An update on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at MEC
In October 2018, we recognized that we had a problem that was ours to fix.
A member recently asked us, “What have you learned about supporting Black communities and communities of colour in the outdoors?” Good question.
One of the four Outdoor Industry CEO Diversity Pledge commitments is to share learnings with other leading brands and to appreciate the importance of sharing learnings with members of our MEC community. It is crucial to share the progress and setbacks we have faced while doing the work, as more organizations and people are committing to support Black communities. So, here are some of the lessons we’ve learned and how we are continuing to act.
- We learned that representation is meaningful. We heard from members, who identify as people of colour, letting us know how it feels to see themselves in MEC images, and we also heard from many who are still waiting to be seen. MEC is committed to continuing to represent communities of colour in our imagery.
- In November 2018, our executive team sponsored an internal Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee (DISCo), which has had an overwhelmingly positive influence on our organization. At the same time, we’ve learned that our committee does not replace the expertise of internal and external professional experience in important issues like unconscious bias and cultural appropriation. MEC commits to the ongoing support of the DISCo and engaging professional consultants, when necessary. Additionally, based on member feedback, MEC commits to providing further diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) progress reports in our MEC Annual Report and other MEC communication channels.
- We’re proud of the work that DISCo has done but we’ve learned that a diversity and inclusion committee operated within the organization will not be enough. We must hold all MEC partners to a high DE&I standard. MEC commits to building on existing processes where we encourage our vendors to adopt similar practices.
- Relative to our nearly 35-year history of financially contributing to the outdoor community, we recognize that our direct contribution to BIPOC-led (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) outdoor initiatives should have been greater. We are working to change that. Since signing the Outdoor Industry CEO Diversity Pledge in October 2018, we have actively focused on outdoor community investments that are driven by diverse organizations that support and lead programs for equity-seeking groups. Even with the progress we’ve made, BIPOC -led outdoor organizations are still under-represented in our community investments. We must do better. We commit to supporting more BIPOC-led organizations as core funding partners and beyond.
- In 2018, we recognized that MEC’s Ambassador program lacked POC representation. A team of Ambassadors that lead by example and showcase the diversity in the outdoors is powerful. Our Ambassadors, who support through content, events, product testing, and reviews, exemplify outdoor active pursuits. MEC is committed to continuing to support and amplify outdoor athletes and leaders of colour.
- MEC’s workforce and executive leadership team are diverse (50% of MEC’s executive leadership team identifies as a person of colour) but certain groups, including Black communities, remain under-represented. We have learned that in the face of institutionalized racism, it takes leadership and determined effort to attract and retain staff representative of the communities we serve. In 2018 and 2019, the MEC Board prioritized their own diversity and inclusion efforts, undertaking measures throughout the nomination process. These measures included hiring a third-party advisor to reach more diverse potential candidates, conducting unconscious bias training, and implementing the use of redacted candidate information. The Board made progress by implementing these best practices, and they remain committed to building on that work. The Board and our internal HR teams are setting their objectives for the fiscal year and diversity and inclusion accountabilities are crucial as they plan for the year ahead.
- We learned that we need to do a better job of talking about racism with the people in our organization. Regular proactive communication with staff, leaders, and partners with lived experience resisting racism is essential. MEC is committed to supporting staff with resources, workshops, and safe spaces where racism and anti-racism can be addressed.
- The MEC 2019 Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee (DISCo) report revealed that DE&I training and leadership skill development tools that support staffers across the country need to take priority. To that end, MEC is working to implement the following by the end of the year:
Connecting DE&I initiatives to recruitment/hiring practices and succession planning.
- Implementing measures to ensure that leadership select from a diverse pool of candidates when hiring, which includes best practice interview toolkits and blind screening techniques.
Mandatory unconscious bias training for managers, in combination with DE&I people management best practice training.
- We are investing time and resources into training our leadership on anti-racism and inclusive leadership, from the way we recruit to the way we conduct business daily. We commit to equipping our staff with DE&I best practices and fostering safe spaces for our diverse staff and members.
Mandatory training for all MEC staffers.
- We want to embed inclusivity into our work culture, and we need to learn more about how systematic racism shows up in our daily work lives and what we can do to counter it. We are investing in training for all MEC employees to support our teams with DE&I education and accountability.
Social meetings to stimulate meaningful and valuable conversation.
- We have seen how dialogue and meaningful conversations can strengthen communities and we need to do more of it. One of the ways we’ll keep working through our challenges is by creating safe spaces for education and dialogue in regards to BIPOC leaders in the outdoors, racism in the outdoors, and our role in making the workplace diverse, equitable and inclusive. For example, book club and movie nights, where relevant DE&I themes are explored.
- Connecting DE&I initiatives to recruitment/hiring practices and succession planning.