Māori scientists work ‘cultural double-shifts’ – Expert Reaction

Researchers have interviewed Māori scientists, who described the extra workload of helping their non-indigenous colleagues navigate te Ao Māori.

“We spend more time being Māori for others than being Māori for ourselves,” is how one scientist talked about the often uncompensated work that leaves them feeling burnt out and with less time to focus on their own science.

The SMC asked experts to comment on the study. 

Professor Jarrod Haar, Professor of Management, AUT University, and co-author of the study, comments:

“The study highlights the complicated reality for Māori scholars, who spend a large proportion of their time helping their non-Māori colleagues understand how to engage Māori – so much so, they often don’t get enough time to focus on their own science. Māori researchers are often not compensated for their time for this work building cultural capacity, so they end up doing it over, above, and at the expense of their own research. Māori are often reluctant to speak up about these pressures because they feel fortunate to be in academic positions, despite the challenges they face.

“Inclusive workplaces are no longer a ‘nice to have’- they are a ‘must have’. This study holds a magnifying glass to the problems that come from organisations relying on or tacitly requiring specific people to build cultural capability and engagement. Instead, it must be supported by policies and guidelines, and with the time, money and dedicated resources needed to be effective.”

Conflict of interest statement: Professor Harr co-authored this research.

Dr Tara McAllister, Te Aitanga a Māhaki; and postdoctoral fellow at Te Pūnaha Matatini, comments:

“This is a very timely, important and powerful contribution to how we understand the roles of Māori within New Zealand’s science sector. It highlights the additional pressures that Māori scientists face and the friction between what the system and organisations want and what the communities we belong to need. The authors provide strong evidence of how Māori scientists are overworked and underappreciated within the current science system and highlight the need for urgent structural change.

“Between this study and the recent publication of Ngā Kete Mātauranga, institutional and sector leaders are very well placed to understand the experiences of Māori scientists. Now is the time for action and change. Universities and the research sector needs to recognise and reward Māori scientists for the dual and vitally important roles they fulfil in our research system. Work needs to commence immediately to expand the size of the Māori scientific workforce, whilst dismantling the institutional structures which continue to work against us.”

No conflict of interest declared.

Dr Tyron Love, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Auckland, comments:

“The realities for Māori scientists and academics have been captured well in this paper. The journal (Human Relations) is a serious one with international reach and its great to see mātauranga Māori in a prestigious international journal like this.

“The tensions between Māori workers and the mainstream entities which employ and manage their work appear to be broadening in Aotearoa, as more and more managers and board members create and implement strategies and policies to address the inequities and discriminatory practices of their organisations without fully recognising the implications for the Māori workers who will inevitably be asked to operationalise them.

“As such, these strategies and policies can be sacrificial – they can burden a small group of actual employees of an organisation for the greater organisational good including its public profile, reputation etc. Haar and Martin offer a model to explain the processes which contribute to the negative consequences of work and work arrangements for Māori workers. If processes and initiatives (policies, legislation, strategies) clash with cultural factors (Māori identity, attitudes, behaviours) then this can lead to career dissatisfaction and limitations as well as emotional exhaustion and work-life imbalance. The model is useful in the sense that if organisations produce these negative consequences for their Māori employees it should now be obvious what the drivers and contexts are. The next step for the authors could be to identify the workplace arrangements which have positive consequences for Māori employees.”

No conflict of interest declared.

Professor Jacinta Ruru, Faculty of Law, University of Otago; and Co-Director, Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga | New Zealand’s Māori Centre of Research Excellence, comments:

“This is important research that we can all learn from. Through measures of theory and science, this research reinforces what Māori scholars have been voicing over and over. This research provides an impetus for realising the importance of the new drivers in the Education and Training Act 2020 and the Tertiary Education Strategy 2020. It is now a requirement for the education sector to honour te Tiriti o Waitangi. This research shows the sector has a long way to go to realise this. This research should act as a catalyst for change.”

No conflict of interest declared.

Professor Edwina Pio, Professor of Diversity & University Director of Diversity, Auckland University of Technology, comments:

“The overlap of cultural double-shifting of Māori scientists and cultural identity make a fascinating study. Workplace driven cultural obligations often mean unaccounted work pressures and demands, with inadequate employment support as noted in this research. The Aronga Takirua model beautifully displays the significance of cultural identity in a science system with legislative overtones embedded in Vision Mātauranga.

“Given that Māori are among the most successful Indigenous populations, and cultural traditions are embraced as an incredible strength – with growing recognition of tikanga in the country –  it would be useful to explore how Indigenous cultures around the world can learn from Māori scientists’ experiences.

“Furthermore, given the strong and growing acknowledgement of Māori protocols which is to be applauded, it would be incredibly useful to shed more light on how these aspects are strategised and integrated within the unique role pressures of engaging with a range of stakeholders. The critical aspect that can be an area of focus is on how one can be Māori for others and for oneself, through bicultural perspectives in our multicultural country.

“Given the growing numbers of various ethnic groups in Aotearoa it would be meaningful to look at collectivistic cultures rather than a comparison primarily with western approaches in how Indigenous peoples navigate the complexities and challenges which they encounter on a regular basis. This will go a long way in sharing learnings for better resourcing, good mentoring and holding close to one’s heart Indigenous values while also walking within the workscapes of the majority cultures in which many Indigenous populations are embedded. A more nuanced perspective which discusses both the vital role of cultural identity, while also making spaces which celebrate what has been achieved, would serve to further engage scholars and policy makers in this crucial area of whakawhanaungatanga, kawenga, hauora and āheinga tangata.”

No conflict of interest.