Representation matters

Zwift recently launched the Black Celebration Series, aiming to celebrate the achievements of the black athletic community worldwide. Lisa Bourne, senior director, Diversity, Inclusion and Social Impact at Zwift, tells us how it came about

The lack of diversity in cycling is evident – with many reports highlighting just how white and male-dominated the sport and industry is. A 2020 Travel in London report showed that women, people of non-white backgrounds, older people, and those not in employment and on low incomes continue to be underrepresented among those who cycle in comparison to their relative presence in the general population.

Sustrans and Arup’s Cycling for Everyone report from July last year also highlighted the inequalities within cycling participation in urban areas between different demographics – finding that 74% of people from ethnic minority groups living in cities and towns do not currently cycle.

And a recent USA Cycling survey found that its membership was mostly white (86%), male (83%), and middle-aged (50%). Earlier this year, Zwift launched the Black Celebration Series (BCS), a year-long initiative to celebrate the history, athletes, heritage and joy the black community brings to Zwift from around the world. It is the first externally focused initiative spearheaded by its new Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging department, which will also be running internal training and education programmes on racial justice. In addition to the social rides, Zwift has chosen the LA Bicycle Academy as the BCS’ charity partner.

All BCS events will be held in New York, the city where black cyclists including Major Taylor and Nelson Vails got their start. Ride leaders will keep between 1.5 – 2w/kg along the Mighty Metropolitan route in New York with the event lasting for one hour. Runs will be along the Grand Central Circuit and will cover a distance of 6.8km/4.2m.

Lisa Bourne, senior director, Diversity, Inclusion and Social Impact at Zwift, talks diversity, inclusion and why representation matters.

Zwift recently launched the Black Celebration Series – can you tell us a bit more about it and how it came about?
It’s a year-round initiative that includes in-game activities, internal employee-facing events and social impact initiatives designed to celebrate the black experience in cycling and running by shining the light on the accomplishments of black athletes and laying the foundation for future advancement. While the Black Celebration Series launched in February during Black History Month in the US, the series events and initiatives are planned throughout the coming year because Zwift is committed to the continual recognition and support of black athletes and aims to create a welcoming environment for all.

Why is it so important to encourage diversity and inclusion in cycling and the cycling industry?
Encouraging diversity and inclusion in cycling and the cycling industry is important because representation matters. Seeing yourself represented in a sport, a profession, a major of study, etc. is key to planting the seeds of opportunity and growth. I openly share how I never knew cycling was a professional sport growing up which limited my world of opportunity. It goes back to equity. Everyone should have equal access to the sport and that’s just not the case right now.

How inclusive do you think cycling is at the moment, and what more could organisations be doing?
Cycling is not inclusive at the moment. A recent survey of USA Cycling members revealed a membership that was overwhelmingly white (86%), male (83%), and middle-aged (50%). We know that cyclists actually out on the roads, buying bikes and Zwifting are more diverse. Organisations should celebrate this diversity to drive inclusion and belonging. If individuals feel like their voices are being heard they will invite others and grow the sport. Growth of the sport and the industry is good for all. We float all boats.

Tell us a bit more about the partnership with the LA Bicycle Academy and why they were chosen.
The Los Angeles Bike Academy (LABA), formerly known as Unity Sports Cycling, and led by Damon Turner, has been doing amazing work for African American and Latinx youth since 2007. Zwift felt it was important to support LABA’s efforts to empower, educate and develop leadership skills in boys and girls from communities where access to the sport of cycling is limited.

Some of the most prominent African American cyclists today – like Justin Williams and Rahsaan Bahati – credit LABA for their success in the sport. Zwift has donated $25,000 to the LABA and is currently developing a mentorship programme for the youth on the team.

What else do you currently have planned for 2021 and beyond?
Our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging strategy is broken down into three primary focus areas – brand presence and reputation, the Zwift end-to-end experience, and our internal employee experience.

As you might imagine, we have a detailed roadmap of programmes and initiatives planned for 2021 to ensure we reach the goals we’ve set for ourselves in each of these areas. As just one example, to increase diversity in our talent pipelines, we’ve recently partnered with Jopwell – a black led HR platform that helps diverse professionals unlock opportunities for career advancement.

We’ve only just begun our DEIB journey and are excited to have tremendous support across the organisation.

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