What we learned at Outdoor Retailer about the actionable steps can the outdoor industry can take to become more equitable.
At the 2018 Outdoor Retailer in Denver, diversity, equity, and inclusion—shortened to DEI—were topics that from first glance seemed to be a growing priority for the industry. However, the industry remains overwhelmingly white, heterosexual, and homogenous—and there’s a lot of work that remains to be done before we can pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. For brands and individuals who want to make a difference but don’t always know how, coming up with solutions can seem daunting. In the words of the people who spoke at Outdoor Retailer on the topic, here is a list of actionable items that you can take to start increasing the diversity, inclusion, and equity of the outdoor industry.
Writer’s note: As a white, queer, refugee woman, I see a lot of issues with the industry, but I don’t see them all. This compilation is written from my perspective, and is not all-encompassing. For an example of how much work there is to do, examine the primary diversity reports written about Outdoor Retailer: many, including this one, are written by white women.
It’s not enough to simply hire people of color as models for branding and marketing. Don’t just represent diversity in marketing, hire diverse candidates at advanced leadership roles and diversity practices will follow from there.
“There are a lot of inherently good things that are trendy. Step one (in creating change)- don’t view trendy as a dirty word. Women’s rights and closing the gender wage gap is a trend. Environmentally friendly products are a trend. No one is complaining about those things- they’re complaining about us (POC). Step two is getting diversity in hiring data from outdoor companies. DEI activism doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We also need diverse CEOs, diverse brand ambassadors, diverse marketing companies, creatives, athletes, execs, and small business owners.” – @MelaninBaseCamp
Care for your Employees
Don’t expect staff to perform without basic access to health insurance. For Cindy, this reality hit home when her partner, who is transgender, needed medical care through Cindy’s employer. “We realized that Specialized had specific policy written into their health insurance plan that excluded transgender people. It took a lot of work and conversations, but I’m happy to report that this year, Specialized will be changing its policy on exempting transgender people from health care policy”, says Cindy.
Call in the Experts
“Companies spend so much money doing other stuff, but we need to spend money hiring experts for educated, insightful training. We need to be asking, How can I better support you? Do you feel safe? Do you feel empowered? What can I do? As leaders, you create change by showing people that you care, and that you want feedback—and then act on it.” – Cindy, Specialized
“White platforms get away with once in a while mentioning their privilege or acknowledging that there is a ‘DEI industry’, yet for brown folx our platforms are built around it. It’s part of our identities as a lived experience. We are not only just hikers, we are the hope for a whole generation—in my case we are business entrepreneurs, non-profit founders, and advocates, and more.” -Karin Ramos, Founder of Get Out Stay Out.
Talking about diversity can seem like a trend for people who do not have to live it every day. As people with privilege, it’s not enough to just talk about it. “As a white cisgender straight woman, we have the privilege to step in and out of the space. It is our responsibility to step in, all the time.” – Deanne Buck, CEO of Camber Outdoors
It’s Everyone’s Problem
When it comes to sexism and harassment, there’s a common belief that the responsibility falls on women. Callie Rennison and Charlie Lieu, who worked together to compile data on over 5,000 participants of a sexual harassment study in climbing, disagree: “Sexual harassment and sexual assault are not problems that only women experience. Women alone can not stop this. It’s a matter of being smart: how do we combine resources and knowledge so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time there’s an issue?”
Most of us aren’t educated fully in the systems of racism and inequality. If you don’t know where to start, start with yourself. Here’s some other suggestions:
“It’s important to have this conversation, even if its uncomfortable. We (women of color) are the ones who have to bring these conversation, and you can’t tokenize that. You have to be an example to being an example for other people. Take a bit of a risk, talk about hard topics. For brands and companies: the only way you will know how to speak to your audience is if you sit down with them and ask: “How are you doing? How can I support you? – Kami York-Feirn, social media specialist for Osprey Packs.
“You need combination of different things for people to feel like they belong. If you’re in a leadership role, as yourself – how would I want to feel right now?” – Georgina Miranda, founder of SheVentures
“Give your team the opportunity to learn about what it looks like from the other side, and start with yourself. We need more training, and it needs to be real and robust. Our workplace needs to be safe place to have hard conversations.” -Trina Fornerette-Ballard, Senior category merchandising manager at REI
“Training around inclusion can feel quite complicated and it’s easy to get hung up on language, so people avoid the conversation because they don’t want to offend. This is why training is key: when people have language and feel equipped, they are more able to have conversations.” – Deanna Lloyd