How To Be More Inclusive Of Native People In The Workplace

While some Native American professionals have excelled in corporate professions despite adversity, their representation in the public eye of corporate America remains scarce. The lack of visibility is evident in the absence of Native individuals in high-ranking positions and in the oversight of Native people in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training. This exclusion extends to the legal profession, where Native lawyers stress the need for greater representation in corporate America.

It's crucial to recognize that Native American tribes are diverse and unique, comprising 574 federally recognized entities, each with its distinct culture and history. Mary Smith, president of the American Bar Association and a member of the Cherokee Nation, emphasizes the importance of assimilating native cultures into workplace inclusion efforts. She underscores the need for companies to move beyond stereotypes, movies, and books to truly understand and appreciate Native cultures, which are often overlooked and misrepresented in DEI discussions.

Inclusivity goes beyond hiring Native employees. Matt Fletcher, a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and a law professor at The University of Michigan, urges corporate entities to invest meaningfully in Native communities beyond mere donations. He stresses the necessity for corporate boards and shareholders to comprehend the real impact on Native people, moving away from distant observations to active engagement.

Similarly, Smith highlights the significance of corporate investment in Native communities and calls for active participation in community events. She emphasizes the role of educational institutions in these efforts, advocating for admissions professionals to be trained on Native American history and culture while implementing financial aid policies that promote accessibility.

Recruiting and hiring Native individuals is pivotal in fostering a more inclusive workplace for Native people. Companies are encouraged to build relationships with universities with significant Native student populations and to develop strategies and practices that actively support the inclusion of Native Americans. Smith emphasizes the need for hiring managers to be equipped with training in Native American history and culture to effectively engage and recruit Native talent.

Inclusion of Native people in corporate America requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses education, investment in communities, and proactive hiring practices, ultimately recognizing and valuing the unique contributions of Native individuals.  

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