yourself and planning steps for career progression.


Most Asian women articulated quite specific short-term and long-term goals for themselves.


Structured for success?


As shown in the graphic above, the principal hurdle for four of our six groups was this. “The business structure just doesn’t make advancement likely or possible.” Related to this was lack of support from senior management.


Their current employment situation may have a bearing on the structural question. Across our respondents, 58% of the general public worked for companies employing fewer than 100 people. The same was true for 53% of women, 62% of men, 69% of Māori, 49% of Pasifika and 52% of Asians. The spread of workers in companies of 100 or more was 37% general public, 41% women, 34% men, 26% Māori, 46% Pasifika and 45% Asian. Numbers do not tally to 100% because across all categories some respondents said they were unsure of the company size.


When we explored structures more in our focus groups, workplaces were described as hierarchical with gate keepers, or as a flat structure with less opportunities for advancement. While it could be a convenient out for smaller employers to say they do not have the scale to provide progression along career paths, there is a counter argument that any employee development strengthens the workplace as a whole and encourages loyalty.


While there is an obvious cost in initiatives like budget and money confidence workshops, or providing a training allowance of time and money for external study, the employer stands to benefit from a growing group of more engaged, skilled, productive and confident workers. They, in turn, can be the role models and mentors for other employees wanting to raise their skills. This is where “if I can see it, I can be it” becomes a much more tangible dream for workers of all ages.


Lack of diversity may also be an issue, with some of the women we interviewed saying they did not see “people like themselves” in HR or senior management roles. A lack of resources was also raised, including mentors and the lack of funds to support training.


However, the cost, both in terms of time and money, of investing as individuals in personal development was also a factor. This was especially so for Pasifika at 18%, Asians at 16%, and evident, but less so, among the general public and women respectively at 13%.


What would help? We look at initiatives


There is no shortage of ideas around what could enable women, and especially ethnic women, to benefit from career opportunities and professional development. In this research, we did not set out to propose even more. What we wanted to do was discuss the usefulness of some initiatives with the people they aim to support. Having described what is holding them back, our respondents were very clear on what would help them to go forward.


As our chart below shows, three initiatives rose to the top. Cost of living support, like employer-paid health insurance to free up time and money to train gained approval from 64%, as did funding courses to build confidence and highlight career advancement pathways. Paid professional development opportunities came in with 63% support.


When we break this down into support across the groups, the value of each initiative varied slightly, but the support remained strong. Cost of living support was positively rated by 70% of Pasifika, 68% of women, 67% of Asians, 66% of Māori, 64% of the general public and 60% of men.



Definitions of support


In our focus groups, we dug a little deeper into what cost of living support might look like. An underlying theme was that personal circumstances made personal development difficult. Some were the sole income earner which meant they did not have the funds to undertake training or take the time to study. Some were also time poor and with high family demands, so making space in the day for personal study was seen as just too difficult.


Among Māori women, many felt living costs were holding people back from being able to focus on their career. Leadership programmes were often not seen to be distributed fairly and pathways were not seen as clear to many.


Cost of living support could come in different guises. Funding for health insurance or support for healthcare were suggested. Other alternatives include payment for childcare or school holiday programmes which could free up time for study, or making discounts available which would alleviate financial pressures and enable breathing space for study. Paid study leave was also seen as a valuable support.


Funding courses to build self-confidence and highlight career advancement pathways resonated strongly with Pasifika 71%, Māori and women 68%, the general public 64% and Asians 63%. Men were marginally less enthusiastic with 58% in support – but this initiative still rated at #2 for them.


The funding of paid professional development received the top rating from Pasifika at 72%, followed by women 69%. Māori and Asians both gave a 67% rating, followed by the general public at 63% and men at 56%.


Walk then fly - development pathways


Discussions with our focus groups showed the importance of a staged approach to personal development. Financial literacy was seen to hold many back, as living on a lower income made day-to-day living all consuming, with time and money not available for training and professional development. Courses to build confidence and show pathways, or to encourage self-worth, the development of interviewing skills and techniques for negotiating packages or steps for career progression were mentioned.


“If I can see it, I can be it” resonated, and it is not limited to role models in the workplace. Our respondents also wanted to see what career pathways could be available to them. Equally important were team leaders and managers who were supportive of personal development and encouraged people to set goals. Having more ethnic role models and mentors in senior positions to push and challenge women to take on new roles and celebrate successes were also seen as valuable.


Many participants in our focus groups also talked about the value of networks, both professional and cultural. For some, networking means having the time and funding to attend external events run by professional organisations, while for others, it means having a space at work where they could connect with colleagues, be their ‘true selves’ culturally and highlight their culture to others.


Across Asian women participating in our focus groups providing ways to share their language, culture and values were valued, as was zero tolerance for non-diverse lists in succession planning. Their concerns focused on development pathways and career progression based more on “who you know” than what you know.


First walk the talk - what works to encourage advancement?


With inequality still evident, our research polled attitudes on the effectiveness of eight different initiatives which would aim to help women and ethnic workers advance.


The message was plain: “walk the talk.” Across all our respondents, 53% prioritised leaders within a business taking the time to help develop and train staff to lead strategy, including in regional offices. Across the different groups there were slight variations with Pasifika at 69%, Māori and Asians at 57%, women at 56% and the general public at 53%.


As can be seen from our graphic below, five initiatives commanded the most support and within them was a mix of cultural and developmental courses of action. The need for financial education to empower women to take control of their finances and learn more about budgeting was included in the top five by all groups but Pasifika.



Collaboration with women’s leadership programmes to further develop women’s skills and to help create paths for them was supported by 52% of all respondents. Among the groups, Pasifika support was highest at 66%, followed by Māori at 57%, Asians at 56%, women at 54%, the general public at 52% and men at 49%.


There is considerable importance placed on having “people like me” reflected in hiring and promotions, with 49% of all respondents stressing the need to ensure a good mix of cultural groups are represented in recruitment and career progression.


In our focus groups with women, Māori participants supported providing leadership programmes and pathways, as well as financial education programmes and not only for women.


Pasifika women liked the idea of networking to look at policies to encourage equality, but they also noted that real action needed to come out of the programme. Some spoke of initiatives that had resulted in no real outcomes. Pasifika liked the active encouragement implied in a Leadership Acceleration Programme as a way to overcome a lack of confidence.


Across Asian participants, facilitating ways to share their language, culture and values was seen as a good way to build understanding and highlight the value of different perspectives. They also felt there should be zero tolerance of non-diverse lists for succession, or career progression being based on ‘who you know’.


Show me the money - not favouritism


We asked “what is the one thing that employers could do to specifically assist the advancement of women of Māori, Pasifika and other ethnicities?” The answer was an unequivocal call for equality in pay and opportunities to advance.



There was a mixed reaction when we asked this question: “If two candidates for promotion were equivalent in all ways, but one was of an ethnic group typically under-represented at more senior levels in a company, should their ethnicity be grounds for favouring them over the other candidate for promotion?”


There was a mixed response with “no” being the dominant sentiment. The general public rejected it by 67%, females by 69%, men by 66%, and across the ethnic groups Māori voted 62% against, Pasifika 65% and Asians 59%.


But there was not universal rejection when we looked across the demographic groups. Support came from Māori (22%), Pasifika (23%) and Asian respondents (21%) and from 16% of the general public. Younger respondents in the 18-29, 30-44 brackets were more likely to respond ‘yes’.


The mixed emotions the question prompted are reflected in a thoughtful comment by a younger Māori woman in a focus group.


“I was quite torn because it’s like, it is good to create and hold a space for certain groups because then you have a level of representation that is a bit understood within the workplace, as opposed to just having a normal approach. Yeah, because for me, this is what this question is really about. Does your workplace represent the community? And if the workplace represents the community, then the voices within are more likely going to be reflected in the work of it. So that then comes to the challenge of how realistic is it? Which is what you see. How many of us are there ready to make up those numbers and replace this? So, is it a good to have? A must have? Can we have it? Or should we have it?”

Māori, woman, younger



A question of culture


We asked if our respondents saw their culture as a strength, or something that created barriers and led to discrimination and unfair treatment. We also explored what companies are doing to recognise cultural diversity now, whether they could do more and whether the effort being put in was genuine, or tokenism.


As you would expect, we had a range of responses, but there is very positive news for employers from our sample. Over half acknowledged employers made efforts to recognise and utilise cultural diversity in the workplace and they considered the efforts genuine. It’s a bank of goodwill to be drawn on.


There were further views in this area from our focus groups who saw merit in ways to expose staff to different cultures. They felt it would lead to a better understanding of other cultures and a richer, more harmonious workplace. They stressed the importance of leaders ensuring the whole company believed in the benefits of a diverse workforce, but they acknowledged this would require a considerable commitment. Having collegial spaces, where people could be themselves, were seen as valuable, but there were provisos.



Help or hindrence?


We polled whether our respondents’ cultural background was a strength, weakness or irrelevant in their work. Among the general public 57%, women 57% and men 56% said it had no relevance. Among women 27% said it as a strength, followed by the general public 25% and men 23%.



For ethnic groups, perspectives were different with 44% of Māori saying their cultural background was a strength, with 38% saying it was not relevant. Pasifika were roughly even in their summation, with strength at 39%, irrelevance at 36%. Asian respondents strongly felt their cultural background was irrelevant in their work 47%, while 25% saw it as a strength.


Across all groups, significant majorities reported experiencing no cultural barriers at work with the general public at 74%, women at 73%, men at 76%, Māori at 70%. Among Pasifika 63% reported they faced no barriers while among Asians it was 56%. In total 15% of respondents said they had experienced cultural barriers.


Māori, Pasifika and Asian women (26%, 38% and 28% respectively) reported having experienced barriers. For men, the figures were lower, Māori 14%, Pasifika 21%, Asian 20%.


Of those who had experienced cultural barriers, the most cited experience was discrimination based on race and culture, followed by communication problem, unfair treatment and lack of understanding or appreciation.


In our focus groups with women, examples of discrimination based on race were that their opinion was overlooked. They also cited being overlooked for promotion based on their ethnicity. Some overseas qualifications were also not seen to be recognised the same as New Zealand or other countries. In terms of gender discrimination, a number felt that there were still networks that men could access that women could not, which disadvantaged women.


Effort is appreciated


Over half of all our respondents, including all three ethnic groups, recognised the efforts made to encourage diversity in the workplace. Respondents across the board also recognised the effort as genuine, rather than tokenism – although the reservations hovered around the 20% mark.


This, however, is not an excuse to say, “job done.” Among Pasifika, 29% say there’s more that could be done and 27% of Asians agree. Māori, at 19%, aligned with women at 19%, while the general public at 18% and men at 17% also think more work remains.


When we asked for examples, better cultural awareness, more diversity and celebration of cultural events were the top three suggestions.


In our focus groups, women cautioned against ‘tick a box’ and generic programmes, saying these would not lead to 18the real change required. Organisations needed to commit adequate resource to support any initiatives put in place, senior staff needed to fully ‘buy-in’ to the process, and to address any bad behaviour.


The ability to express diversity or put simply “to be myself” at work is also recognised by 58% of our respondents generally, with women leading at 62% and men at 55%. Among ethnic groups, Māori are most comfortable at 61%, with Pasifika at 59% and Asians at 52%. Younger respondents, especially Gen Z at 48%, were less likely to agree.


Given the emphasis on workplace and corporate values, especially when it comes to employee engagement, we asked our respondents if their employer’s values aligned well with their own. Māori were more likely to strongly agree at 28%, while Asians were less likely at 12%.


So, what's the answer?


Employers are certainly given credit for their deposits in the bank of goodwill, with genuine recognition of efforts to improve diversity and address inequality. But there is more work to be done. To guide it, we distilled our qualitative and quantitative enquiries into nine practical suggestions, ranked in order of our respondents’ preference. These are especially applicable to women who, as we’ve seen, genuinely want to get ahead, but often feel the strong pull of family needs, or lack the confidence to seek out development opportunities.


1. Paid professional development: better access to professional development and training, including time off to study.


2. Cost-of-living support – such as childcare, discounts or healthcare – which would alleviate financial pressures so they could take the time to study and train.


3. Role models and mentors: having more (ethnic) women in senior positions, connecting mentors that will push and challenge women to take on new roles, celebrate successes.


4. Safe space/networks: having places where people are comfortable and can be their ‘true selves’, provide support networks, provide ways to highlight culture to others.


5. Support networking: provide time and fund memberships to events and external organisations.


6. Walk the talk on diversity: truly value different outlooks, views and input, ensure leadership at the top leads the way, promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, show how this should look.


7. Courses to build confidence/show pathways: provide courses on self-worth, interviewing skills, negotiating packages, steps for career progression.


8. Ensure fair recruitment: not about who they know, look beyond stereotypes, value life experience, have transparency over recruitment.


9. Complaints process: have processes to address discrimination, call out bad behaviour and normalise good behaviour.


“E felelei manu ae ma'au i o latou ofaga."
- "Birds migrate to environments where they survive and thrive."

Samoan proverb



Postcard from the front line


Kanohi ki te kanohi means face to face, or in the flesh.


But it also means much more than that. It is a level of communication not limited to what is said. Words come with gestures and facial expressions. They take or lose their power from the way the speaker sits, stands or moves. It is a skill well understood in Whaikōrero – Māori oratory.


In the world of research, the value of kanohi ki te kanohi is also well understand. Our research included discussions with focus groups to gain a better understanding of their responses to questions. We gained valuable insights into the realities of work for the women we met, the barriers they face to getting ahead, the trade-offs between work and family needs and their views on what practical initiatives would support their advancement.


We talked to four focus groups of working women; Māori aged 25-35 years, Māori aged 36-55 years, Asian women in a mix of ages, Pasifika women in a mix of ages. We are grateful for their humour, candour and considered answers, some of which are through this report.


We also asked each group what they would write on a postcard for a young woman joining their workplace. There was considerable unity across our four groups about the best advice.


Here’s their postcard of 10 pieces of wisdom:



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