Pictured from left to right: Juli Paurini – Co-Leader CDANZ Wellington Branch, Harita Gandhi – Treasurer of NCWNZ Wellington Branch, Aleisha Amohia – Vice President of NCWNZ Wellington Branch, Julie Thomas – Co-Leader CDANZ Wellington Branch.
Harita works as an accountant at New Zealand Defence Force. She is currently the Treasurer of the Wellington Branch of National Council of women New Zealand, and is the co-host of a podcast called Coconut Chats where topics in the Indian community are discussed candidly.
Your own career journey: Harita has worked at the NZDF in the Head Office Finance team as an accountant for 1.5 years on returning from Melbourne. She was looking to gain public sector experience, and on being offered several roles, felt the NZDF role was the most aligned with her goals. Harita relied on some positive feedback from her network about the NZDF, and was unaware of any media and public perceptions about gender and culture problems at NZDF. Her experience has been one of inclusiveness, with a strong push to get women into the Forces and Head Office. The Culture and Diversity team have introduced a half day workshop that all staff are required to attend to ensure NZDF is a safe place to work. The Finance team is itself culturally and gender diverse, and Harita does not feel she has experienced discrimination in her career.
Your advocacy role: the timing was right for Harita to find a platform to be a voice for women’s rights in some form having had experience of having different expectations of her role as an Indian woman while in Melbourne. This was unfamiliar territory for her, giving her an insight in what it might be like for those who are treated differently and without the support she has had. Through her friend Sonja Randhawa, the President of the NCWNZ Wellington Branch, Harita saw the links to the different organisations that interest her e.g., Shukti NZ and Women’s Refuge.
Aleisha Amohia (Te Ātihaunui-a-Papārangi)
Aleisha works full-time as an open source software developer at Catalyst IT, alongside continuing to serve marginalised communities as the Wellington Branch Vice President of the National Council of Women New Zealand.
Your own career journey: Aleisha has been interested in tech her whole life starting with ‘talking tech’ with her Dad who is an engineer. She took digital technologies at Wellington East Girls, surrounded by students from Pacific and Asian communities, and was the Technology Prefect. Aleisha embarked on a technology and commerce degree at Victoria University, and the lack of diversity on the technology course had her questioning why she had started it – with lecturers looked nothing like her, and the content catering to type of person who had spent their entire life coding and gaming. She saw a lot of women drop out or change degrees, and what keep her going was that she already had a job with Catalyst. She attended their Open Source Academy in Yr 13, and as one of 20 secondary school age students had 2 weeks mentoring and got to contribute to a real project. She ‘kept showing up’ and got an internship as a student.
Your advocacy role: After 1.5 years of feeling isolated and tired, Aleisha established the Vic University of Wellington Women in Tech student club in 2018, and was President for 2 years while studying . They ran events and received thousands of dollars of sponsorship, with over 200 members when she left. It garnered a lot of attention from staff for engaging students in ways that they hadn’t been able to do. Aleisha needed a way to keep helping marginalised communities who needed someone to be loud for them, which led her to NCWNZ. Her personal focus is young women – Maori women, Asian women – in male dominated industries especially science and technology. She likes to be busy and finds it rewarding to put energy into causes that have been slow to progress, in the last few years learning to do volunteering after work and to keep weekends as her own time.
Tips for career practitioners – discussion
Bubbles and circles. Aleisha’s main tip is to help women to find others who understand their struggles so they’re not alone and can bounce off each other – finding a ‘safe bubble’ or circle that helps validate you. Her experience of events: when attending events encourage women to go together if they are feeling uncomfortable; when organising an events make sure they don’t overwhelm people with promotional material. The most successful events in the digital space have been where companies come in to teach a skill or platform, where participants can meet people in roles they are interested in, or where opportunities are provided to meet recruiters (keeping in mind that many marginalised people won’t find it easy to present as confident and prepared).
Doors and introductions. We discussed different ways to get known by an employer so they can see the ways you can add value rather than just through a written application. We talked about how to ‘get in through different doors, such as an internship, volunteering and starting in a different role. The group shared examples of when people have been hired through a facilitated introduction at an event or through being encouraged to apply and/or endorsed for a role. The role of each person to open doors for someone in our own networks was a key takeaway.
Bias in recruitment and advancement. Harita talked about not judging a book by it’s cover, especially if in a hiring role. She sharing an example of a NZ-born Indian friend having immediate success with job search when she changed her name to an English name on her CV. This was acknowledged as an issue for us in our work with clients. We then talked about the ongoing need to educate and encourage the advancement of women in their careers and shared some examples of the ‘good and the bad’ i.e., the stopping of women’s development courses, the success of the Government Women’s Network that hold a Summit every year.
Quote: There’s something about those gatherings where you come away feeling so inspired and content on who you are. It makes you realise how important it is to be surrounded by the right people who not only make you feel good about who you are and what you’re interested, but also help you find your identity and where you fit. As I’ve gotten older and know more about who I am as a Maori Asian woman in tech and what I want from life, I’ve become more comfortable being loud and speaking up for people like me. Aleisha Amohia.
If you’re interested in knowing more about The National Council of Women NZ see the website, or email the Wellington Branch of National Council of Women if interested in joining the Branch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CPD Theme: CDANZ Competency Framework, competency 7 Culture and Diversity – Recognise and respect diversity; conduct career development work in cultural sensitive ways.