Three questions organisations should answer before attempting to indigenise the boardroom

8th June 2022

Author: Ashley Richard. Associate Director, Indigenous Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub, University of Manitoba

1 Have you found your ‘why’?

Before creating space for Indigenous peoples in your boardroom, you need to ask yourself, ‘Why is it important for our organisational culture to be inclusive of diverse Indigenous perspectives?’

The answer to this question might not come easy, and it may take some dedicated time to come up with your meaningful ‘why’.

Traditionally, Indigenous peoples have been brought into workplaces where the organisation has not done this critical piece. Not understanding your ‘why’ can create an alienating experience for any Indigenous person you hire. Indigenising the boardroom needs to come from a good and meaningful place; it’s not about ticking a box or meeting a certain target.

Indigenising your organisation should always be about a fundamental shift in organisational values that incorporates Indigenous Ways of Knowing and Being into the core organisational values.

2 Are you ensuring diversity at all levels?

Indigenous representation should be seen at all levels of the company. You should be able to see Indigenous representation in your entry-level positions, management, senior leadership and C-suite, and your board of directors.

Hiring one person to 'indigenise' your organisation and putting the entire onus on this one person can be alienating and will result in less than satisfactory experiences for both parties.

Ensure that indigenisation is a priority for all levels within the organisation and that any senior management person hired to oversee indigenisation efforts has support throughout the organisation.

3 Are you ready to learn, innovate and adapt?

Within an indigenous context, innovation is not always about creating something new. Indigenous innovation is about cultural revitalisation.

Ask yourself these questions

  • What can your organisation learn from Indigenous culture?
  • How can you adapt your mission to support indigenous innovation and cultural revitalisation?

Your answers may require a fundamental overhaul of some of your company practices – this is not easy work.

Inclusion is not about changing Indigenous communities or individuals to meet the needs of your company, it’s about mutual exchange

About the author

Ashley Richard is a proud Ojibwé and Métis and Filipina woman residing in Winnipeg, Treaty 1 Territory, Canada. Her Spirit Name is Forever Woman. 

Ashley completed her Masters at Queen's University, Canada, in the Masters in Management Innovation and Entrepreneurship program. 

Ashley sits on the Board of Governors at Red River College and is the Chair of the Walking Together Grants at The Winnipeg Foundation. 
Ashley is currently the Associate Director for the National Indigenous Hub, a project with the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH), focused on building an inclusive innovation ecosystem for Indigenous women entrepreneurs.  

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