"Tokenism", recruitment and fear of speaking out were all covered at BAME Women in Travel CIC’s Racial Diversity: There is work to be done in the travel industry seminar.
“A slap in the face,” was how one travel content creator described brands rushing to support the Black Lives Matter movement without previously showing interest in the issue.
Diversity in travel consultant Martinique Lewis expressed her frustration at companies racing to post black squares on their social media accounts during #BlackoutTuesday on 2 June, seemingly just to fit in with others.
“If you’re saying that black lives matter, we want you to put your money where your mouth is,” she said.
“We want to see it go past these two weeks while it’s trending. If you’re going to be an ally, it’s not a two-week thing – you don’t get to turn this on and off like a light switch.”
Lewis was speaking during a panel hosted by BAME Women in Travel CIC supported by TTG Media entitled Racial Diversity: There is work to be done in the travel industry.
Panel host and BAME Women in Travel CIC executive director Jamie-Lee Abtar said the death of George Floyd had put a “global spotlight” on a societal and organisational failure to discuss racial issues “head on”.
“Too many people think racial inequality is not longer prevalent, but if you open up your eyes it is everywhere,” she said.
’Don’t be afraid to speak up’
Addressing how companies could effectively and genuinely get involved, Eulanda Osagiede, co-founder of blog Hey! Dip Your Toes In, said brands sometimes felt “paralysed” and afraid of backlash if they speak out and get it wrong.
“A course of action is actually admitting that you haven’t got things right in the past [and] your brand doesn’t match up with the diversity narrative that you want to support now,” she said.
“Say you want to do better and call people up to give you advice. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, just don’t be silent.”
Donating money in isolation could be seen as simply “lip service”.
After founding the TTG LGBT initiative, TTG editor Sophie Griffiths said it took "stats and evidence to wake the industry up" to the industry’s lack of diversity.
She said companies keen to help needed to measure their progress in tangible ways, adding: “It’s too easy to tick boxes and not back it up.”
Intrepid Travel’s senior editorial manager, Bex Shapiro, agreed it was “very obvious” when a company was just engaging for “good optics”. On forging a more diverse workplace, she called on employees from every department to “get out of your lanes” and push for greater inclusivity.
“Make it clear [to your bosses] you need it to be happening. Have those difficult conversations and turn those words into actions.”
Osagiede added: “Ask your colleagues ‘what are you learning right now?’ Join webinars, Instagram Lives – thought share.”
Addressing the need for recruiters to source candidates from different backgrounds, Visit Britain’s brand partnerships manager Cecelia Adjei said all too often an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality was used.
“They need to be going ‘this looks a bit samey we need to shake things up’. There is so much evidence to show diverse teams perform better, so there’s even a bottom-line reason.”
She suggested companies should consider using “blind resumes” with names removed.
“Start actually looking at talent. We don’t want tokenism, we just want fairness.”
Shapiro said Intrepid had been “holding ourselves to account” on its approach to diversity.
“You’re not going to [change things] overnight, but there are a lot of things you can do: implement mandatory diversity training; hire consultants; changes terminology on your website. Train yourself to think differently all the time.”