“I’m one of the good guys.” That is what I used to tell myself. I grew up with liberal parents in California in the 70’s. “There is no way I am racist…homophobic…misogynistic.” I grew up on Roots…Threes Company…Mary Tyler Moore.”
I also grew up in a very white, upper middle-class environment. There was only a handful of Latinx, African American, and Asian kids at my school amidst a sea of whiteness. Expressing sexual identity outside the prescribed heterosexual norm was at minimum met with bullying, beatings and osterization. Feminism was in the news, but removed from my periphery (except for my Aunt, a nun, who lived in Washington DC – More about her in a future post).
As a youngster, I camped with my family, participated in the YMCA ‘Indian Guides’ (another future post), and was a Cub Scout. The love for the outdoors was cemented into my being. In high school I surfed, skated, treated fat tire cruisers like mountain bikes, backpacked and skied. In college, I pursued a degree in Recreation and Leisure Studies and worked as a raft guide in the summers. After University, I continued to pursue my passions for a life outdoors working in places like Telluride, Tahoe, Jackson Hole, Arcata and finally Bend. In all of these places and in all of my pursuits, everyone looked and acted like me. Racism, that’s an city problem. Homophobia, that’s a city problem. Misogyny, that’s a city problem. We don’t have those problems in the “never, never land” of mountain town living USA.
During my time in the outdoor industry I have watched as women joined in greater numbers as both participants in outdoor activities and as members of the outdoor industry workforce. I saw this as a sign of progress – we are a welcoming and inclusive bunch.
The problem is I never really talked to women (or for that matter anyone other than white men) about their experiences in the outdoors or at work and never saw their experience as significantly different than mine. Once I started these conversations and educated myself to understand my biases and how to mitigate them, my eyes began to open.
The outdoor industry has lead the way on sustainability. Other industries look to us for best practices in creating a cradle to cradle supply chain. However, on the diversity and inclusion front we have fallen short. If we were to take a look at real sustainability for our organizations we must include people into the equation. With this shift we would see that creating an outdoor industry that makes diversity and inclusion for all people a core value – we would all do better. Not just a warm fuzzy feeling of “better” but a true bottom line “better”. The benefits of a diverse, inclusive workplace are many: better productivity, broadened creativity, improved language skills, expanded community relations, positive company reputation and increased profitability.
Even before #MeToo there was a growing awareness about sexual misconduct and gender inequities in outdoor workplaces. These toxic and illegal behaviors have tentacles that reach out and infect many aspects of business including: limiting the number of women who are recruited and stay with a company, reputation damage including the “cancel culture” and the very high cost associated with responding to allegations of sexual misconduct.
What I have learned on my journey in the outdoor industry is that the vast majority of us want to say and do the right things when it comes to equity both outside and at work. We often just need a little help to get there.
There are concrete ways to prevent, address and manage misconduct in the workplace. Every business should have policies and procedures that align with core values of inclusion and equity and support so that these values can be brought to life in your workplace. It’s Respect Outside’s mission to help you marry your core values, company philosophy with strong policies and procedures that guide and protect all your employees. We welcome you to reach out to us to discuss how we can help your business not just comply with the law, but build an organization that lives and celebrates it’s diversity and equity values everyday.