Building the Māori and Pasifika leaders of tomorrow

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

– Barack Obama

Thursday 20 October 2016 saw the launch of an exciting new diversity initiative that will change the face of business in New Zealand.

TupuToa, the Māori and Pasifika Corporate Pathways Project, is designed to ensure our country’s future economic and social prosperity through the development of a new generation of Māori and Pasifika business leaders.


The launch party


Clockwise, from top left: Hon Te Ururoa Flavell with launch attendees, ‘Evalata Vehikite, singer at the launch, Hon Te Ururoa Flavell with TupuToa co-chair Leo Foliaki, TupuToa team member Julienne Pua, TupuToa co-chair Rangimarie Hunia


The celebration began with a pōwhiri at the University of Auckland’s Waipapa Marae, followed by the official opening at the University of Auckland’s Fale Pasifika.

At the opening, co-chairs Leo Foliaki and Rangimarie Hunia spoke about the origins of the programme and it’s importance—for the interns involved and for the businesses that are making significant strides by welcoming a diverse worldview into the hearts of their organisation.

Marc England, CEO of TupuToa partner Genesis Energy celebrated the collaborative effort of corporate partners to get the initiative off the ground and spoke about corporates’ need to have workforces that reflect the diverse make-up of their customer base.

‘Evalata Vehikite spoke about her corporate journey as a young Pasifika woman, and with pride about the work she is now doing at Fletcher Building. She said that she wished TupuToa has been around when she’d started her corporate career, and urged the future interns to grab all the opportunities offered by the programme with both hands.

Champions for Change chair and former Global Women chair Dame Jenny Shipley spoke about the importance of the programme as a significant step in the long journey towards a truly socially inclusive society: one that is authentic, genuine, and safe for difference.

Finally, Hon Te Ururoa Flavell, Minister for Māori Development, talked about the latent potential and power of young Māori and Pasifika, the huge value they can bring to the country when they’re given a shot, and the opportunity that TupuToa represents in terms of achieving this.

He also urged the interns to consider their cultural background the “X-factor” that they bring to corporate New Zealand—and to never compromise their culture in a corporate environment.


A programme with dual aspects

As emphasised throughout the official launch of the programme, TupuToa is a programme with two aspects. Not only does it give an opportunity for young Māori and Pasifika to step into corporate New Zealand, it also helps to bring true diversity into the corporates themselves—something vital to the social and economic growth of our country.

Studies have shown that a team with a member who shares a client’s ethnicity is 152% more likely than another team to understand that client. We also know that employees at diverse companies are 45% more likely to report that their firm’s market share grew over the previous year and 70% more likely to report that the firm captured a new market.


Getting TupuToa off the ground

TupuToa is a national internship and early career development programme that assists corporate partners to identify, develop and retain high potential Māori and Pasifika talent.

It aims to develop a new generation of Māori and Pasifika business leaders who are thoroughly grounded in their respective cultural settings as well as business-savvy, entrepreneurial, creative, innovative and globally confident, and with capabilities across a core range of areas including: strategy, finance, people, technology, operations, marketing and communications.

The programme was catalysed by Global Women and is based on a proven international model, Australia’s CareerTrackers. In 2015 a working group was established, led by Justine Munro and including representatives from corporate and academic New Zealand.

Throughout 2016 TupuToa has grown in strength, bringing on partners from many of New Zealand’s major corporates. In July, the board appointed CEO David Gray to lead the programme. The inaugural cohort of graduates has just begun their internships.