Being a superwoman when your culture is in conflict

Balancing Act – The Multiple Roles of Indian Women Executives

Originally published by Indian Country Today Magazine

In my career at Raving since 2001, I have had the privilege to interact withBalancingAct-Faria Native American men and women, as our clients and at our conferences. During this time I have realized my ignorance (again and again, and still today) about this culture.

I didn’t have any misconceptions (or any knowledge really) about Tribal gaming, until I moved up to Reno in 2000 and started hearing how “all of the economic woes of our local casinos were because of the Indian casinos down the pass.”

The untold story continues to be untold – how Tribal gaming has benefited not only the poorest of tribes but their surrounding communities. A lot of people don’t or won’t want to believe it.

They don’t know that successful tribes with gaming are helping tribal communities throughout the country without gaming to overcome shocking poverty, addiction and suicide rates.

Recently I was hanging out with a girlfriend whose mother had worked for a few Indian casinos in Southern California. Her first comment was, “Do you know how many thousands of dollars they get each month from the casino?”

It reminded me once again of how, through negative PR and just general lack of information, how the “real story” or “entire” story is not being told.

So here is a real story for you. The following article I wrote back in 2010, and it is about the challenges and multiple roles Indian women face as business executives. The necessary attributes valued in the business world are often in conflict with the culture that Tribal women are raised within.

For all of us gals striving to be superwomen:

Here’s the backdrop: In 2010, women still occupy lower level positions despite similar education as their male counterparts and they earn less money for the same job.

In 2010, the highest paid officers in Fortune 500 companies are represented by a minute percentage of females; and women still have the primary responsibility for home and family matters despite comprising nearly half of the workforce.

Nothing new, right? You know all about superwomen, wearing several hats, trying to succeed in numerous roles as mothers, daughters, wives, financial providers, business leaders. And don’t forget, ladies, while you’re at it: Be beautiful, be sexy, be spiritual, volunteer, mentor and know how to dance, cook and clean like a pro.

The women that have enjoyed professional success, I think we can agree, have been their own advocates; they are assertive and they are confident. These necessary attributes valued in the business world are often in conflict with the culture that tribal women are raised within. And even though many tribal cultures are based on a “matriarchal society” – certain behaviors, still today, are not considered respectful coming from a woman.

I had the opportunity to interview three Native American businesswomen, all working in the gaming industry, and I asked them how they balanced their different universes: Respecting and embracing the traditions of their tribal culture while developing the skills and attitudes necessary to succeed in the business world.

Click here to read the full story.

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One Response to Being a superwoman when your culture is in conflict

  1. arsinoe ferry says:

    Great article, Chris. I learned so much from this one. Thank you!

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