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Skills for Inclusive Workplaces and the Advancement of Indigenous Peoples

The Canadian Council for Indigenous Business, in partnership with the Diversity Institute, presents Skills for Inclusive Workplaces and the Advancement of Indigenous Peoples. This report investigates the experiences of Indigenous Peoples in leadership positions to understand the barriers and enablers that have shaped their pathways, and the impact of diversity in the workplace.

Diversity in the workplace enhances decision-making, market engagement and innovation; however, Canada’s corporate leadership lacks diversity, with Indigenous Peoples and members of 2SLGBTQ+ and other equity-deserving groups underrepresented. A 2020 survey by the Canada Business Corporations Act revealed that only 1% of board positions were held by Indigenous individuals among 230 companies.

This study did in-depth interviews with 25 First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders and had three objectives: to assess Indigenous leaders’ experiences, identify skills and resources needed by emerging leaders, and understand how employers can foster leadership opportunities.

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Key findings

Align leadership values: Corporate Canada and Indigenous leadership values are not aligned. Corporate norms prioritize individual success and assertive communication, while Indigenous leadership emphasizes community success, storytelling, collaboration and stewardship. This forces Indigenous leaders to adapt their styles, perpetuating a lack of role models.

Take an intersectional approach to recognize the needs of Indigenous women: Indigenous women face gendered and racial disadvantages, and struggle to balance professional and community roles. Historically, they held leadership positions within matrilineal societies, but colonization undermined their roles. Modern workplaces often fail to respect their need to balance professional and personal commitments, further hindering their leadership potential.

Create Indigenous-specific policies: General equity, diversity and inclusion policies are insufficient. Indigenous-specific policies should promote hiring, retention, advancement opportunities and cultural acknowledgment. Organizations must engage Indigenous Peoples in policy development.

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