2 Apr 2022

Why are so few Pasifika pursuing tech careers?

8:48 pm on 2 April 2022

Concerns are being raised over why so few Pasifika peoples are seeking careers in the technology sector.

Pasifika women in Tech

Pasifika women in Tech Photo: Linkedin

"I've been recruiting for many companies, and in the last 12 years I've only had four Pasifika walk through the door to interview," said Simoli Aati-Gray, a senior employee at PwC - one of the largest business consultancy firms in the world, employing over 1700 people in New Zealand alone.

"I would put out an ad and I would usually get over 200 CVs in two days. I can tell you that there were no Pasifika applying. I got two come through about five years ago," she added.

Aati-Gray was one of six panellists who spoke at talanoa events held this week in Auckland and Wellington as part of the "Pasifika Women in Tech" campaign.

"I think tech is still quite new to Pasifika. They're not sure what the role is. They'll look at the job description and they're like 'what is that?' so they don't apply," Aati-Gray said in response to a question about why so few Pasifika were pursuing careers in tech.

Pasifika women in Tech

Despite its name 'The Pasifika Women in Tech' campaign targets all genders of all ages. The campaign is in it's fourth year - the initiative of Failoa Famili, a Pasifika support agency.

Poster for the 2022 Pasifika Women in Tech talanoa series.

Poster for the 2022 Pasifika Women in Tech talanoa series. Photo: Eventbrite

"Research has suggested that a career in technology could help to close the wage and poverty gap which is prevailing within our Pasifika communities," said the agency's executive director Naomi Tavau.

Tavau said that a lack of awareness about careers in the tech industry was one of the biggest reasons why Pasifika are under-represented in the sector. It was the reason why Failoa Famili was organising panels of Pasifika guest speakers who work within the tech industry.

"They just share their stories and experiences about how they started in tech, and for many of them, they just fell into it and then made the most of the opportunities," said Tavau.

"We really are trying to promote and raise awareness of the opportunities that tech offers as a career, but not just that. It's also very rewarding."

Most fell into Tech

An unexpected entry into a tech career was a common story shared by guest speakers at the panel events.

"I sort of fell into it," said Livi Ah Hoi - who heads a software team at health tech company Volpara Solutions.

He told audiences at a Wellington panel on Wednesday that he originally worked as a banker.

analyzing the work Accounting on Laptop  investment concept.

Photo: 123RF

"I got made redundant from Trust Bank after it merged with Westpac. But then I got pulled into this project team to amalgamate the best use of the two banking systems," he said.

"I was the subject matter expert. I knew all about being a teller, about lending and foreign currency...so they wanted me to form a little project team to do some analysis on what is the best parts of the two banking systems that we should use and which we should get rid of.

"It's an awesome career and I've seen alot of change. Nearly 30 years I've been in this industry. I was in this industry before there was phone banking, before there was internet banking. I worked on the first BNZ internet banking system in the country," Ah Hoi said.

Ask for Opportunities

Digital Product Manager Norie Ape encouraged Pasifika at the Wellington panel not to be afraid to pursue and hustle for IT opportunities.

"Your manager is not a psychic, they have no idea if you want to move to IT. If you're with your teacher, ask what your options are. Ask for the opportunities to be developed or to learn at your company or your schools."

Ah Hoi echoed Ape's advice.

"Whether you're in government or banking, wherever you're working, they have IT departments that you could ask 'hey, can I go and sit in this department, even if it's in my own time'."

"Particularly for the adults...we already know the business, so take that knowledge you've got - I tell you - IT wants that knowledge," he said.