Businesswomen awards to celebrate Wāhine Māori success stories

By Christina Tran

Māori Businesswomen's Awards take place at the Aotea Centre on July 29. Photo / Supplied

By Christina Tran, Te Rito journalism cadet

Wāhine Māori in business will be celebrated for their resilience and service to their communities at this year's Māori Businesswomen's Awards.

Sixteen wāhine will be recognised at the awards ceremony at the Aotea Centre on July 29.

Awards organiser Aroha Te Kanawa said the event promotes Māori women's aptitude in business.

There is a misconception that Māori are not active in the business world, she said, but their successes are becoming more visible.

Within Māori culture, there is an emphasis on collective success. Being recognised and praised as an individual is not typical and can sometimes be uncomfortable, Te Kanawa said.

"We feel like it's whakahīhī - it's like showing off. You don't want to nominate yourself for an award."

Te Kanawa refers to the whakatauki (proverb), "kāore te kūmara e kōrero mō tōna ake reka: the kumara does not speak of its own sweetness". But she said awards like these are vital to inspiring the next generation.

Prominent businesswomen Kiri Nathan, Tina Kilmister-Blue and Teresa Tepania-Ashton will select winners in categories of business collaboration, people and capability, innovation, employment and growth, emerging business, social enterprise, and marketing and sales.

Nathan won last year's top award in the competition.

Te Kanawa said, as a nanny of a 2-year-old granddaughter, she has great hopes that the rangatahi of Aotearoa will pursue business.

"When my mokopuna grow up, I hope there won't be this big sense of whakamā - they'll be full of confidence."

Tania Pouwhare, Auckland Council's general manager of community and social innovation, agreed that rangatahi should be supported into business.

"This younger generation is the future. If you own a business, especially one large enough to employ others, you have an ability to earn far more money than working for someone else.

"When I ask Māori business owners about their work, the first answer I get is that they are working to improve the lives of their whānau."

Recognising this sense of duty, Auckland Council has resolved to sponsor and co-host the awards alongside the Māori Women's Development Inc.

As part of their sponsorship, the council are paying for 10 Māori rangatahi entrepreneurs to attend the ceremony and will support them with opportunities to network with other wāhine Māori in business.

Speaking of the future, Te Kanawa said the ultimate goal for the show is to not just focus on business but also celebrate wāhine Māori in other sectors like the arts, IT and architecture.

"It's amazing what women are doing, especially Māori women."