Pacific woman creating change in trades
Caroline Ligi Harris (pictured) says it is in her to serve her nation well.
Born in New Zealand, of Samoan, Chinese and American heritage, Ligi is the first Pacific woman to hold a national role within an Industry Training Organisation (ITO) in Aotearoa.
She is the current Pasifika Engagement Advisor for ServiceIQ, an ITO which sets standards for service industries including aviation, travel and tourism, museums, hospitality, accommodation and retail.
In her role, she is helping the organisation build their understanding about how to effectively engage with Pacific trainees and businesses, Ligi explains.
“In the meantime, I am breaking new ground for women in trades,” she adds.
Recently elected as the Pacific Chair for the Industry Training Organisation Māori and Pasifika Network, Ligi says it is not easy being a Pacific woman in an industry dominated by men.
It does not really phase Ligi however, who is in her element in this environment having grown up in a family of trades’ people.
“My father was a welder, who used to work for Pacific Steel and I have four brothers - all of them are in trade-related jobs.
“There is a builder, warehouse manager, welder and interior decorator - two out of my four brothers are business owners.”
Ligi says all of her brothers began their careers at McDonalds in Otara, where they learnt at a young age about business acumen, work ethics and people skills.
With her family as role models, Ligi has confidently pursued a successful career in the male-dominated ITO realm, as a strong, resilient and professional Pacific woman.
She has felt some resistance to her growth and success in her role, with the worst of it stemming from several “Pacific brothers” in the same line of work.
However, she does have allies, and she receives support from Samoan men across other sectors who understand the value and gifts she brings to the leadership table, she adds.
“When women and men are working together instead of being in competition, more can be achieved for the collective.”
Ligi has not let any resistance to her work hinder her desire to serve and lead – instead it spurs her on.
As well as her commitments at ServiceIQ and as Pacific Chair of Industry Training Federation Māori and Pacific Network, she also holds multiple roles at various organisations, including Comet Education Trust, Community Research Centre, and Auckland Council, where she is the Deputy Chair of the Pacific Advisory Panel.
Leadership for Ligi is based on her Samoan values of tautua (service) to serve others tautuafa’amaoni (to serve with integrity), she says.
“I strive to serve with integrity in everything I do, to speak and live in truth (tautua fa’amaoni ma le alofa).”
It is these values which have also inspired her to take the lead on a research project which is part of Auckland University of Technology’s (AUT) Te Ara Poutama Māori and Indigenous Development programme.
“This project is looking at setting up a platform for Pacific and Māori women in trades, to talk about their lived experiences in trade-related jobs.”
Through her leadership and service, Ligi is slowly but surely creating change in her industry, and she is determined to continue “stepping into the light to be a beacon for others”, she says.
During the recent Samoan Language Week 2018, ServiceIQ developed a resource for employers, which you can see HERE.
The Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) supports initiatives such as the Māori and Pasifika Trades Training (MPTT) programme, which encourages young Māori and Pasifika to take up a trade and help meet some of the emerging shortages in construction and infrastructure trades. Part of its aim is to increase the number of women in trades.
Visit MPP for more information.