Empowering Indigenous youth in workplace

Over the past three years, Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars in Waterloo’s Industrial-Organizational Psychology program have been working with partners to explore and develop the qualities that make a workplace environment more equitable for Indigenous employees. Together they are contributing their findings to Indigenous Workways, a program that partners with companies and organizations to clear pathways for Indigenous employees and create safe and supportive space in organizations for Indigenous bodies and worldviews.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) final report had a strong hand in inspiring this work. Professor Wendi Adair, Indigenous Workways’ co-principal investigator and Interpersonal Trust Lead, explains. “Their report addressed how the treatment of Indigenous peoples and erasure of their culture by colonial settlers has led to the Indigenous population being less likely to attend post-secondary and rise to upper-level management positions.”

Adair continues: “The TRC report identified a population in Canada that is highly underrepresented in the workplace. There are a lot of barriers that account for that.” Her research in Industrial-Organizational (I-O) Psychology focuses on workplace behaviour. “That’s what my colleagues and I study- what leads to job satisfaction, organizational commitment, people wanting to do the job that they have.” The development of Indigenous Workways was a natural step in the evolution of the program.

Networks of trust

In 2018, Adair and her co-principal investigator Catherine Kwantes at the University of Windsor received a SSHRC (Social Science & Humanities Research Council) Insight Grant to fund “Indigenous Workways: Cultural Safety, Cultures of Trust, and Psychologically Safe Work Places” over three years. The team also won a significant Ontario Research Fund – Research Excellence Grant, one of only two awards given in the program’s first ever Social Science competition. Along with Waterloo and Windsor, Conestoga College and Wilfrid Laurier University are institutional partners on the project that focuses on Indigenous employees’ experiences with interpersonal trust, organizational trust, and networks of trust.

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