The conversation of diversity and inclusion in the fitness industry continues to grow. Fostering diversity and inclusion in our industry so that everyone has a seat at the table and the opportunity to have their voices heard is a valuable and progressive step.
Attracting, engaging and retaining a more diverse audience will strengthen and benefit your fitness business in the long run. Your audience includes members, customers, staff, and partners. All of these groups have specific needs and requirements that should be assessed for improvements and the exploration of new opportunities. Especially at a time where there is much uncertainty, diversifying, and doing what we can to explore options is essential.
In a recent webinar The State of Fitness in 2021 the question was asked, ‘What changes can we make within our fitness organizations to make physical activity more accessible and representative of marginalized groups?’ This question is not one-dimensional because there are many areas to assess and achieve success. However, at the top of the list include:
- How to hire for frontline staff and management roles;
- Prioritizing diversity and inclusion training; and
- Program and space design
Here we will discuss programming or program design. How inclusive is your programming?
The law of attraction suggests that what you put out into the world will ultimately find you. Essentially, you become what you seek. So, if you use this same ideology, if you want your fitness space to be more accessible to diverse populations and marginalized groups, then you need to look for ways to incorporate diversity into your offerings. Our offerings dictate our audience, and by being more diverse and inclusive with your programs, you will be more welcoming to a wider audience and tap into previously untapped markets.
So, how can you create more diversity and inclusivity in your program designs and planning sessions?
Step 1: Educate yourself
Educate yourself about different populations and identify where there are gaps in your offerings that would make others feel comfortable in your space. If you don’t know, ask. Although, some changes will require more effort, it is important to be open to making mistakes if it helps you achieve your goal. Be creative and let the new programming complement your existing offerings; consider both the big picture and the details.
Step 2: Reach out to community groups and organizations that serve the populations you want to attract
Reach out to community groups and organizations that serve the populations you want to attract. Building bridges and networking will increase your knowledge of how marginalized groups want to be treated and appreciated. People go to places where they welcomed, so if they are not in your space, it is time to lean-in to change and reach out for support. The more diversity you have at the planning table the more successful you will be.
Step 3: Invite the right people to the table
The table should also include the right program creators. Who is creating your programming? We often think about this when eating at restaurants. If I want authentic Indian, West Indian, Chinese, or Italian food, I will look for a restaurant with a chef that can deliver just that. Some chefs will visit countries to learn and understand the culture to best understand how to prepare an authentic dish. Should fitness programming be any less important? Why not, bring in the right people and the right talent from diverse groups and backgrounds to create your programming? Creating real change requires a real commitment and having diversity in your teams to both design and deliver your programming will create the connection you and your members desire.
Step 4: Make your marketing appeal to the audience you want to attract
Marketing is your opportunity to tell others who you want to see in your space. Take a look at how you have been marketing your programs, does everyone look the same? Do the images reflect the people you say that you want to see in your space? Marketing tells your potential members a lot. Does your marketing have racial diversity? Does it include images that represent people with different body types, shapes, and sizes? You have the power to make your space accessible to all types of people, not some types.
Step 5: Create exciting and meaningful release events
Make it a priority to learn about different populations so you can better identify where the gaps are in your space. Create room in your budget to host and invite the community. If you build it, they will see it; if you invite them, they will come. Let the community know what you are doing for them and how much it would mean for them to join you. A genuine invitation will go a long way.
We all know that physical activity is a universal human need, and everyone should have an equal opportunity to access it. When you explore ways to integrate diversity and inclusivity, you will quickly notice that there are hundreds of people that are underserved and waiting to be welcomed into your space. While this is a long-term journey and transformation for our industry, small steps in the right direction will progressively add up over time to have significant impacts and make a real difference. Programming is one area with tremendous room for growth and transformation, so get excited about exploring new opportunities in your organization and make fitness accessible to your entire community.