Wāhine Māori

We are daughters, sisters, mothers, aunties, grandmothers.

We are leaders, business owners, change-makers, doctors, ministers, members of Parliament, police officers, students, academics, home-owners, lawyers, kaitiaki of Papatūānuku, writers, holders of whare tangata, givers to kaupapa, data experts, soldiers, divers, kaikaranga, diplomats of Aotearoa, carers, athletes.

Walking with courage, walking with love, walking with each other.

He wahine ahau

He wahine Māori ahau.

Wāhine Māori are the pillars of our communities. Wāhine Māori have led legacy movements of te kōhanga reo, kura kaupapa Māori, and are the centre of many iwi, marae, community, and whānau kaupapa. This is a positive contribution to Aotearoa. 

Research has shown that wāhine Māori spend more time caring for others in their household and do more voluntary and community work than women from other ethnic groups.

As wāhine Māori we have lots to celebrate:

  • Participation rates in tertiary education are increasing 
  • Wāhine Māori are achieving NCEA Level 2
  • Increased participation in the paid labour force 
  • Significant improvements in health outcomes.

There is still more work to be done:

  • We need to increase our income levels
  • Improve our economic position  
  • Address family violence 
  • Recognise and value unpaid roles 
  • Continue to improve health outcomes 
  • Reduce our imprisonment rate
  • Improve our housing conditions.


There are 13 women MPs with self-identified Māori affiliations following the 2017 election (10.8% of total MPs). This compares favourably to the average of women overall, who made up 38% of MPs following the 2017 election.

Public sector employment

Māori continue to be under-represented as managers and policy analysts in comparison to Pākehā public servants and well-represented as inspectors, regulatory officers, social, health, and education workers. Māori represented 15.5% of the public service in 2019.

Māori women in business

While we continue to seek and encourage a broader range and availability of data on Māori women’s participation in the private sector, the report 2019 Ngā wāhine kaipakihi: He tirohanga: wāhine Māori in business: Insights provides breakthrough data on businesses owned by wāhine Māori. This report found 6,500 wāhine Māori in Aotearoa New Zealand are running their own business and provides insights on the types of businesses they run, who they employ, how long their businesses have been running and the location of these businesses.

Key findings include:

  • The self-employed income for these wāhine exceeds the minimum wage.
  • The main businesses wāhine Māori are involved in include agriculture, forestry and fishing, professional, scientific and technical services, construction, and healthcare and social assistance.
  • 76% of wāhine Māori in business aged between 20 and 35 years of age have at least one child, and 72% of these have a child under 5 years of age.
  • 3% of Māori women own their own business (in full or part) with business ownership higher in the age range 45-60 years.
  • More women own businesses in rural and provincial areas.
  • Māori women in business employ people; for instance, six in ten construction businesses Māori women are involved with employ others. Nearly 20% of these construction businesses employ five or more people.
  • Overall, 28% of these women have qualifications at degree level or above, with a higher proportion (around 34%) for the younger 20-34 year age group. Nearly all Māori women in this age range with a child have a child under 15 years of age. Wāhine Māori in businesses are balancing their work and childcare responsibilities. 

Gender pay gap key facts 

Gender pay gaps are differences in pay for groups of women and men, usually based on the median or mean pay that men and women receive. Stats NZ provides an annual gender pay gap figure that allows us to see gender wage differences at the national level.

Wāhine Māori gender pay gap with tāne Māori is 8.3%. This is lower than the overall gender pay gap of 9.3%.

Wāhine Māori gender pay gap compared with all men’s median income ($27.00) is 18.5%.

Wāhine Māori women make up 6.6% of the total workforce, and 50.2% of the Māori workforce (144,400 wāhine compared with 143,300 tāne).

Wāhine Māori make median earnings of $22.00 per hour, compared with $24.00 for tāne Māori.

Stats NZ order


Māori women median hourly earnings

Māori women (#)

Occupation rank (by # of Māori women)

Māori women as % of workforce

Māori women gender pay gap

  Total occupations 22 143.7   6.60% 18.52%
1 Managers 26.37 14 6 4.34% 20.67%
2 Professionals 27.25 33 1 5.88% 27.33%

Technicians and trade workers

20.21 5.8 7 2.31% 22.27%

Community and personal service workers

19.95 25 2 9.44% 10.93%

Clerical and administration wrokers

23.97 25 2 9.44% 10.93%
6 Sales workers 19 16.6 5 8.32% 10.50%
7 Machinery operators and drivers 20 4.1 9 3.00% 13.04%
8 Labourers 18.25 18.3 4 8.59% 9.65%
9 Residual occupations 30 2.1 9 8.57% -9.69%

For more information on the gender pay gap and how it is measured visit the Stats NZ website.

Te Reo o te Wāhine

Ministry for Women is excited to celebrate the successes of Wāhine Māori through regular profiles – Te Reo o te Wāhine. This is will be an opportunity to share inspiring mahi. If you would like to be profiled or know a wahine Māori doing awesome mahi please email us at: wahine@women.govt.nz

Miriana Stephens hails from Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui and Ngāti Rārua. Born in Motueka and raised by her grandparents as a marae girl, she lives every day knowing that she not only carries her whānau in her heart, but that she has been taught the ways of old that ensured she had a strong cultural upbringing. She is a lawyer, a director, a businesswoman but, most importantly, she is a mum of four outgoing young achievers. Aotahi Ltd (Aotahi) was her first education-related startup. 

As the executive director working in partnership with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, she not only created small business and personal financial management programmes, she also delivered them out into the wider community. Tired of using outdated teaching resources, she established a series of case study books that provided business context across Aotearoa, Australia and North America. It was during those days that she honed her governance skills by becoming a director at Wakatū Incorporation and Kono, a Nelson-based Māori venture with an asset base of over $300 million. Business has always been a part of what she does. Her grandparents grew hops and tobacco, and she is involved with land trusts that own and manage an extensive collection of businesses. Business to her is not just commercial; it also entails being a kaitiaki of our whenua, our moana and our economy. Some of the challenges for her relate to the way in which Māori serve. She says, “We live in unprecedented times where Māori are seen as leaders in our industries, because the real risk we face is continuing to do the same things that we have done in the past.” 

According to Miriana, Māori businesses can lead the way. We need to enter into purposeful partnerships that share risk and rewards, we must deploy agile methodologies to update our products and services and we need greater investment in innovation, science and technology. “Change can be painful and rewarding. It requires leadership that is courageous, bold and ambitious,” she says. In the future, Miriana says that the taiao and our relationship with the natural world need to be at the centre of everything we do. The broader notion of business and working for our communities is essential. “Having a connection with each other as whānau, and our whenua and moana makes me feel proud and secure. I have an identity, I belong and I feel loved,” she concludes.