A few months ago, we at Natural Habitat Adventures embarked on a journey to address our shortcomings in the realm of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI). As with so many other companies and individuals, the Black Lives Matter movement and the spotlight on police violence towards people of color caused us to question whether we were actively doing enough, or anything at all, to address racism internally and in the world.
It’s not like we didn’t know there was a lack of equity in the world before the BLM movement – we just hadn’t taken stock of our complicity. Sure, we had plenty of “reasons” why we lack diversity on our staff: the pool of potential employees near our geographical headquarters in Boulder, CO isn’t very diverse; people of color may not be interested in nature travel; potential employees from less privileged backgrounds haven’t had the travel experience we’d always looked for, etc.
But these aren’t reasons – they are excuses. And they can, and must, be overcome.
To tackle the challenge, a small group of employees, with no formal training or experience but with a shared passion and a willingness to learn and to make mistakes, came together as a task force to make Nat Hab a more diverse, welcoming and inclusive environment.
Below are some of the first actions we are taking. We know many of you are working on these issues in your own companies, and we hope this post might inspire an industry-wide conversation about how we can help each other to learn and be better.
- To ensure that we don’t lose ourselves in what could feel like a nebulous and almost arrestingly monumental goal, we divided our task force into small subcommittees – some focused internally, others with the task of reaching out far beyond our own walls.
- Once a month we convene online JEDI Coffee Talks and turn off the phones for an hour so the entire staff has the option to participate. We send out links in advance to short readings and videos (approximately 5 – 15 minutes long to be realistic). Each session is introduced by one of our committee members and then we break into smaller groups for a discussion of the topics, which have so far included Diversity in the Outdoors, Microaggressions, Bringing Your Whole Self to Work and Inclusive Meeting Cultures.
- We have a marketing subcommittee that is creating a checklist to consider when developing or reviewing marketing materials: Is our imagery welcoming to BIPOC travelers and potential employees? Are we using language that could discourage someone from a traditionally marginalized group from participating in our trips? This group is also compiling a list of creators and influencers from underrepresented groups to help expand the points of view portrayed in our marketing and is working on a dedicated web page that will keep our travelers and potential employees up to date on our JEDI initiatives – keeping us publicly accountable as well.
- Another subcommittee is focused on networking. We’re reaching out to partners in our industry to brainstorm what’s working and what’s not when it comes to this institutional change in other companies. We also welcome connections to BIPOC travel advisors and associations so that we can ask and learn what resources might be most appropriate and appreciated to aid in their success in our industry.
- We’re updating our hiring practices to remove barriers for applicants from traditionally marginalized groups. We are revising the language in our job descriptions and on the hiring page of our website, adopting inclusive interviewing methods, seeking to post positions where they may be seen by a broader audience, and considering grit and passion over past opportunities to have traveled the world.
- We are presenting to career centers at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and through organizations at more diverse colleges to raise awareness of adventure travel as a viable career path. We emphasize that all skill sets are needed in travel businesses – sales, finance, computing, etc. – and that people come to this industry from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences.
- We are working with partners to develop a mentorship program for members of northern great plains tribal communities who are trying to grow tourism opportunities on reservation lands.
Your company might be far ahead of us on these efforts – thank you for being an inspiration to us and to your communities! Or perhaps you are planning on taking inspiration from our efforts. In any case, let’s work together to make this a better and more inclusive adventure travel industry.
If you’d like to collaborate and share ideas, please contact our task force at [email protected].
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