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  • Writer's pictureDr. Kathie Irwin

International Women's Day 2022: Break the Bias

- When I spoke to the Professor and Head of the Education Department about wanting to do my PhD on Māori girls experiences of secondary education and he replied "but who would want to know?".

- When I was a Junior Lecturer in a university education department, and told a senior male colleague that I was pregnant, and he said "well that's the last we'll see of you then".

- When I told my thesis supervisor that I had an offer of a Lectureship at Victoria University and he said "all I have to do is fail your thesis and you aren't going anywhere".

- When I was in the lift at work in my final days in a government department and the CEO walked in (we were the only ones in the lift) and he asked "when is your last day?" And ignored me for the rest of the ride". I was the Chief Analyst Culture and he had never asked me to brief him on any project. Luckily for me successive Minister's of Māori Affairs were from the same tribes as me. I could talk with them at tribal events. And I did.

- When Monte Ohia asked me to deliver a keynote address at a Maori Education Hui on "Sexism for Māori men and boys" and a Senior, well respected Māori Advisor, arrived very late and called out "have you finished yet" before sitting down.

- When I boarded an Air NZ flight in Hamilton after a long day in a Board meeting of the Council of Te Wananga o Aotearoa, the second largest tertiary institution in NZ, and the Air NZ hostess asked, with derision in her loud voice, "are you a doctor?". To which I replied "yes". "What are you a doctor of (my boarding pass showed I was a doctor)?" she continued. After a few interchanges, which the passengers in the front half of the plane could hear, I said "if you had a broken leg I couldn't fix it, but whatever is going on in your head, I can help you with that".

- When my daughter was hours old and a nurse came in to my room, commented on what a beautiful baby she was, then asked what her name was. When I said Horiana she replied "I'll never be able to say that. I'll just call her baby", in front of the whānau in the room with us.

- When you read a study which reports that Māori and Pacific academic women are paid upwards of $250, 000 less than their male colleagues across their careers.

- When you read the 2020 statistics of ethnic and gender pay inequity in the Public Service in NZ and you find that Māori women are paid, on average, $20, 000 less that European men.

And you respond to all of that by devoting your working life to championing Mana Wahine, Te Tiriti / the Treaty of Waitangi, Maori Development and Diversity and Inclusion.

And your current major project is researching "What does Retirement Look Like For Māori?", including a focus on what is happening for Māori women.

Give nothing to racism. Break the bias. Decolonise and humanize the world. Future proof Aotearoatanga! Tihei mana wahine!

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