Our Continued Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion - 2021 Learnings So Far
THE DEI JOURNEY
In early 2019, Remote Year made our first public commitment to driving DEI as a company goal. We transparently shared our struggles, clarified our Code of Conduct for staff and participants, and shared how we would support participants of color by providing country-specific guidance on social context and norms, redirecting 75% of our programming budget towards cultural experiences, creating reporting channels for violations related to discrimination, racism, or harassment, and creating DEI training for staff and customers. This was a good first step, but were the first to admit that it felt more reactive vs. proactive.
In mid-2019, we gave another update on our DEI journey. We shared progress against our DEI goals, including strong growth in the hiring, recruiting and promotion of people of color (POCs) and underrepresented groups on our staff. We also shared our comprehensive steps to cultivate a more inclusive community before and during our programs, revealed our mandatory Unconscious Bias training for all participants on Remote Year, and made the leadership team incorporate DEI as a key KPI. Lastly, we shared changes we were making to our recruiting and hiring process to mitigate or eliminate unconscious biases. This was a great second step, but we received feedback that we were making great strides on the inclusion aspect of DEI, but needed to work more on diversity and representation on programs.
In 2020, we faced the most challenging time in our company's history when COVID-19 forced us to unexpectedly suspend operations and lay off the majority of our staff, like other small businesses. During that time, the world was also facing a reckoning in regards to racial inequities and #blacklivesmatter. In June 2020, the Black Travel Alliance issued a #pullupfortravel campaign to challenge global travel brands to share their part in driving much-needed diversity and representation in the travel industry. We only had a handful of staff left at that time, but we were inspired to participate in a movement that matched our own mission and publicly pledged to fulfill our 2020 DEI goals and commitments the minute our company resumed running travel programs. Later that year, we only had two available roles open. We offered both of those roles to 2 black women. Due to COVID, we paused all marketing and sales activities for the remainder of the year so had zero spend to allocate. Lastly, we closed the year with a successful acquisition by Selina. In our first conversation with our new CEO, we made it clear that DEI must continue to be a priority and were thrilled that he was fully bought in and a huge advocate.
COMPANY DEI-RELATED CHANGES IN 2021
Following our acquisition, we made key changes to our mission, product offerings, and marketing to continue to drive DEI goals.
First, we renewed our company mission to "be the most trusted community-based travel platform for remote working and learning globally" and our vision to "inspire connections, adventure, and growth in the most inspiring places on the planet." It was important for us to highlight trust, community, connections, and growth -- all values that are impossible to live by without a commitment to DEI.
Second, we made product changes to accommodate a more diverse range of distinct customer needs, lifestyle and budget preferences, and interests:
Retreats - Get away for 1 week to the most inspiring destinations
Work & Travel - Bring your job & live like a local in inspiring destinations for 1, 4, or 12 months
Learn & Travel - Grow your skills & develop professionally through impactful group learning
Third, we revamped all of our marketing and brand materials, website, and social media to reflect the diversity of the people and places we visit around the world. We made an internal commitment to audit all of our public-facing assets to showcase at least 50% people of color and a wider range of ages, nationalities, and voices. We also created a new page on our website to share more about what makes our Remote Year community (the “Remote Nation”) so diverse and unique, made our stance on DEI and violations of our Code of Conduct clear, and highlighted helpful content generated by our own Remote Year community for POCs who want to understand more about the Remote Year experience as an underrepresented minority.
Finally, we instituted KPIs and measurements in our marketing and sales processes to ensure we were tracking and holding ourselves accountable to our goals. For the first time ever, we introduced optional race and ethnicity questions in the application survey as well as program onboarding survey. This helped us finally get a gauge on if we were moving the needle with our DEI progress, in the early stages of program recruitment so we could make adjustments as needed.
In the last 2 months, we have launched a total of 11 community-based travel programs for 2021 with many more planned to release each month. Our first 3 programs launched to the public sold out, our other 8 programs are filling ahead of schedule, and we have added more programs to keep up with the demand. We are incredibly grateful to our current Remote Year community and the world for trusting us to safely deliver the life-changing experiences we have done for thousands of remote workers and learners. However, we are proudest of the huge strides we are making on diversity and representation and know there is still much more work to be done.
Across our participant population, we have climbed from 27% representation of people of color in 2018 to an astounding 48% in 2021. Notably, we have tripled our Black/African participants from 5% to 15% and more than doubled our Hispanic/Latino participants from 7% to 19%. Our Asian/Pacific Islander population continues to hold strong at 14%.
Across age, we are seeing a wide range of ages from 25 - 62 years old in 2021. The average age now has grown to 35 years old.
Across sexual orientation, we have 11% reporting that they are part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Across gender, we continue to have strong representation of women on our programs, at around 65%.
Total nationalities across the Remote Year Nation continue to number between 30-40 countries represented. COVID-19 has obviously made it challenging for many passports to move freely across the world, but our shorter 1-week Retreats and 1-month Work & Travel programs have now made the Remote Year experience accessible to even more passports and we expect our country representation to grow in 2021. For the first time, we are seeing nationals from Zimbabwe and Cambodia join our programs and hope to see many more new countries represented in our community.
THE ROAD AHEAD
This month, we will be launching our first new program almost one year exactly to the date we first suspended programs due to COVID. In our most challenging and tough times as a company last year, we never lost sight of the DEI commitments we made even when we didn't know how we would survive. Today, not only are we surviving, but we are thriving with a vibrant Remote Year community that is more diverse and representative than we have ever seen. We will be rolling out many initiatives later this year to continue to drive the following DEI priorities in 2021:
Measure and increase diversity and representation, especially race/ethnicity and country nationalities across the Remote Year community & staff
Invest in tools, support systems, content, training and programming that are diverse and inclusive
Seek partnerships that advance our goal to use our platform for good, especially by connecting underrepresented communities with travel, working, learning, and growth opportunities
We are two years into this DEI journey, but we are fired up for the road still left ahead. We want to make a bold statement that we are not just going to continue to do our part to make the travel industry more diverse, representative, and inclusive, but rather that we are committed to being at the forefront and leading that change. Thanks to all of our community for continuing to be the inspiration and the fuel behind everything that we do. We look forward to continuing to share our journey with the world.
For more information or to share your feedback, please write us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Every message is read by our leadership team.