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Diversity in Business

Supporting Indigenous Talent in a Diverse Workforce

Prairie Bighorn-Blount

Executive Director, American Indigenous Business Leaders

Most corporations and business have created and implemented diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives for various reasons in recent years, and those efforts should be applauded. I’d like to take the conversation past the numbers, which are bleak and leave room for improvement to include Indigenous talent. 

For example, most of corporate America is not tracking diversity numbers specific to Indigenous talent. The ones that do are coming back with numbers that show less than 1 percent of the workforce claims indigenous ancestry.

Supporting diversity

So how do we change that? In a world where diversity efforts are recognized and celebrated as they should be, how do we make sure we are not leaving out the most diverse of the diversity groups? It starts with taking a step beyond diversity, which includes creating a supportive environment where people of diverse backgrounds can thrive within established corporate culture. It’s not enough to check the D&I box anymore. Checking the box is minimal, and so are the results.

In order for diverse talent and Indigenous talent to thrive in our corporate settings, they must be given the opportunity as well as the support to thrive. The opportunity is recruiting and attracting diverse talent to your workplace. Supporting diverse talent as they navigate through your corporate structure is paramount.

Beyond recruitment

It’s not enough to attract diverse talent; you must also create opportunities and environments that foster and value diverse thought. Indigenous students (Native American and Alaskan Native) are the most diverse of minority groups. Indigenous students represent the smallest margin on any given diversity scale, so if we truly value diversity, we must give Indigenous talent the opportunity and space to make their diverse experiences known and valued. 

When I’m working with Indigenous students, the idea of resilience comes up frequently. People indigenous to this continent have fought and struggled to survive. That resilience is woven into our DNA and runs in our bloodlines. I challenge Indigenous students to view their diversity as an asset; our ancestors have been master problem-solvers, peacekeepers, and leaders, all useful tools in the workplace.

When Indigenous people are given the opportunity and the support they need to thrive, they can use their diverse backgrounds and experiences in ways that can positively impact their working environment. At that point, companies with diverse workforces are tapping into diversity in a way that strengthens the bottom line and also honors the resiliency and genius of Indigenous talent. 

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