Māori in Trades

Women in Trades NZ

Māori make up 11% in the trades and there are even fewer Māori women. With multiple genders, ethnicities, and classes to consider, it can be a bit scary for us to make moves into the industry without knowing that it is safe.

Some workplace situations or practices can be unintentionally offensive to wāhine māori. Let’s have a look at the situation and continue to seek solutions together.

Tikanga | Te Ao Hou | Whakatika

Here are some things for Wāhine Māori to think about when getting into the trades:

  • Whānau:
    Let your whānau whānui know that you’re going into the trades and ask for their support in regards to whakatau (settling in), uiui me te kaitautoko (interviews and a support person), mahi awhina (ongoing help).
  • Hapū, Iwi:
    If you have whānau that work in the hapū and iwi space, have a conversation with them about any support you can get as you start in the trades. Some rūnanga offer vocational grants to help with apprenticeships that are available all year round and have no age limit. We all know that our rūnanga and trust offices are already under-resourced, so refer to your networks and the iwi websites first to build your kete so you don’t hit a dead-end.
  • Māori Business Networks:
    Every region has a Māori business network. You don’t have to be a business owner to make contact with the committee or organisers. Introduce yourself to the administrator and ask them if there is someone you can talk to about getting into the trades. If they are unsure, ask if you can attend the next networking hui to meet with potential employers or workers in the industry.
  • Being Assertive:
    Before you start with a company, have a conversation about certain cultural practices that may make you feel unsafe. Things like sitting on tables, water for washing after working in wāhi tapu. Many employers won’t know the tikanga around these things, but having the conversation early helps to keep you culturally safe.

Talk to your employer about their policies and procedures around tikanga māori and if they are open to supporting your cultural needs. For things around wāhi tapu and whakatau, it would be good to know that they are open to a conversation.

There is plenty of information available but most of it doesn’t cater to Wāhine Māori. We have specific needs and you should never feel embarrassed or hesitant about these being met when you work in the trades.


There needs to be someone in the industry that is your ‘lifeline’ if you have a conflict, or if you need independent advice. Find someone that you can regularly connect with BEFORE you need this extra support.


Getting flexible about work

Dave and Colleen
Women in Trades NZ

Flexible workplaces offer employees choices around the hours, days or places they work.

There are lots of ways to look at flexible work solutions and they don’t necessarily mean working less. Flexibility is about helping people to manage their work and personal commitments while also meeting the needs of your business.

Flexible work is something that any employee can request at any time. Once a request is given to you in writing you’ve got a month to make your decision.

Red Hot Tip

At a time when it can be tough to find good staff, and just as tough to keep them, offering work flexibility and making it known can be a good business move.

We all have a lot of life to juggle, especially when it comes to combining work with caring responsibilities. It’s true that it’s often women who take on extra caregiving responsibilities but dads who have shared custody of their children are likely to need some flexibility too. In fact, any of us could find ourselves in a caregiver role if we have an unwell partner, parent or relative.

Beyond caregiving, a variety of pursuits in people’s lives outside work might benefit from some occasional workplace flexibility. If you can make it work for them, here’s how it can benefit your business:

  • Lower levels of stress for people in the team
  • Higher levels of engagement from people at work
  • Higher productivity
  • Easier recruitment and stronger retention of good people

Dave: This sounds like it could get pretty messy with people coming and going all the time when I’ve got a business to run.

TradeCareers: It still needs to work for your business, so you only agree to flexible work if you can see that the work will still get done. There might be some adjustments you can make, like having two part-time people rather than one full-time person. If you want to test an arrangement before committing to it long-term you could agree to a trial period.

Dave: Should I only offer flexible work to women?

TradeCareers: If you only offer flexible work arrangements to one or two people it could cause some resentment in the rest of your team. The best thing is to ask everyone to think about what flexible arrangement they want that will still get the work done. That way you’re giving everyone a chance to benefit from more flexibility and you’re more likely to get the benefits from it too.

Dave: I’d like to give it a go, but it sounds a bit complicated and risky.

TradeCareers: We’ve got a downloadable PDF and video to get you started. It will help you make it really clear to each person what their job involves so that they only come up with flexible work ideas that fit.

Here’s a summary to help keep you on track:

  • Don’t wait for a flexible work request to catch you by surprise
  • It could divide your team if flexible work isn’t made available to everyone.
  • Open up flexible work opportunities to the whole team
  • Have proactive and regular team conversations to plan and review flexible work arrangements.
  • Get the team to think about different ways of working to open up more flexible work options
  • Review and adapt flexible arrangements to meet the needs of the business and the team
  • Use trial periods if you’re trying out a new flexible work arrangement
  • MBIE has some useful resources to guide you through the legal side of flexible work

Women in Trades NZ

Respect – Not Protect.

The trades are a great place to work. They’re even better when everyone feels welcome.

Being the only woman in a workplace can be intimidating at first, but nobody is asking for special treatment. Women want what everyone wants, wherever they work – support, respect, kindness, hospitality. Manaakitanga goes a long way.

Before she starts, take time to sit down and talk through the changes you might need to make. Let your staff know that you have hired a woman and ask them to have an open mind. –Andrew. Dunedin Trades Employer

I have two daughters and we want them to believe that they can do anything. We have a zero-tolerance attitude to sexual harassment. No one should have to put up with bullshit. I told the guys that we are hiring women, “So suck it up buttercup!” We have toolbox meetings where we cover off with the guys; sexual harassment, tradie banter, toilet manners, and respect! As an industry, we need to be encouraging each other. – Mark. Wellington Trades Employer

6 tips for interacting with the women in your team

  1. Listen more and talk less.
  2. Be authentic and respectful. Translation: Don’t be a dick.
  3. Praise women coworkers on their abilities, offer solutions that have worked for you and ask for their input and opinions. Remember — listen more than talk.
  4. If you worry that building a professional relationship with a woman colleague could be prone to confusion, keep it professional. Ask yourself, ‘Would I say the same thing to one of the guys? Or just to a woman?’
  5. Don’t make assumptions about your women coworkers’ backgrounds. Ask questions and listen to the answers before making any assessments that your female coworkers are less experienced than you, need your help, or at a lower place in the pecking order.
  6. Watch that the banter doesn’t become bullshit and the bullshit becomes bullying.

Dave: So we don’t need to protect her? We just need to respect her?

Trade Careers: Spot on, Dave. And these tips make sense, regardless of the genders involved. Professionalism and respect are two things that help you grow your network in the workplace and your industry.

“Listen and lead with kindness”

Stuart Lawrence, ko Uenuku te Iwi, is Director – Programme Kaitautoko at Whatukura Ltd, a boutique consultancy firm where he has led a number of workforce development, pastoral care and community projects focusing on Māori and Pasifika development. He previously spent 13 years as National Manager – Māori for The Skills Organisation Industry Training Organisation. Stuart is the current Chair of the Māori and Pasifika Trades Training Board (MPTT) and has been involved with them for more than a decade through his previous role at Skills, where he worked to increase Māori participation and success across the organisation.

The Māori and Pasifika Trades Training Auckland is a group of training and industry organisations working together to help Māori and Pasifika become leaders in the trades. With partnerships throughout the industry, they combine trades training with mentoring and financial support, and connect trainees with employers to take them right into the heart of their chosen trade.

Passionate about advancing education, employment and enterprise for Māori and Pasifika, Stuart wants to use his role to better inform whānau about the trades. Stuart Lawrence, through Waikato Tainui, assisted with the establishment of an iwi le d Careers Centre based in Hamilton and the Waikato-Tainui Te Waharoa Programme, a partnership between BCITO and Waikato Tainui, that prepares young uri Waikato for the real world of trade mahi, while wrapping the best support around them.

Born and raised in the Samoan village of Salelologa Savai’i, Joy’s ultimate dream is to help and provide for her family and be a good example for her younger siblings. She is currently working at TSP Construction company based in Levin, Manawatu and is a second year carpentry apprentice through BCITO, and loves every challenge of her job!

Grace and Holly are sisters working in the family business, Ferndale. Grace had worked previously in hospitality, law enforcement and animal care before becoming a Project Manager. Holly is an industrial designer creating custom joinery for all residential clients, drawing the cabinetry in our CAD production software, and project managing the production and installation of the joinery. Both sisters are NAWIC committee members.

Right! Ready to give this a red hot go?