The way forward for outside recreation can’t afford to maintain exhibiting itself as ‘white alone’

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The pursuit of outdoor diversity and inclusion is in full swing at the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show in Salt Lake City. Outside the shelves of on-trend clothing and state-of-the-art equipment on display hangs a new reality: the future of the industry may depend on welcoming more people of color.

And Teresa Baker is working to make it a reality.

As a co-founder of the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge, she said that diversity is not currently as visible in Utah’s outdoor scene as it could be – and that needs to change.

“People of color are in these outdoor spaces,” Baker said. “We’re just not part of those marketing campaigns where you can see us.”

Baker adds that focusing on inclusion is not only right, it’s a fundamental issue.

“We are the influencers that emerge. Imagine what if we started including people from underrepresented communities that we don’t see as part of these outdoor brands. The economic flow created by including people of color is unstoppable.”

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Pamela McCall: What is your reaction to your promise of diversity from the Outdoor CEO?

Teresa Baker: Well, it was tough at first. People hesitate because it’s a company-wide commitment. So in the beginning it was slow. Marmot was the first company to sign up, and after Marmot signed up we attended a couple of outdoor retail trade shows in Colorado. It started to move and today we have 180 brands and organizations committed to the promise and its pillars. And like I said, it’s not easy. It’s a lot of work and it’s constant. But I’m starting to see changes, not just through the Pledge, but through the various community organizations that are driving this effort. Latino Outdoors, all of these organizations, help these brands and organizations and the work around inclusion through the Pledge and through their own campaigns.

PM: What does inclusion outdoors look like based on your work?

TB: It looks like us. It looks like what the United States looks like. It looks like people of color are part of campaigns. It seems like when I click on a certain brand’s social media feed, I see athletes of color. If I then click on their board members, I see people of color in decision-making roles, not just hiring people to have them, but hiring them for their knowledge.

PM: This is bigger than inclusion and diversity in winter recreation. You recently had a meeting with the Superintendent of Zion National Park?

TB: We talked about what needs to be done at Zion to make it more inclusive in its workforce. And what I got from the superintendent was amazing. He understands that there is work to be done and he is committed to making it happen. The National Park Service is no different than Brand X. They all need to know what to do, and everyone is afraid of saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing and being called out publicly.

PM: What will it take in Utah for diversity and inclusion and outdoor recreation to become so integrated that it’s no longer an issue?

TB: We can no longer afford to show white and male, white and female alone, as if they are the only humans recreating themselves in these spaces, because that sends the wrong message. People of color are here. We do winter sports. We do outdoor summer sports. And that’s the message we need to spread. This is the path we must be on.