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The future of outdoor recreation can’t afford to keep showing itself as ‘white alone’

Teresa Baker, co-founder of the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge at Zion National Park in Utah, Dec. 7, 2022.
courtesy of Teresa Baker
Teresa Baker, co-founder of the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge at Zion National Park in Utah, Dec. 7, 2022.

The drive for diversity and inclusion in outdoor spaces is in full gear at the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show in Salt Lake City. Outside of the showcased racks of trendy clothing and state-of-the-art equipment hangs a new reality: The industry’s future may hinge on welcoming in more people of color.

And, Teresa Baker is working to make it a reality.

As the co-founder of the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge she said that right now, diversity is not as visible as it could be in Utah’s outdoor scene — and that needs to change.

“People of color are in these outdoor spaces,” Baker stated. “We're just not part of these marketing campaigns where you can see us.”

Baker adds that not only is it the right thing to focus on inclusion, but it’s also a bottom-line issue.

“We are the influencers coming into being. Imagine what it would be if we started bringing in people from underrepresented communities who we do not see as being a part of these outdoor brands. There's no stopping the economic flow that comes from being inclusive of people of color.”

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Pamela McCall: What reaction are you getting to your Outdoor CEO Diversity pledge?

Teresa Baker: Well, in the beginning it was rough. People are hesitant because it's a company wide commitment. So in the beginning it was slow. Marmot was the first company that signed on, and after Marmot signed on we went to a couple of outdoor retailer shows in Colorado. It started moving along and today we have 180 brands and organizations who have committed to the pledge and its pillars. And it's like I said, it's not easy. It's a lot of work and it's constant. But I am starting to see change and not just through the pledge, but through the various community organizations who are pushing these efforts forward. Latino Outdoors, all of these organizations, are helping these brands and organizations and the work around inclusion through the pledge and through their own campaigns.

PM: What does inclusion in the outdoors look like based on your work? 

TB: It looks like us. It looks like what the United States looks like. It looks like people of color being a part of campaigns. It looks like when I click on a social media feed of a particular brand, I'm seeing athletes of color. Then when I click on their board members, I'm seeing people of color in decision making roles, not just bringing people on for the sake of having them, but bringing them on because of their knowledge.

PM: This is bigger than inclusion and diversity in winter recreation.  You had a recent meeting with the superintendent of Zion National Park?

TB: We talked about what needs doing at Zion so that it's more inclusive in staff makeup. And what I got from the superintendent was amazing. He understands that there's work to be done and he's committed to making it happen. The National Park Service is no different than Brand X. They all need to know what to do, and everyone is fearful of saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing and being called out publicly.

PM: What is it going to take in Utah for diversity and inclusion and outdoor recreation to become so integrated that it's no longer an issue? 

TB:  We can no longer afford to show white and male, white and female alone, as if they are the only people recreating in these spaces, because that's the wrong message to put out. People of color are there. We are engaging in winter sports. We are engaging in summer sports outdoors. And that's the message that we need to push out. That's the path we need to be on.

Pamela is KUER's All Things Considered Host.
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