Wāhine in the Trades

By Morgana Watson, Iwi Liaison and Māori Engagement Lead

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:


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.