Diversity & Inclusion

Dreaming of the Future in Color

Posted On August 28, 2023

As a Black woman CEO, I face unique challenges and experiences in an industry predominantly occupied by a different demographic group.  After attending the Women (femme) Of Color (WOC) – Take the Lead Retreat (TLR), I was reminded that my position can be viewed as a beacon of change, but also a reminder of the challenges that still lie ahead. The outdoor industry, with its vibrant tapestry of companies, products, activities, and initiatives, carries the weight of a demographic imbalance that often mirrors societal inequities.

So, I find myself navigating spaces where I’m the ‘only’ or one of the very few. In addition to my daily reality of managing the duality of my experience as both Black and female, or the frequency to debunk stereotypes or confront unconscious biases, knowing retaliation might follow, along with the additional pressure to succeed as a representative of my community. 

So attending the Take the Lead Retreat, exclusively designed for women and femme of color in the outdoor industry was a breath of fresh air.  While inclusion in broader industry events is crucial, there’s undeniable value in spaces specifically curated for underrepresented groups. Everyone had the opportunity to openly discuss the hurdles we face without the burden of explanation or the fear of misunderstandings. We shared strategies for navigating a predominantly white industry, celebrated our successes, and found support for challenges. It also provided opportunities for collaboration, fostering a sense of community that can often be missing in their day-to-day professional lives. We shared resources, discussed future collaborations with hopes of establishing partnerships that have a ripple effect throughout the sector. It was evident when we were all together we didn’t just share our challenges; but we had a chance to pull our collective strengths for an industry we all love.  

While I was at the TLR in Chicago, I had some time to reflect and dream about the future of the industry.  As I see it, the current state of the outdoor sector stands at the precipice of a transformative era, one where diversity, equity, and inclusion are not just buzzwords but the foundational pillars of its evolution. Envision an industry where every individual, regardless of their background, feels seen, heard, and valued. This is not just an altruistic ideal; it’s a necessary and achievable future that will redefine the boundaries of outdoor workplaces and experiences.

Envision the industry’s leadership and decision-making tables being a reflection of this inclusive vision. The boardrooms will resonate with a chorus of varied perspectives, ensuring that decisions are holistic, encompassing the needs and aspirations of all. Mentorship and growth opportunities will be equitable, ensuring that the future torchbearers of the industry are as diverse as the communities they serve.

But this vision goes beyond representation; it delves deep into the realms of understanding, respect, and collective growth. It means creating pathways for underrepresented communities to access and enjoy the outdoors, dismantling financial or cultural barriers that might exist. It’s about redefining the narrative of what it means to be “a part of the industry” or  “outdoorsy.” No longer will it be a monolithic image, but a spectrum that includes every shade, every story, and every passion.

In this evolved outdoor industry, diversity is celebrated not for optics but for the richness it brings. Equity ensures that all voices contribute to the symphony of innovation and progress, and inclusion ensures that the embrace of the outdoors is a shared human experience, unrestricted and unfettered. Such a vision not only strengthens the fabric of the outdoor community but also brings us closer to the essence of nature itself, which thrives in diversity and harmony. 

Before I go … A huge thank you to Jessica Murphy and Alison Desir for the invitation and the entire WOC- Take the Lead Retreat team for and such an amazing experience. It is my hope you all continue to have the courage to be the change we want to see in the industry, because this vision I have for the future includes more leaders and organizations like yours. 

Until next time … get outside! 

With gratitude, 


Tiffany Smith

About Tiffany Smith