7 Key Steps to Start Implementing DEI in Your Club: Part 1

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion are driving factors for clubs across the globe and cover many facets of minority groups. Michaela Brown shares key steps she recommends in guiding your DEI strategy at your gym.

Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the last two and a half years, you have seen, heard and/or felt the need for more diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in all walks of life.

When a judicial system lacks racial diversity, then the probability of a person of color being racially profiled is heightened. When an organization unfairly pays its employees based on gender, then the probability of legal action against that company is heightened. When a team excludes contributions from those offering diverse ideas, cultural sensitivities, and economic backgrounds, then that team likely loses its ability to connect to a broadened client base and revenue streams.

In a nutshell, organizations that weave DEI into the fabric of their company culture are stronger and more advanced, financially viable, employee-friendly, and relatable to a larger client base.

As a decision maker and business leader, you may already know all of this. The main question is “how and where do I start when it comes to my club?”

It is always helpful to go back to the basics. Understanding the language around DEI initiatives is a great place for you to start and gain an understanding of the way ahead for your business.

This article is part one of two designed to get you started on the path to being an intentional and proactive player in your gym’s, studio’s, or health club’s DEI journey.

Outlined below are three key steps when starting to implement DEI:

  1. Define DEI

  2. DEI Valuation

  3. Identify & Train Against Threats to DEI

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Interested in taking additional steps toward successful DEI implementation for your club beyond these articles? Join me at #IHRSA2022 during my roundtable discussion, Workplace Diversity & Inclusion Conversation Starter, on Thursday, June 23, from 2 - 3 p.m. at the IHRSA International Convention & Trade Show!

Step One: Define DEI

Before you can implement a culture shift, you must truly understand the meaning of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Diversity speaks to the physical inclusion of people from different races, of different genders, with different socio-economic backgrounds, of different ages and sexual orientations, and those offering different ideas and approaches.

Equity speaks to affording everyone within that diverse group of people the same opportunities to advance, and empowering each person to take advantage of those opportunities in a way that responds to their diverse set of needs. Equity is different from equality, as equality assumes that everyone begins from the same position of power or advantage—and we know that assumption to be untrue.

Inclusion speaks to the perception and reality of each person in that diverse group having the same seat at the table, so to speak. Inclusion means that everyone has a voice, everyone is heard, everyone is considered, and everyone has the power to create positive change for themselves and others.

Now, think, what would diversity, equity, and inclusion look like in each of your teams, departments, locations, and work communities?

Step Two: DEI Valuation

Understanding the tangible, intangible, and residual value of a DEI-enriched company culture is key to creating buy-in from organizational insiders and supporters.

DEI valuation is specific to each company, but it generally comes down to these three things:

  1. Creating a happier and welcoming work environment that reflects the diverse community you are or want to be;

  2. Increasing revenue by attracting a broader range of clients;

  3. Doing what’s right in a local and worldly sense. (I make the assumption that you think a DEI-enriched culture is right, because you’re still reading this article!)

Step Three: Identify & Train Against the Threats to DEI

Common threats to organizational DEI are the existence of microagressions, biases, stereotyping, and discrimination within that company.

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So, let’s define these hurdles.

Microaggressions are commonplace verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative attitudes toward culturally marginalized groups. Microaggressions can be displayed intentionally or unintentionally, but serve the same purpose of demoralizing a team and creating a hostile work environment.

Examples of microaggressions:

  1. Is that your real hair?

  2. What country are you from?

  3. She’s just being emotional.

Bias is defined as a lean toward or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair. Biases can present themselves consciously or subconsciously by an actor.

Examples of biases:

  1. Favoring someone for a job because they’re in your inner circle of friends.

  2. Second-guessing someone’s qualification because they wear braids or cornrows.

  3. Deeming one person’s approach as “passionate” and another’s as “aggressive” based on their race or gender.

Stereotypes reflect widely held, fixed, and oversimplified images or ideas about a certain group.

Examples of stereotypes:

  1. All housekeepers have low education.

  2. “He’s young, so he doesn’t get it.”

  3. The black employee can educate us on how to attract clients from the inner city.

Discrimination in the workplace speaks to unfair treatment in a professional setting because of one’s race, color, religion, sex—including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation—national origin, disability, age, or genetic information.

Examples of discrimination:

  1. She’s not ready for this promotion because she’s pregnant and may take maternity leave soon.

  2. Not providing American Sign Language interpretation for deaf employees.

  3. She’s too overweight to be hired as a fitness professional here.

Microaggressions, biases, prejudice, and discrimination in the workplace are in direct conflict with positive DEI goals. So, a successful, DEI-enriched company will empower all leaders and employees to identify, rebuke, and eradicate these threats.

These are just some initial steps to prepare you and your staff to implement a DEI strategy. Learning how to use the right terminology is the best way to prepare yourself for conversation. Often, conversations that make us uncomfortable are the ones that bring us the most growth. Start the conversation, and stay tuned for Part 2 of Key Steps to Start Implementing DEI in Your Club!

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Author avatar

Michaela Brown

Known for her tenacious energy, ambition, and commitment to physical fitness, Michaela Brown is a General Manager at VIDA Fitness where she empowers the company’s culture, operations, and community impact. A veteran of the fitness industry with over 20 years of experience as an athlete, coach, personal trainer, and group exercise instructor, her success in the field comes as no surprise. Prior to joining VIDA's team, Michaela was a successful entrepreneur, having run a popular women's fitness studio for 12 years in Washington, D.C. With a proven track record in driving organizational excellence and steering positive collaborative environments, she serves as Chairwoman of VIDA's first Diversity and Inclusion Board, lending a wealth of vision and experience to the organization’s mission.