"Te Ahi Kei Roto I Taku Puku – The Fire in My Belly”. An Exploration of Career Stories and Aspirations of Young Māori Women From Te Taitokerau Northland

Ruka, Auriole Lynnette
Staniland, Nimbus
Ryan, Irene
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Master of Business
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Auckland University of Technology

During these unprecedented times of pandemics, technological advancements and global pressures a specific study and focus on young Māori women’s career aspirations in Te Taitokerau, Northland is critical. Te Taitokerau statistically has some of the poorest health, employment and housing outcomes for Māori. Young Māori women in this region will be crucial to the future. As such, their success will be a fundamental cornerstone for the well-being of whānau, hapū and iwi (Pihama, 2001) going forward. Subsequently, this thesis aims to provide space for the voices of young Māori women from Te Taitokerau, Northland to be heard and listened to. Specifically, it explores the career aspirations of young Māori women from Te Taitokerau and seeks to form a response to three main research questions noted below:

  1. What are the career aspirations of young Māori women in Te Taitokerau?
  2. To what extent in the present do they draw strength and mana from older, successful Mana Wāhine?
  3. How do we improve the likelihood of these young Māori women succeeding in meaningful careers? This research is grounded in a Mana Wāhine perspective and a Kaupapa Māori methodology. Through interviews and focus groups participants shared the depth of their commitment to whānau, hapū and iwi and how their careers are core to constructing a life that is ‘kaupapa driven’. Participants also described their ongoing struggle of working “Between two worlds” and the tensions they straddle between Te Ao Māori cultural values and Te Ao Pākeha systems. The influence of older Mana Wāhine as mothers, grandmothers, activists, feminists and career oriented women to whom have paved the way is important. As such these collective of Mana Wāhine narratives make visible the inequities and challenges these young women are addressing day to day in their own careers within an organisational and societal context. However, the burden of responsibility weighs heavy on these young Māori women as they carry a legacy that goes beyond their years. As a society we need to lighten the load and keep the fire alive that burns within so that what they do now matters.
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