The significance of identifying and meeting individual learning needs in culturally appropriate ways is a professional responsibility of all teachers. This research explored achievement motivation from within the cultural context of women tertiary students from Asia and Pacific Island nations. Narrative data were collected from focus groups using semi-structured interviews that were led by facilitators of the same culture as participants. The role of the researcher was to observe and record the meetings where the women were involved in discussions about issues relating to learning and motivation. Data were analysed to identify factors linking cultural, gender identity and goals to achievement motivation as well as determining the nature of these links. Strong evidence of the effect of societal conditioning and the resulting impact on motivational orientation was found. This supported existing literature regarding the difficulties faced by ethnic minority learners, often due to societal expectations and their personal priorities. However findings challenged much of the literature that has influenced public discourse on the role of women. To maintain and enhance the achievement motivation of women, teachers must be aware of the diversity of socio-cultural values relating to the role of women and avoid making generic assumptions about goals, values and priorities. The research recommends that teachers acknowledge the goals and purposes of learners and that the values and practices of the learner's culture are evident in teaching strategies, particularly in the context of praise and reward.