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Microsoft backing Māori and Pacific wāhine in tech industry

By Jessie Chiang
Mon 16 May 2022

A new initiative focused on getting Māori and Pacific wāhine into the tech industry is calling for tech companies to get involved.

The programme, Sisters in Tech, backed by the government, NZTech and Microsoft, is designed and delivered by 3BagsFull and is initially being offered in Auckland and Northland.

3BagsFull says recent research shows that less than 3% of the tech workforce are Pacific people, and just 4% are Māori. Meanwhile, only 27% of the tech sector are female.

It says as the demand for digital skills remains high, there is a need to ensure Māori and Pacific women are supported in pursuing tech careers.    

How the programme works

Tech businesses can sign up to participate in the programme, taking in successful candidates selected by 3BagsFull.

3BagsFull says those selected demonstrate having attributes suitable for ongoing employment within the tech sector and will go through intensive training for three months before starting their role.

3BagsFull CEO Brittany Teei says the first group of 30 wāhine is seven weeks into their training, with three already in roles.

“We develop hard tech skills and also look at resilience and what it’s like to go into an industry that we’re not really represented in,” she says.

Candidates will also receive six months of wrap-around personal, cultural and professional support, including advising participating companies on appropriate cultural awareness. 3BagsFull will also meet with companies monthly or fortnightly as needed.

It’s a life-changing experience for people like Oliva Ah Tune, a Samoan woman living in South Auckland. She had just finished up with a caregiver role when she found out about the Sisters in Tech programme.

“I got a text one day from winz that there was an opportunity to work in the tech sector and I had to pinch myself because that’s a really rare opportunity to come by,” she says.

“I saw what this could do to my life, my community and people living in poverty.”

Oliva Ah Tune’s lifelong dream is to put the Samoan language into the tech space.

Tevan Brandt is another candidate who says she found out about the programme at just the right time.

“Before joining Sisters in Tech I was a university student studying a bachelor of communications  at AUT,” she says.

During lockdown, she fell into the rabbit hole of NFTs.

“I was really inspired by the innovation and creativity brought to that space,” says Brandt.

When this programme came around, it was a no-brainer for Brandt to jump on the opportunity to explore more about the world of NFTs and blockchain.

Brittany Teei says she feels “like a proud mama” when talking about the course candidates.

She says the Sisters in Tech have already had an excellent response, with many companies signing up to be partners.

But Teei is calling for more businesses to consider getting involved.

“It’s a magical time for us all and there is a lot of transformation going on at the moment,” she says.

Teei says even if companies can’t sign up to bring one of the wāhine into their own workforce, they can be a part of their mentoring programme.

She says that involves someone from the company spending an hour, often online, speaking about tech and answering questions about the industry.

“We’re happy to work with everyone who wants to get involved,” she says.

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