BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (BRAIN) — Of all the outdoor sports market segments, the cycling industry has been and remains the most difficult to diversify, said the woman who started the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge. But she’s not giving up.
Pledge founder Teresa Baker co-hosted a webinar at the Quality Bicycle Products’ Frostbike Business Summit on Thursday. The topic was why the cycling industry should do more to grow diversity equity and inclusion.
“Not seeing these amazing cyclists of color represented in the cycling industry is somewhat disappointing,” said Baker, who founded the movement in 2018. “But the fact that conversations are now being held, that’s a positive step forward.”
And that’s what the webinar — Demonstrating your Commitment to Diversity & Inclusion: Should Your Business Sign the Pledge? — was all about. Baker kicked off the webinar and spoke for about six minutes before handing over the presentation to QBP’s president, Rich Tauer.
The Pledge, which QBP signed, has four pillars: hire and support a diverse workforce from leadership to board members; diversify advertising, including social media; engage Black, Indigenous and People of Color athletes and ambassadors; and look to work together with other companies who have signed the Pledge.
And there remains much to accomplish, Tauer said, echoing Baker’s observation.
“We recognized — I recognized — that the bike industry is not diverse,” Tauer said. “It’s not inclusive; it’s not representative of the population we serve, and frankly, it’s not very welcoming. We have bike companies, parts companies, we have distributors, we have bike shops, we have professional cyclists, and we have media representation. Each one of those has a lot of room for improvement. And that is what we’re starting with today.”
Tauer said QBP’s motto is “Every Butt on a Bike” and that diversity, equity and inclusion is a logical way to expand that vision. “On the business side of things, it’s not a secret that diversity and inclusion are good for business,” he said. “We want to have more people riding bikes, and that is one of the biggest opportunities we have. Diversity is actually good for the bottom line. It helps us understand who our customers are so that we can do a better job and deliver exactly what they’re looking for. Ultimately, it enhances employee engagement.”
Like many in the country, the death of George Floyd at the knee of a Minneapolis police officer in May was Tauer’s wake-up call, occurring in “our front yard.” QBP’s office in Bloomington is about 10 miles away from Minneapolis.
“The changes we needed to make … We were really too slow to respond,” Tauer said. “This work is truly everybody’s responsibility, including ours. Silence is complicity. Our partners and employees expected leadership from me and QBP.”
One of the first things the company did was sign the CEO Pledge and also the WTF (Womxn, Trans, Femme) Bike Explorers Cycling Industry Pledge in order to be accountable to agencies outside of QBP. “We wanted to publicly share our commitment to our work — that necessary work — that we needed to start to do and what our industry needs to do, and, secondly, it’s to help the outdoor and the bike industry move forward.”
Tauer has plotted a course for QBP to move forward by making “significant” hiring practice changes to create a more diverse workforce, including hiring a talent acquisition partner that has DEI experience. QBP also will have leadership and employee DEI training.
“Access and knowledge, those are the two greatest barriers for participating and working in the bike industry,” Tauer said. To that end, QBP has made a 10-year commitment. Included is investing, raising and leveraging $1 million to support bicycle-focused projects in underserved communities.
“A lot of this will be running through local bike shops who know their communities best and will be integral partners in this task,” he said.
Among the projects will be expanding the neighborhood bike park model in underserved communities to create an additional 20 urban bike parks and trail systems. “We are creating safe and fun cycling environments, which we know is critical to get new butts on bikes.”
Also, QBP will train 1,000 BIPOC individuals in foundational bicycle mechanic skills, and out of that group, it wants to provide training for 100 in intermediate skills.
Tauer closed by saying the industry needs to unite around diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“We need to take a united effort as a whole industry to create real change,” he said. “What is the one thing you can do this month, this week, this year?”
“So let’s continue to pursue that,” Baker said, “so that perhaps this time next year the conversation will be different on how easy it’s been to engage with cycling brands across the outdoor industry.”
Editor’s note: Robin Thurston, the CEO of BRAIN’s parent, Pocket Outdoor Media, has signed the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge.