by Terra Kerani MacPhail
Brenda LaRose exemplifies Indigenous business success. She has paved the way for so many others to prosper and to create opportunities for meaningful change, diversity and inclusion at the highest levels of corporate leadership. At SAY Magazine, it is our mission to celebrate successful Indigenous entrepreneurs, like LaRose, who are making a positive difference in our communities. In sharing real-life stories like hers, our hope is that others will see how they too can contribute to the economic wellbeing of their local communities and the economic reconciliation movement as a whole.
LaRose is a pioneer in the diversity movement, an entrepreneur and visionary, with over 25 years of experience in the field of executive search. She places highly qualified and educated Indigenous professionals at the tables of corporate boards of multinational corporations and crown corporations, and helps to appoint independent board members to Indigenous corporations.
As an entrepreneur and the national head of the Diversity and Indigenous Board practice at Leaders International Executive Search, LaRose’s personal mission and purpose is to uplift and engage Indigenous Peoples in every aspect of decision-making. Her expertise in business and strong knowledge of good governance practices enable her to work closely with boards and executive teams to assess their particular needs and find the right leaders to contribute to organizations’ strategic plans.
“We have no lack of talented, executive Indigenous professionals to fill these positions,” said LaRose. “We need Indigenous voices at the highest level of decision-making in business. And having Indigenous perspectives and insights at the board table is how we do it.”
As of January 1, 2020, the Canada Business Corporations Act (CBCA) requires all federally incorporated public companies in Canada to disclose diversity in their workplace, including gender, Indigenous Peoples, visible minorities and people with disabilities. LaRose confirmed, “There is no shortage of opportunities for Indigenous people to sit on corporate boards; the only missing element is the opportunity to sit on those boards.”
LaRose is a Métis Anishinaabe citizen, born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan. Like many Métis people born and raised in the Canadian Prairies, she was not born into wealth. She attributes to this hardship the ability to be resilient in the face of difficulty. Resilience is a core principle of Indigenous Peoples, and she exemplifies this through her persistent dedication to uplifting others. LaRose has always balanced her professional life with her family life as a wife, mother and grandmother. She cares for her family rooted in her Métis and Anishinaabe culture and heritage.
Among her many honours, LaRose was awarded the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019 and the national Indspire Award for Business and Commerce in 2015. She is actively engaged on several boards and has written for publications, such as the National Institute of Corporate Directors Journal and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce blog. Her message to corporate boards and leaders is simple: “There are many Indigenous executives who can add significant value and insight to your board, and will provide a competitive advantage to your organization.”
“Indigenous People are natural storytellers. One piece of advice I can give our community members who are looking to advance their careers is that you have to articulate your accomplishments in a story. When given the opportunity, you need to clearly define the strengths that you will bring to that board or organization,” advised LaRose. “That is what they need to hear to identify the value you will bring.”
Diversity and inclusion are currently at the forefront of business, and now is the time to partner with Indigenous Peoples, as well as Black people and other people of colour, to engage and make space at the boardroom table for a variety of voices and views.
Terra Kerani MacPhail (Métis) is a content creator and strategist. She can be reached with story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.