Endless self-reflection has taken place for our organization this year. And Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) work has proven to be complex and challenging. We’re striving to combine what we hear, what we know, and what we don’t know into a body of work that is rooted in genuine empathy, curiosity and connection. And we’re listening to the important voices all around us. No two voices will ever be the same, but we’re working to create a space in the workplaces of the active-outdoor industries where they all hold equal weight.
To us, and to our mission, success looks like the harmony of ideas, differences, perspectives, and skills in one room, at one table. Success looks like a workplace where diverse leadership thrives and barriers to jobs, pay, and experiences have diminished. At the same time, we know that achieving workplace equity will be an ever-evolving task. It will take failing, getting up, trying again, trying a different way, stepping back, improving awareness, listening, exhibiting empathy, and collaborating. So far we’ve learned a lot, and we want to share these lessons. We hope they will help propel your success in creating an equitable environment, wherever that may be.
Here’s what we’ve been learning this year…
Choose Courage Over Comfort
Stepping into complex situations with courage leads to better work. Often times, that means confronting uncomfortable topics with direct language and not avoiding strong words such as “racism,” “marginalization,” “discrimination,” and “privilege,” as these ideas are deeply embedded in the systems that have kept the outdoor workplace and environment homogenous. We’ve learned that we can’t change such issues while hiding them under the umbrella term of “equity,” a criticism we’ve heard from the community. Moving forward, we agree and advise others to choose courage over comfort by communicating directly; listening to advice, encouragement, and criticism equally; respecting others and ourselves in an emotionally charged field of work; and committing to advance our mission despite challenges.
Recognize Our Position of Privilege and Use it Justly
It can be difficult to fully recognize your own position of privilege. Some individuals and organizations are successful, but many still miss the target in using their privilege to benefit those with less. We understand that ours gives us the power and platform to distribute opportunity in the active-outdoor industries workplace. We sit with the support of over 200 corporations within the industry, the majority of whom lack diversity. While our very cause seeks to change this, we must also acknowledge our privilege in the process. Moving forward, we seek to use this position to better convene and combine outdoor equity efforts across platforms and hierarchies from C-suite to grassroots while providing a microphone for voices that need to be heard the most. We will also use our privilege as an industry leader to hold honest conversations with other industry leaders and organizations on the steps they are taking in regards to their internal DEI strategies. We will support them by providing tools that measure their year over year progress to hold them accountable to do the work.
DEI is More Than Just A Business Strategy
While research shows diverse leadership teams create better businesses, it only scratches the surface when it comes to the benefits and importance of DEI work. It also leads to stronger communities, access to inclusive outdoor experiences and an overall healthier well-being. Still, ROI isn’t enough to justify these efforts. Social justice is not a business strategy, and the human experience is not quantitative. We cannot advance the cause of equity without engaging with morals, ethics, emotions, and personal experiences of all historically underrepresented groups. Broad outlines and discussion in DEI work fail to reach core issues and solutions needed to make real progress. Actionable strategies are needed. At Camber Outdoors, our progress forward will be rooted in action rather than words, and we encourage all in this line of work to do the same.
Collaborate Beyond the Surface.
Building friendships and enjoying time together is important, but not always conducive to deeper conversations. Collaboration must have the intent and commitment to reach beyond surface interactions to form impactful partnerships and genuine relationships. We acknowledge that our previous efforts to engage, collaborate with, and include grassroots DEI leaders did not extend deeply enough to serve our mission of achieving workplace equity in the active-outdoor industries. That our revealing of the CEO Outdoor Equity Pledge came as a shock to grassroots DEI leaders points to a gap in collaboration and discussion that should have taken place before the launch. That we did not re-engage Teresa Baker, the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge leader, upon shifting ours to include all people, rather than solely women, was a huge missed opportunity and a reinforcement of the historical erasure of the important work already done by women of color in the outdoor space. We support Teresa’s work, and we will seek ways to amplify her efforts and others’. It will take the whole community to accomplish the changes we desperately need in the active-outdoor industries.
Understand the Experiences and Values of the Community We Represent.
To serve the community we must know the community. Recognize and appreciate its values, realize the experiences of its individuals, and be aware of where you can’t fully relate. That understanding is critical when it comes to decision-making. Camber Outdoors is taking time to examine its internal culture from the Board of Directors and staff, to contractors and consultants. This self-reflection allows us to identify blind spots and make internal change through discussion, reading, and DEI training. Additionally, we have updated our recruitment practices to ensure we build a team that represents the diverse communities we serve, and we’ve hired a reputable DEI-focused recruitment agency to help us find the next executive director of Camber Outdoors to lead us in this work. We are also evaluating the makeup of our board of directors as we look to add new diverse leaders to the team.
Through listening, learning, and continuing the work we started over 20 years ago, we remain committed to creating workplace equity in the active-outdoors industries —from the boardroom to the backcountry.
More to come…