Pacific and Māori people comprise roughly 27 percent of the national population yet are largely invisible in corporate New Zealand and especially so in leadership positions.
This is motivation for 21-year-old TupuToa intern Olivia-Sianna Masoe, who is part of the 2020-2021 cohort that completed their internships over summer.
The TupuToa programme seeks to ensure corporate Aotearoa is representative of the country, by developing and empowering people and building the cultural capability of its partners.
This is achieved by securing internships for tertiary students with partner organisations, and for New Zealand-born Samoan Olivia, that meant completing an internship at the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) Auckland office.
Having almost not applied for the programme out of fear, the Auckland University Pacific Studies and Sociology student says she is glad she did apply.
“At first, I had no intention of applying for TupuToa…I had no idea what the programme would entail.
“I feared being rejected and would be wasting my time, and it wasn’t until Faletua Lynette Reed encouraged me to give TupuToa a chance when I changed my mind.
“I have no regrets in applying for the programme - the hardest part of the entire process is applying and giving it a shot.”
An unexpected result has emerged from her taking that risk; she has recently been employed part-time as an Advisor for the Northern Regional Partnership team.
During her internship, Olivia worked closely with the Northern team, and engaged first-hand with Pacific people and community leaders.
She has sat in on different talanoa sessions with Pacific community leaders and worked alongside the Language Unit around the Pacific language revitalisation in Aotearoa work it is conducting.
Key learnings from the internship include learning to be proactive and help in unfamiliar areas of work, she says.
“I felt that this was a way to further expand my skills and to never limit myself.
“Being with MPP also challenged but encouraged me to speak my language more fluently and to participate in different aspects of my culture with confidence.”
When Olivia had previously envisioned a corporate world, she says she always saw a space which belonged to old white men.
“I thought I must assimilate to a westernised working culture but being with MPP has encouraged me to carry out and wear my culture proudly not only within the corporate world, but to inject it in different spaces I am in outside of work.”
There is some challenges Olivia has faced and overcome during her internship, which she explains were mainly to do with self-doubt and a lack of confidence about working at the Ministry.
“I’ve only ever worked in retail and factories, so what would I know about working in the corporate world?” Olivia says.
“It wasn’t until I had a discussion with a colleague, who told me I deserved to be here just as much as anyone else.
“Not only was my knowledge and work ethic an asset but I had to come to terms that yes, I am valuable, and I do deserve to be here.
“The main challenge has to do with my own beliefs, I guess this is still a challenge but were getting there.”
Olivia encourages her peers to take that first step and apply for the TupuToa programme, as it could well open doors to unknown opportunities.
Looking into the future, Olivia says she hopes to serve Pacific people but is not entirely sure what this will look like.
“All I know right now is that my passion lies with helping and serving my community and whatever it will take to see our Pacific people flourish, I will do just that.
“O le ala i le pule o le tautua – the way to leadership is through service.”