TORONTO — Following up on last month’s ‘Confronting Anti-Black Racism in Travel and Tourism’ online panel discussion, yesterday the organizers behind Let’s Get Uncomfortable hosted Part 2: Accountability and Change.
Shalene Dudley, founder of Latitude Concierge Travels, was back as host and moderator, heading up a panel that included Lauren Gay, founder of the Outdoorsy Diva blog and Outdoorsy Diva podcast, and founding member of the Black Travel Alliance; Kier Matthews, director of sales at Classic Vacations; and Jodie Glean-Mitchell, anti-racism, equity and inclusion educator and founder of REACTCanada – Race Equity Advisory Consulting & Training.
Much of last month’s Part 1 event looked at workplace inequities, and how to action change. Yesterday’s Part 2 took that further with a discussion about the critical importance of ensuring inclusive, safe and welcoming spaces for everyone, in the travel industry and beyond.
Hiring practices at many companies can lay bare “the myth of meritocracy”, says Glean-Mitchell, the idea that anyone who works hard will get ahead and succeed, and get hired.
Discrimination often starts at the resume stage, long before the candidate arrives for the interview, she notes. And when it comes to recruitment, “if you’re not actively looking for Black people and people of colour, then you’re not looking for that excellence,” says Glean-Mitchell. “If you’re not looking for me, you’re not going to find me.”
Meanwhile Gay says her lived experience as an influencer calls into question decisions she sees surrounding marketing campaigns. She’s a Tampa-based blogger and podcaster whose Outdoorsy Diva social media channels have thousands of followers. When a destination decides not to partner with her on a campaign, “a lot of it is based on metrics, which makes sense. But at the end of the day, what it comes down to is, do you want my followers? There is an untapped market here. You can’t value our worthiness based on that very shallow set of metrics.”
For anyone looking for a starting point, Gay points to organizations like BlackTravelAlliance.com, and also underlines the importance of calling out companies for under-representation, or lack of representation. Talking about a company’s social media channels, she says, “How long do I have to scroll before I see Black people? What do you see in their campaigns that show they are paying attention to our demographic, our money?”
Gay adds that before calling out other companies, people should take a look at what’s going on in their own organization. “What does your representation look like in your organization? Are you working with Black-owned vendors, Black-owned operators? Look in your own yard before you go barking in someone else’s.”
Glean-Mitchell works with companies and organizations in her work as an anti-racism, equity and inclusion educator and founder of REACTCanada – Race Equity Advisory Consulting & Training. Companies can’t just jump in, she says, adding, “There’s a whole change management process that has to be involved in this.”
Glean-Mitchell recommends getting a committee together to begin the planning and consultation process, and setting up an outlet within the company where employees can voice their feedback anonymously. “Get a sense of where the gaps are in your organization,” she says, and then bring in a consultant: “It’s no different than if you’re having issues with money, you bring in financial experts.”
She adds that companies need to have a robust plan in place surrounding education, and ongoing education and accountability measures in place to ensure action.