Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Sailing

Published on August 6th, 2020

by Jack Gierhart, Chief Executive Officer, US Sailing
A core tenet of US Sailing’s mission is encouraging participation and engagement in the sport of sailing. Central to this is inviting sailors of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and orientations to join, flourish and grow within the sailing community. Setting an inclusive course for the growth of our sport takes a dedicated and purposeful approach, requiring thoughtfulness to ensure we cultivate a diverse environment in which anyone can access, join, and enjoy sailing.

Although we have taken some initial steps toward change, we are humbled by recent listening and learning, and understand we need to take positive action to address the barriers and disparities that exist. The discussions currently occurring within the sailing community to collectively pursue diversity, equity, and inclusion are encouraging.

As an organization, we want to expand and better convey a supportive and inclusive community. It is imperative to connect sailors from all backgrounds and collaborate with sailing organizations and diverse communities across the country. This organization- and industry-wide transformation is in the early stages, and will require hard work, self-evaluation, and commitment.

We are fortunate to have experienced and passionate community leaders working with us side-by-side to amplify new voices, perspectives, and guidance. We encourage others to reach out, join, engage, listen, learn, and lead. In order to make meaningful progress, US Sailing is open to ideas, guidance and critique that improve and expand our efforts.

Growing the sport and evolving the face of sailing is a long-term, ongoing commitment that must be integral to our community. Working together can create momentum within both US Sailing and the broader sailing community that leads to a more welcoming environment across the sport.

Here are several actions that US Sailing is taking to help drive effective and positive change:

• Town Hall Panels: On August 4, 2020, US Sailing hosted the first in a series of panel discussions on The Starboard Portal channel that will provide a platform for learning, sharing and working together towards a more diverse sailing future (click here). The first panel focused on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion practices, with practical applications for clubs and programs. Ayme Sinclair, Vice President of the National Women’s Sailing Association, moderated, and was joined by panelists Karen Harris, Bill Pickney, Lou Sandoval, and Joe Harris.

• Strategic Plan Revisions: As part of updating the US Sailing strategic plan for 2020-2024, we are prioritizing improving diversity within our organization and the sport. Working with our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, we will define specific actions that support this priority and move us forward across our staff, committees, and volunteers. We will work to recruit and develop coaches, instructors and officials that represent the broader community. We will work on building partnerships with organizations and associations that represent key constituent groups. We will continue to listen and learn from the leaders in the sailing community bringing diversity to the sport – particularly community sailing programs and leaders – and work to share their successes with the broader sailing audience.

• Web Resource Platform: We, with guidance from our DEI Committee, have developed a series of resources available to support sailing organizations, programs and sailors as they look to learn and be part of the solution. Review these resources and we will continue to enhance and expand them over time. We hope these resources will help sailing organizations as they create their own inclusion plans.

• Staff Education: Our staff has developed an internal task force to educate, increase awareness, and ensure on-going dialogue as we work to address unintentional biases. Creating a space for open discussion allows the staff to have full support of the organization as they pursue diversity within the programs they oversee on a daily basis.

• Diversity Audit: We will review the way US Sailing represents the sport and the sailors themselves in its media, including the US Sailing website, materials, marketing, communications, education and more.

• Commitment to Recruit Diverse Staff and Volunteers: We are reviewing our recruiting and hiring practices to expand our reach and attract a broader mix of talent that better represents our diverse country. As the National Governing Body of our sport, it is crucial to include a range of voices and perspectives in our organization if we expect to increase access and attract all types of people to sailing. As part of this effort, we will also review and update our C.R.E.W. agreement to include diversity along with the other key tenets of respect, inclusion, value of differing positions and collaboration.

Moving Ahead
US Sailing has been working to create a more inclusive sailing community, highlighted in the Reach Initiative, which engages youth in STEM learning and environmental stewardship; the launch of the Siebel Sailors Program, which focuses on increasing opportunity and promoting diversity in the sport of sailing; and the creation of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, whose mission is to promote and support diversity, equity and inclusion within the sailing community in the United States.

While this work is a meaningful step, we recognize this is only the beginning of a long-term commitment for an organization that represents and serves people of all races, religions, orientations and abilities. It is clear that to fulfill our mission, we must continue to expand our community and ensure we are an organization and sport that reflects the diverse face of America.

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