Newly formed Running Industry Diversity Coalition is making an impact

By Brian Metzler

In the first six months since its inception, the Running Industry Diversity Coalition (RIDC) has been a proactive working group that’s making some great strides for all of us on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). The RIDC and its content and messaging are providing crucial insights, tools, resources and actionable steps to promote diversity and anti-racism in the running industry. (You can join at this link right now.)

That was fully evident on May 12 in the RIDC’s free workshop titled “3 Best Practices in Hiring for Diversity.” Jovan Hollins gave a compelling presentation to an audience of more than 75 registered running industry participants, including retailers, race directors, manufacturers and consultants. Hollins, Vice President and GM of AccentCare with an MBA from the Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, spoke about organizational readiness to create a more diverse workplace, how to approach advertising and outreach to attract new employees and how to mitigate both overt and subtle biases in an interview process.

He encouraged organizations in the running industry to be intentional about creating a diverse, anti-racist workplace, take risks and do things outside of the status quo, be willing to listen and be willing to endure uncomfortable conversations for more for understanding about their staff and customers. He also spoke of the need to earnestly enter the communities those companies and groups would like to serve and support, while avoiding systemic barriers and “check the box” approaches to diversity and inclusion. Hollins included supportive testimonials, videos and other shared input from Katie Carlson (vice president of Human Resources at Brooks Sports), Harry Chandler (store manager at Charlotte Running Co.), Andy Kucer (Executive Director of Students Run Philly Style), Tim Wise (Saskatoon 5K) and Melissa Tuttle Carr (Madison, Wis., chapter leader for Moms Run This Town/She Runs This Town).

Why does the running industry need to pursue DEI hiring practices? Hollins explained how creating a more diverse workplace will drive innovation, foster creativity, attract new customers and increase an organization’s bottom line. Having an executive team with just a 12% diverse representation can lead to a 33% boost in financial performance and having a board of directors with 14% diversity can lead to a 43% increase in financial gain.

The RIDC was founded last October by a group of runner activists led by Verna Volker (founder of Native Women Running), Alison Désir (founder of Harlem Run who now works for Oiselle as its Director of Sports Advocacy) and Teresa Baker (founder of the outdoor industry’s Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge). The stated mission of the RIDC is to create a more equitable and inclusive running industry where race, religion, gender identity, sexuality, immigration status, socioeconomic status, and ability do not serve as barriers for full enjoyment.

The coalition is co-chaired by Désir and Chris Lampen-Crowell, co-owner of Gazelle Sports in Michigan, and the organization has been on the move.

“For many of us Black and brown folk, people with marginalized identities, we have — since our entry into endurance sports — known that the industry was not reflective of our communities,” Désir said when the RIDC was formed. “With this coalition, it’s finally an opportunity to address the disparity and really make sure that running, specifically a sport that claims to be open to everybody, can live up to that promise.”

The May 12 hiring practices workshop was another example of the great work the RIDC is doing. (If you missed it, there’s a chance to sign up for follow-up guided conversations May 18-20.) So far, the RIDC has published content on its website, through its social media channels and in its newsletters, including profiles of BIPOC running industry personnel, online discussions and workshops about key topics for owners, managers and employees of running stores, race organizations and shoe and apparel brands. It also has a job board and maintains a BIPOC running industry database.

In April the RIDC became an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, surpassed 1,000 members, and announced that former Runner’s World publisher George Hirsch and Olympic gold medalists Joan Benoit Samuelson and Edwin Moses will be leading a group of RIDC Ambassadors serving in an advisory role.

On Monday, May 17, the RIDC will host an Instagram Live show at 3pm ET with co-chair Chris Lampen-Crowell interviewing Tony Reed, the first Black runner to finish seven marathons on seven continents and co-founder and executive director of the National Black Marathoners Association.

In its latest RIDC newsletter, Désir and Lampen-Crowell recommended all running industry personnel to watch a short video called Head On A Swivel, by actor and storyteller Christopher Rivas. It’s a compelling video that presents the thoughts and emotions of one runner of color, as told through Rivas’s internal narrative on an average jog: the anticipation of racial profiling, the anxiety of social interaction, and the fear of unjust retribution.

How can you participate in what RIDC is doing? Consider joining to help increase diversity within the running industry, sign up for the RIDC newsletter, participate in some of its programs, absorb some of its content and utilize some of the anti-racism resources it has made available.