In 2020, we not only collectively navigated a global health pandemic, but we also saw a number of tragic events unfold that led to global protests condemning systemic racism and ongoing police brutality.
As a result, many organizations began to tackle the difficult, uncomfortable and yet necessary subject of diversity, inclusion and equity with renewed focus and energy.
Wellness is a sovereign right of every human and when it’s perceived as an inaccessible luxury, it does our community a disservice and health inequities are the result.
Some larger enterprises created employee action councils to help them improve their insights by diving deeper into the experiences of employees at all levels.
Consumers took to social media and demanded alignment with the movement, transparency and inclusivity from their favorite organizations, brands and influencers.
Many answered the call with a clear shift in visual representation and even offered their platforms to aid in amplifying a more diverse and inclusive group of voices. Many retail brands even recommended BIPOC-owned alternatives to encourage spending to be diverted to these businesses.
It represented a great opportunity for brands to take a stand and demonstrate their empathy, solidarity and ally-ship.
Why Representation Matters in the Wellness Industry
With the “new normal” came new challenges like working from home, online schooling and with the stay at home order, we were spending more time at home than ever before.
With the lack of external releases like travel, dining out or pleasures like visiting friends and family, there was an increased focus on incorporating wellness practices into our daily lives to help mitigate the stress.
This caused many to embrace online, app classes, or social media service providers, resulting in heightened attention on the wellness industry where users sought professionals that looked like and represented them and in some areas came up short.
For some time, the wellness industry has been under examination for promoting images, products and programs that give the appearance that wellness is not attainable, accessible or achievable for everyone.
This messaging runs the risk of perpetuating beliefs that certain wellness-promoting activities and trends seem to cater to a unique demographic, while excluding BIPOC. This reminds us how important representation is because when people see someone they identify with engaging in an activity, they may feel safe in pursuing a similar modality.
While this conversation may be challenging and uncomfortable, it is incredibly necessary for the wellness industry to lean in to the discomfort and do their part to transform and create real and enduring change.
The Impacts of Systemic Exclusion
This lack of diversity in the wellness space has had a profound effect on the health of BIPOC people.
The programmatic deficiencies that occur across wellness campaigns, imagery and cost often result in the lack of availability and accessibility of information to the broader diverse community, preventing them from learning about and adopting healthy lifestyle changes.
While we have definitely seen improvements in the external optics, the work must continue behind the scenes to change the narrative and create a wellness community that is welcoming, inclusive and affirming to a broader audience.
We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color. – Maya Angelou
Seeing BIPOC or differently-abled people engaging in activities across varying modalities that historically have been perceived as exclusive creates an impactful mindset shift, individually and throughout the community.
This shift also creates an opportunity for practitioners to become more educated on how to more effectively consider the cultural differences in the community they serve, tailoring their programs and offerings.
Breaking Down Diversity Barriers
Wellness is a sovereign right of every human and when it’s perceived as an inaccessible luxury, it does our community a disservice and health inequities are the result. Health and wellness should transcend race, culture and ethnic background and the industry has a responsibility to meet people wherever they may be.
When taking a holistic approach to the wellness industry, improving diversity is an integral part in building a community where there is connection, a sense of belonging.
Where community members feel safe in the space, in their bodies, to share their voices, and be fully seen and honored as their complete and authentic selves.
To effectuate industry-wide change, the challenge becomes enacting practices that prevent this from becoming a passing moment, but a sustainable movement.
Here Are 5 Ways to Improve Diversity, Inclusion and Equity in the Wellness Industry:
Here are five ways wellness organizations, brands and professionals can make changes that invite all bodies, backgrounds and abilities to embrace their wellness journey:
1. Get Uncomfortable
Acknowledge this is uncharted and challenging territory and despite best intentions and efforts, mistakes will be made.
Be vulnerable, ask questions and admit where you need help or don’t have answers. Many don’t know what to do and make the fatal error of doing nothing or being paralyzed trying to find the perfect approach.
This reminds us how important representation is because when people see someone they identify with engaging in an activity, they may feel safe in pursuing a similar modality.
Remember that like a new yoga asana is uncomfortable, discomfort is usually where the growth and healing begins. Diving in and engaging and in these conversations is no different.
2. Get Clear
To facilitate impactful and lasting change, organizations, brands and professionals, must commit and get clear on the issues to be tackled and create a roadmap to address the gaps. Create the vision, make the plan, build the team, get the tools and move forward.
It may not be perfect, but it will be progress.
3. Get Educated
Being an ally means knowing it is ok to admit what you don’t know and then commit to getting educated. While the awareness, visibility and transparency of the diversity issue has become more heightened recently, there is a long history here, get to know it.
Allyship means continuously learning and getting in-tune with unconscious biases so this deeper personal understanding shines a light into areas to expand understanding.
4. Get Active
Commit, show up and take action. When you know better, you have a responsibility to do better. Verbal commitments are valued, but actions become your mission statement and allow partners, consumers, clients and your community to see your intentionality.
Making the necessary adjustments to remove the roadblocks in access, pricing and representation is extremely important to creating an environment where diversity is celebrated and everyone is included.
From a corporate perspective, this looks like implementing programs that promote diversity and equality in opportunity, pay, perks and exposure and compensation across all professionals.
5. Get Diversified
Diversifying your social and professional circles facilitates moving away from groupthink and fosters an environment where hard questions can be safely asked, honest answers given and allows for true human connection.
Be open to hearing suggestions and recommendations and assume they are being made with the best intentions, even if initially the conversation is difficult.
Let’s Make the Wellness Industry More Diverse, Inclusive and Equitable
Ultimately, diversity, inclusion and equity is not just a box-checking exercise, but an opportunity for us to learn, grow and expand.
There is such beauty in our differences and by fostering a culture of diversity in the wellness industry it allows us to broaden perspectives and change the face of wellness to truly represent the amazing tapestry of our community.
Wellness is for everyone and by building these beautifully diverse and welcoming spaces and experiences, we all become more knowledgeable, empathetic and learn to celebrate our uniqueness.
Lastly, remember that when the social media posts and hashtags begin to slow down, the reporters are less vocal and attention moves on to another hot topic, it’s imperative to continue amplifying the voices, brands and people that have been in the space doing the work, we are all in this together.