‘Embracing diversity is a win-win for everyone’

Rebecca Morley catches up with last year’s BikeBiz Woman of the Year finalists to talk about their experiences in the cycle trade. Today, we hear from Mòr Diversity’s lead consultant Aneela McKenna, who has been working as an equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) professional for over 20 years, 10 of those pioneering equality initiatives within the cycling industry

This piece first appeared in the April edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here

I’ve been working with media agencies, bike brands, cycling charities and national organisations. It’s not just about having a conversation or engaging with communities to put some funding into certain schemes and initiatives – although that’s a great starting point – what I’m trying to do is get organisations and businesses to look inwards and get their own house in order before they start to use marketing messages around inclusion and diversity to sell their products. And if they are engaging with communities, that’s fantastic, but let’s work together to ensure they’re doing that confidently and not in a tokenistic manner.

I understand the dilemma for brands – next to sales and managing supply chain issues, delivering on EDI may be lower down the pecking order. Making diversity statements sends out a positive message but they also need to think about their internal culture as well as external strategies. I think some are hesitant to take affirmative action for fear of getting ‘it’ wrong.

Many organisations don’t have the internal skills or lived experience to understand the challenges and the barriers that diverse communities face in relation to employment within the cycling industry, and participation in cycling. My work is about helping brands and businesses understand these diverse realities; facilitating collaborative working across the industry, and highlighting the commercial benefits of EDI. Brands are competitive, of course they are, but on diversity matters – building a collaborative approach is the way forward.

Tips and advice
Being more inclusive needs investment and resources from the top down. Looking inward is the starting point to bring everybody along on the diversity journey.

Every business organisation tends to have their inclusion champions who’re working hard within the industry to influence their managers – one of the biggest opportunities comes from managers leaning into any apprehension or fear of opening up diversity conversations.

There is a need for facilitated conversations to create safe spaces to constructively challenge groupthink and to aid understanding about what diversity and inclusion is. It’s an opportunity for hearing different ideas, perspectives and voices which can lead to innovative thinking and better business decisions.

Consider looking at your own workforce and asking how diverse is the demographic – does it reflect the diversity within society, for example, targeted employment programmes to attract from a wider talent pool?

Authentic storytelling is vital to the industry. Cycling and adventure means different things to different people – videos, articles and features that capture diverse lived experiences can break down traditional norms, and be a potent force for good and a strong driver of profit.

Seeing progress?
I feel that businesses are starting to ask the right questions, and if the effect trickles down from brands, to media agencies, to retailers, to grassroots levels, then that builds momentum for change. The industry can benefit hugely by listening to the growing community of new cyclists too.

From a reputational point of view for brands, embracing diversity is a good thing. The EDI spotlight is shining brightly on the bike industry. We’re already seeing some great practice out there addressing gender equality for example, with more women active within the industry and the sport – so let’s look at the lessons and apply them more widely to capture other diverse groups in society.

We’ve begun to see the benefits that this can bring to the industry, community and society. It increases representation, it enriches the workforce, it stimulates new markets. Embracing diversity is a win-win for everyone and it’s moving in the right direction – I’m glad to be able to contribute to this shifting landscape.

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