Like many organizations large and small, we’ve been re-evaluating our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives over the course of the last year. In that period, we have realized that, in order to uphold Apogee’s mission of cultivating inclusive, supportive communities, we need to more actively and intentionally further our DEI initiatives. Recognizing that we could reach a relatively large audience through our social media platforms, we felt it was important to share a statement that both reflected our values and, perhaps more importantly, provided a baseline to hold ourselves accountable for doing the work and implementing change within our company and our programs.
One of the many challenges we faced while constructing this statement was to avoid centering the issue on us. While we wanted to inform our families about Apogee’s DEI initiatives given the inevitable ties between them and Apogee’s values, we wanted to avoid some of the perhaps disingenuous and largely-empty statements we’ve seen around the internet over the last year. We’ve done our best, too, to approach this conversation with a growth mindset – we know that there’s a lot we don’t know, and we’re educating ourselves and seeking feedback as tools to learn, grow, and better serve our families and staff.
With that long introduction in mind, we wanted to first share the post that we published last June:
Apogee stands in support and solidarity with all Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities and passionately denounces racism.
We admit that we are late in joining this public conversation. Not days late, but years late. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others should not have had to unjustly lose their lives in order for so many of us to stand up and publicly state that systemic racism exists and is wrong.
We realize that just posting these words on social media is not enough. We, the owners and employees of Apogee, pledge to listen to and elevate BIPOC voices, educate ourselves in the principles of anti-racism, and work to build an actively anti-racist workplace and outdoor space. We acknowledge that we are a company whose employees are primarily white – we have work to do, and we are prepared and committed to doing it.
We welcome those who wish to hold us accountable for these words by asking for updates on specific actions we are taking not just in the next few weeks, but in the months and years to come.
In the last year, while many of our DEI conversations have centered around racial justice, we’ve also focused our energy on other important conversations around gender and gender identity, ancestral land acknowledgment, and removing socio-economic barriers to our programs. So, as we approach the one year-mark of our original statement and commitment to taking tangible actions, we wanted to publish an update on the work we’ve done and the progress we’ve made in the last year.
First and foremost, we recognized that before we could start implementing policy change, we needed to first make time, both personally and professionally, to educate ourselves on these issues. To that end, here are some of the educational avenues we’ve followed this year:
- After adding a DEI section to our weekly all-staff meeting, we began sharing books, articles, podcasts, TedTalks, and other resources on a weekly basis.
- As an office, we read and discussed Ibram X Kendi’s How to be an Anti-Racist and learned about Outdoor Allyship through the Melanin Base Camp.
- We explored OutMaine’s resources on inclusive programming for LGBTQ+ youth.
- We researched the Tribes of the Wabanaki Confederacy and the history of the land we are living and working in through the University of Southern Maine.
- We also understood the need to take a more participatory approach in our learning, too, which is why we attended the NOLS Wilderness Risk Management Conference and intentionally chose workshops that focused on different DEI issues in the outdoors, including the keynote address “Holding Space for Equitable Sociocultural Risk Management” by José González.
- We participate in a monthly “Beyond Statements” equity and inclusion Zoom meeting organized by the Maine Environmental Education Association’s Changemakers team, as well as a camp-specific equity call organized by OAAARS, a BIPOC consulting group.
We have acted, too.
- As we wrote in our recent blog post discussing our leader recruiting efforts in a Covid era:
“In pre-Covid times, we focused our marketing efforts heavily on the 40 or so colleges and universities where we were recruiting in-person. This year, we cast a wider net to advertise more broadly to over 60 schools across the country as well as other job boards and job sites. This new approach has resulted in an applicant pool that includes more colleges and university representation, more varied applicant backgrounds and experiences, increased geographic representation, and more racial diversity. This aligns with one of our equity goals, too; the transition to all virtual interviews allowed us to reach a wider, more diverse applicant pool by removing barriers and increasing access to our application and interview process.”
- Additionally, while running a soup-to-nuts audit of our hiring practices through a DEI lens, we amended language in our Staff Application and in our interview process that we felt might have subtly provided an advantage to certain applicants.
- We’ve hired a DEI consultant to provide instruction to both our full-time team as well as our summer staff.
- With regard to gender equity, we have provided a space for staff members to share pronouns during Leader Training and no longer restrict applicants to a binary choice between “male” and “female” genders on their application.
- We have also continued to work on reducing financial and socio-economic barriers for both our students and staff. We’ve continued our partnership with some outstanding programs like Summer Search and Beacon Academy that provide opportunities for underserved and under-resourced students to participate in programs like ours. The To The Top Foundation has continued to provide need-based scholarships for students each year, and Apogee has also contributed to student scholarships and purchased backpacks, sleeping bags and pads, and other outdoor gear to lend to students and staff.
While we’re proud of the progress we’ve made, we still have a long way to go. The outdoor industry has long been an exclusive space with regard to race, socio-economic background, and gender. As the industry takes steps to become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive, we recognize our responsibility to uphold and further these initiatives within our own organization. We understand that we, here at Apogee and in the industry as a whole, have a long way to go and that this work will never be complete. We look forward to staying engaged and doing our best to further this process of learning, growth, and action. We will all be better off for those efforts.