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Tech industry falling short in representing indigenous voices

Paridhi Bakshi

As the only Māori in the company, Aaron Ward wants more indigenous people in tech sector

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

The technology sector is in dire need of more indigenous staff with data revealing that only 4% of the workforce are Māori, according to one of the few Māori in the industry.

“We should have been looking inward as a country, particularly towards growing indigenous representation and voices in the tech industry,” software as a service company Ask Nicely co-founder and Chief Executive Aaron Ward says.

One of the key challenges Ward says is the lack of quality education and resources for indigenous youth interested in pursuing careers in technology.

Ward understands the need to provide opportunities for indigenous people at the start of their careers.

He believes sharing success stories and providing mentorship opportunities at an early age can inspire and empower rangatahi Māori to pursue careers in technology.

“If Māori see other Māori working in tech, it will become apparent that this is a legitimate career option.”

Struggling with diversity

“To discover new lands, you must first lose sight of the shore - it sums up the job of starting a technology business.”

Ward says despite being one of the fastest-growing industries globally, tech continues to struggle with diversity.

“People don’t realise that technology is going to be the second-largest export sector and as a sector relies upon the talented people, which is also definitely a constraint.”

Ward emphasises that addressing this issue is essential for fostering innovation as Maori and indigenous populations are natural explorers.

He says Aotearoa has the advantage of that explorer mindset, which is critical to building new technology but needs to be unlocked.

“Leveraging this cultural DNA that encourages taking risks and thinking outside the box can aid the creation of highly effective tech workers.”

Ward encourages young minds to “aim for the big” and to come with a level of audacity and swagger.

“As we know, innovation doesn’t come from the core but rather from the edge. What’s more on the edge than Aotearoa?”

Hero Image: Aaron Ward, CEO and Co-founder of Ask Nicely. Photo Supplied

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