Beyond “having a seat at the table”

02 Nov, 2023
Beyond “having a seat at the table”

How are Māori and Pacific perspectives understood and embraced in the corporate world?

That was the key question informing “Our voices at the table – A kōrero/talanoa with our peers”. Hosted by AUT Business School, the event sought to spark a “transformative shift” and move beyond the idea of merely “having a seat at the table”. Rather, the evening of discussion and dialogue advocated for the “genuine recognition and appreciation of these cultural viewpoints”.

The forum opened with a karakia by Kaihautu Tiriti – Tiriti Strategist Dr Valance Smith (Ngāpuhi, Waikato, Ngāti Haina, Ngāti Pākehā), waiata performed by AUT Whānau Choir, and a Kava ceremony led by Business School alumna and co-founder of the Four Shells Kava Lounge, Anau Mesui-Henry.

Around 120 attendees from industry and alumni, along with AUT staff and students, supported the event. The engaging discussion featured Dan Te Whenua Walker (Global Co-Chair of Indigenous at Microsoft NZ), Lisa Tai (Partner plus Director of Pås Peau and alumni of AUT Business School), Hermione McCallum (Principal Advisor Monitoring & Evaluation at Kāinga Ora - Homes and Communities), Johansen Miller (Senior Wholesale Product Specialist at Westpac Institutional Bank and alumni of AUT Business School).

Moderated by Rachael Marsters, AUT Employability Relationship Manager, the panellists explored the challenges and opportunities of navigating the corporate world as Māori and Pacific, and the strong drive to pave the way for future generations.

Three clear themes emerged from the discussion:

Diversity and Inclusion: Merely hiring individuals from Māori, Pacific, and other ethnic groups isn't enough; true diversity and inclusion require a genuine mindset that goes beyond a tick-box approach.

Addressing Power Dynamics: A genuine mindset is required to allow promotion and career progression for Māori, Pacific and other ethnic groups. Allow their voices to make an impact on business strategy, development, and improvement.

Empowerment for Innovation: Empowering Māori, Pacific, and other ethnic groups within organisations can lead to remarkable outcomes and innovation within the workplace.

During the Q&A, facilitated by Anau Mesui-Henry, the panellists emphasised the need for authentic cultural assimilation, true diversity, inclusivity, challenging power dynamics, and empowering marginalised communities within the organisational framework. Collectively, they underscored the need to move beyond superficial changes and foster an environment where diverse perspectives are not only welcomed but celebrated—a transformative shift that is key to fuelling innovation and success.

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