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Ethnicity and gender key to women’s success

“We all gain when we are seen as equal and treated as equals.”

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 an unforgettable Rugby World Cup.


The women of New Zealand are winning, individually and in teams, on the water and on the land. 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 2021 Watch Women Win report, 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 or reduce our efforts to raise awareness and propose workable solutions.


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


My leadership team and I committed to adopting new organisational behaviours to support this work. The first priority was to shift from being an equal opportunity organisation to an equal outcome organisation. We see the world through a diversity lens and it enriches our perspective on everything from product development to hiring.


We also recognised we must deepen our understanding of the values 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 we now 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 our efforts to achieve an equitable society.


The report shows the barriers to developing the talent pool of Pasifika and Māori women – time, money, business structure, lack of development opportunities and sometimes women’s own diffidence.


The research suggests we have a unique opportunity to grow groups of engaged, capable people from which potential leaders can emerge. It will not be easy, but nothing worth having is. Some of the findings include:


Job satisfaction:


He tangata, he tangata, he tangata (It is people, it is people, it is people)


The above Māori proverb highlights the importance of people, and it’s the people who make the difference between a good and a great work place. This was especially the case for women (34 per cent). 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.


Future and advancement:


Stable, but willing to switch to get ahead


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

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


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 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 up to aim high – or have a clear direction for their future.


Help to get ahead:


Support and funding


What do women want? Equal pay and more opportunities. Also 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 professional development. Initiatives like paid study leave would help. There was strong support for basic financial literacy programmes and for accessible role models or mentors to provide support.


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. 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 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 per cent reported experiencing cultural discrimination or racism in their current workplace, with Māori, Pasifika and Asian respondents 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 per cent of women and 66 per cent of men said no, Māori (22 per cent), Pasifika (23 per cent) and Asian respondents (21 per cent) were more supportive. Younger respondents 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.


So while more needs to be done, the research helps inform us of what we need to ensure that New Zealand women win.


Antonia Watson is ANZ New Zealand CEO


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