Celebrate Native American Heritage Month by Meeting These 7 Fantastic Female Business Leaders
Free Book Preview: Coach ’Em Way Up
It turns out that November is Native American Heritage Month so I thought I'd celebrate it by writing a little about some of the indigenous, female CEOs who are driving tremendous business success across the country. From entrepreneurs to leaders of major companies, these Native-American business leaders have applied under-represented cultural perspectives to help build successful companies.
Take a look at what these amazing women are up to, the organizations they're managing, and what you can learn from their leadership.
1. Bethany Yellowtail, CEO of B.Yellowtail
Yellowtail is a fashion guru who is both a designer and CEO of her indigenous clothing line. You can see her own modern take on her Northern Cheyenne, Crow and Tsetsehestahese heritage in the unique designs. Yellowtail started at BCBG Max Azria and has been a senior pattern maker for a number of private labels before she launched her own line and company.Related: These Female Entrepreneurs Created a Fake Male Co-Founder to Work Around Sexism. How Well It Worked Is Incredibly Eye Opening.
2. Janice Guy, President of P31
Guy was born in Hawaii to a military family and blended to "ohana" or "family spirit" into her own Native upbringing. She then served for years in the U.S. Marine Corps, where she was one of the first female Air Defense Control Officers. She brought that dedication and spirit to her position at the major Massachusetts corporation. She says it's "deeply ingrained in the values of P31," making her position at the security, logistics and software support company a natural fit.
3. Sarah Eagle Heart, CEO of Native Americans in Philanthropy
Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP) is a network of nonprofits, tribal communities and foundations working to make life better for all indigenous people in the U.S. Under the guidance of Eagle Heart the organization helps promote investment to build healthy and sustainable communities. NAP hosts regional summits, webinars and leadership courses for Native-American mid-level professionals and others working in the field of philanthropy.
4. Vickie Wessel, President of Spirit Electronics
Wessel's heritage includes Jicarila Apache, Cherokee, and Choctaw. She helps lead Spirit Electronics in Phoenix, Arizona, an electronic components distributor serving the Aerospace and Defense industries. They deliver parts that make up missile guidance systems and satellites. Wessel founded the company in 1979 and by 2010 boasted annual revenue of more than $32 million.
5. Cheryl Cardinal, President and CEO of the Indigenous Center of Energy
A graduate of the University of British Columbia, Cardinal went on to complete an MBE program at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business. The entrepreneur focuses on healthy relationships between Native communities and the energy/mining fields. She's a liaison between the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and Australia and specializes in climate change, international trade, sustainability, and oil and gas.
6. Karlene Hunter, CEO and co-founder of Native American Natural Foods
Hunter runs the first company from a native reservation ever to create a national brand. She grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation where Native Amerrican Natural Foods is headquartered. She brings her Oglala Sioux heritage to the position along with over 25 years working in educational and economic development. The company's first product is the Tanka Bar, a protein-rich snack bar that features cranberries and prairie buffalo as ingredients. Part of the goal of the company is to get people to return to more traditionally based foods and curb diabetes in the U.S.
7. Patricia Parker, CEO of Native American Management Services
Parker founded the organization alongside her sister, Tonya, in 1992. As a member of the Choctaw Nation, she spent years in the Indian Health Services organization as well as the federal government. Her company provides management services for events, trade shows, and conferences. Parker says she blends her "grounding in the tradition" of the Choctaw Nation with her professional expertise to create a company that's culturally competent and serves indigenous demographics.
These are just a few of the female business leaders utilizing their Native heritage to help guide how they run companies large and small. As we celebrate Native American Heritage Month, let's take a little time to reflect on the hard work it takes to succeed as an indigenous woman in the business world, which in many ways can still be an old-boys club.
Do you know of any female Native CEOs that should be added to the list?