Journeys of Growth: How Have Cook Islands Women Overcome Challenges to Career Progression in New Zealand?

Joseph, Evangeleen Jasmine
Nagar, Swati
Hurd, Fiona
Tautolo, El-Shadan (Dan)
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Master of Business
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Auckland University of Technology

Career theory, gender studies, and workplace literature are well-established research areas. There are emerging Pacific studies that are broadening these well-established research areas and providing a platform for Pacific people to enter the academic space in studies that are not only related to health, education, arts, culture, or socioeconomics. This study aimed to provide a specific perspective on the emerging Pacific Islands studies – a Cook Islands perspective. Existing Pacific Islands research in New Zealand has small samples of Cook Islands descent participants and their findings are generalised to align with the majority ethnic culture represented. Therefore, the Cook Islands culture and perspectives are hidden. Currently, New Zealand has very restricted data regarding the industries that employ large numbers of Cook Island people, let alone Cook Islands women. This study’s main research question is how has Cook Island women overcome challenges to career progression in New Zealand. This research provided the opportunity to identify which New Zealand industries Cook Islands women were employed in, determine the challenges that Cook Islands women experienced when they progressed their careers in New Zealand, and understand the strategies and actions Cook Islands women implemented to progress their careers. This study used the Cook Islands tivaevae methodology to guide the research process and conducted five semi-structured interviews with five Cook Islands women. To answer our research question this study determined that education and training, having mentors and being mentors, expanding their networks, having a seat at the table or in other words being in a position of power and influence, knowing the value they could personally contribute, and demonstrating authentic leadership enabled the Cook Islands participants to overcome challenges to career progression in New Zealand workplaces. The challenges these women experienced included career breaks and re-entry into the workforce, managing the unconscious influence of Cook Islands cultural values that arose in the workplace, managing career mobility, and accepting or adapting to the embedded industry culture in the roles they were employed in and managing the additional pressure of making it to the top. This study took place in Auckland, New Zealand.

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