Equity & Inclusion Update: 2019 Year In Review

In this update from our Equity & Inclusion Committee, learn about the steps taken in 2019 to make The Mountaineers a place where all people feel a sense of belonging, and see what's on deck for 2020.
Vik Sahney Vik Sahney
Board VP, E&I Committee Chair
February 01, 2020

About a year and a half ago The Mountaineers announced our intention to engage in equity & inclusion (E&I) work. This commitment stems from our belief that a diverse and inclusive outdoors inspires unity, respect, and passion for the places we love. We're grateful to all of our members and volunteers who have been engaging in this work, and we're excited to share what we collectively accomplished in 2019.

We’re investing in E&I as a reflection of our core values, in response to your feedback which drove our strategic plan Vision 2022, and to ensure that our membership reflects the greater communities we serve. Our goal is to include people who have traditionally been excluded from the outdoors, specifically to shift our culture so that all people feel a sense of connection to and belonging in the outdoors. This will engage more people in our efforts to protect public lands and the outdoor experience, ensuring the future of The Mountaineers and outdoor recreation for generations to come. 

Our approach to this work started out by establishing a steering committee and creating a "roadmap" for how we would set about "tackling" our E&I goals. We held multiple listening sessions to understand opportunities for improvement within The Mountaineers and broader outdoor community and set up a working group comprised of more than 100 individuals to share frequent updates and opportunities for feedback and engagement. We also incorporated E&I lessons into our annual Leadership Conference and recently launched the Leadership Development Series.

But, as many people cautioned and we soon discovered, shifting culture is not a linear process. It looks a little more like this:

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Which is to say: a lot happened in 2019. Through working sessions and trainings, technology upgrades, process creation and revision, our communications channels, and through sharing resources, we took 55 intentional steps in 2019 to increase equity and belonging for all people in The Mountaineers. Here are some highlights:

Representation

Mountaineers Books Covers, Representational Justice.png

Covers of Mounaineer Magazine, Representational Justice.png

In many ways, The Mountaineers and Mountaineers Books have been working on pieces of E&I for years, particularly through our intentional selection of topics, images, and authors. For instance, with every guidebook, cover, or piece of artwork we publish, we strive to select photos that represent a diversity of models. We are also actively looking for book projects and magazine articles written by a diverse range of authors, and we will continue to develop titles or series that are meant to be accessible to a diverse demographic.

In elevating these stories and images, we hope that we're striking a balance between the reality of what The Mountaineers membership and greater outdoor community looks like today, and where we're trying to go in the future. Representation is just one piece of the complex puzzle of changing the narrative around who belongs in the outdoors. Our hope is that these books and stories will start conversations and support a broader change in the outdoor industry.

Know someone whose story needs to be told? Check out our Mountaineers Books submission page or email us at magazine@mountaineers.org to pitch something for our magazine or blog.

Trainings

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In 2019, we offered eight trainings focused on the different concepts of E&I. We partnered with Running Grass, an expert in multicultural environmental education, to deepen our understanding of the application of DEI and unpack the challenge of the 'single story' as part of our Leadership Development Series. Over the summer summer, Running Grass also led a 4-hour session on the concepts of DEI and a cultural watershed

We also incorporated five E&I sessions into our annual Leadership Conference (out of 16 sessions total). E&I has always been an important component of this annual training for our volunteers, and will continue to be in the future.

Technology Improvements

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Pronouns

Recently, we invested in improvements to the My Profile page for members and guests to share their pronouns and demographic information. Pronouns were also added as an optional addition to Mountaineers staff email signatures. In giving the option to share pronouns, we hope to create an inclusive space to support all identities, specifically for individuals within the LGBTQ community.  

Demographic Data

We also added an 'Optional Demographics' section to member and guest profiles to gather information previously unavailable to us. Understanding the current makeup of our membership will help us measure our effectiveness in creating an environment where all people feel a sense of belonging. Without this information, we did not have the ability to easily understand who our volunteers, members, and guests are. By providing your demographic information, you help us track our progress and hold us accountable, and help us secure more funding as demographic information is often part of the grant application process.

Follow these instructions to update your pronouns and demographic information.

Recruitment Process & transparency

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Climb Leader Structure & Transparency

In October 2019, the Climbing Summit group adopted a new climbing leadership structure. Developed by the Climbing Leadership Development Committee with volunteers from each of our branches, it provides modular progression of leadership levels designed to meet many of the needs of our growing climbing community. The goal was to decrease the barriers preventing more climbers from becoming leaders, in particular climbers who have not traditionally been considered for leadership roles. It's our goal to develop this type of structure to all of our activities in the coming years.

Hiring Process

We're lucky to have seen high staff retention in the last few years. However, with the departure of our longtime Conservation & Advocacy Director, we took a look at our process to ensure we're making every effort to have a diverse candidate pool and inclusive/equitable hiring process.

To help establish a better process, we applied some of the feedback we received last year from a consultant on a hiring plan and our CEO reached out to partner organizations (Earth Corps, The Wilderness Society, YMCA, and WTA) to learn more about their processes. We also consulted with Archbright, our third party HR consultant group, to learn about best practices for inclusive recruiting and hiring.

We identified areas where progress has been made as well as areas for improvement. We are continuing to refine our language in job postings (to reference skills vs. qualifications, and to use simple, approachable language), and we will continue to use a rubric to rate applications on a set of relevant criteria and share interview questions in advance. We've also introduced demographic questions into the application process, and before we review any applications we are striving to achieve an application pool which includes at least 40% women and 25% people of color (POC). Collectively, we believe these actions make the process more transparent for potential candidates and reduce unintended biases. 

Board Recruitment

Our governance committee has been hard at work to continue to refine our board recruitment process to ensure that the members of our board reflect the makeup of our membership. The recruitment process spans a few years, and with the new My Profile technology improvements we're hopeful that we can be more targeted in our outreach moving forward.

Resources

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We've been publishing blogs and sharing other resources via our E&I Committee page and social media over the past year.  We encourage you to dive into the resources available on the committee page and follow us on Facebook

In the past year we've focused on establishing specific expectations around our processes for reporting inappropriate behavior to foster a safe learning environment. We established specific expectations and a transparent process for what to do in the event of problem behavior. To learn more about all of the resources available, visit our #SafeOutside blog.

We receive a lot of great ideas and feedback from our E&I working group too. Want to get involved or get updates about this work? We can add you to our E&I Working Group Basecamp, where the committee shares regular (2-3 times a month) updates and calls for feedback. Email Kristina Ciari at kristinac@mountaineers.org to be added to the group.

Looking ahead to 2020

We're going to continue to make progress with our E&I efforts in 2020. Here's what has been recently completed and what's coming up next:

  • #SafeOutside poster: earlier this month, we shared our #SafeOutside poster for our volunteers to print and have on display at events, in our program centers, and at our lodges.
  • 3 simple steps to get started on your E&I journey. We’ve heard from a number of our volunteers that it’s hard to know where to start when it comes to equity and inclusion. In January we published a blog with three steps to help you get started.
  • Member & Volunteer Satisfaction survey: every two years we survey our members and volunteers to get a pulse of perceptions, satisfaction, and demographics. The survey is running now and closes on Feb 2, and will help us measure things like, "How is your experience in The Mountaineers different based on your race, age, gender, or sexual orientation?" We have a lot of big questions this year, and will have preliminary results at our board retreat in March. We will plan to publish a blog about our findings at the same time, but continued analysis will be ongoing and we will share updates as appropriate. If you haven't yet, please do participate in our 2020 member survey.
  • Board of Directors updates: Our Governance Committee is working on a blog series about what it means to be a member of the board of directors and how new members are chosen. This is part of our effort to make board elections more transparent. Look for that series coming out soon. Our next elections will be held in September 2020. 
  • E&I Toolkit: Our volunteers have been asking for an E&I toolkit, and this year we've allocated staff resources to put that together. We hope to have an early beta version for review in April. It will include topics such as: hosting inclusive introductions, land acknowledgements/what does it mean to be on public lands, pronouns, managing difficult conversations, and more. If you'd like to help with this effort (we'd love for 3-5 volunteers to provide feedback in addition to the E&I Committee members), please email kristinac@mountaineers.org

In addition to these specific intentions, we'll continue our broader efforts to apply an E&I lens to everything we do. We've taken on a number of projects in the last few years, such as launching a Gear Library or changing our language from 'Financial Assistance' to 'Scholarships', which resulted in a 30% increase in scholarship applications - and moving ahead we will continue to look at all of our initiatives as an opportunity to decrease barriers, increase transparency, and increase efforts to make The Mountaineers a place where everyone feels a strong sense of connection and belonging.

 

Main Image: Sperry Peak, WA. Photo by Ida Vincent.


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Donna Kreuger
Donna Kreuger says:
Feb 12, 2020 07:14 PM

Thank you for all this! Great job on a "not easy" conversation.