Diversity, equity, and inclusion in sailing

Published on September 16th, 2020

The September 2020 issue of 48° North Magazine, which serves the northwest corner of the USA, reports on a new event founded by Jennifer Harkness. Here she explains:


On August 3, US Sailing had Ayme Sinclair host a panel on their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) program with Karen and Joey Harris, Lou Sandoval, and Captain Bill Pinkney. It was one of the best moderated panels on diversity

I have seen in my 15 years of diversity exploration and work. US Sailing is doing some amazing and essential anti-racist work. In these uncertain times, we need to come together more than ever; and organizations creating missions like this lead us forward.

Karen Harris described diversity as the invitation to the dance, equity as making sure you can get to the dance, and inclusion as making sure you dance. Lou Sandoval offered statistics to support the necessity and opportunity of expanding DEI. Gen Z (currently ages 5-25) value inclusion and make up 27.3% of the population.

Women are 51% of the population and are obviously diverse in race and ethnicity. Sadly, 0.01% of sailing is diverse in ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. Lou noted that the untapped potential boat buying market for black, indiginous, people of color (BIPOC), and women is estimated at $3.9 trillion in the market today.

Each of these extremely skilled sailors and community leaders shared examples of blatant racial profiling. White sailors approached them assuming they worked in labor roles at the yacht clubs, they didn’t belong there at all, and even suggested they were trying to steal their own boats.

Similarly, I hear many stories of sexist bias and behavior toward women in sailing. All of these assumptions and behaviors provide examples of why many BIPOC, LGBTQ people, women and disabled folks either stay away or quit the sport. We need to do better, and we can.

They emphasized that to start, community leadership needs to name the issue and explore it. We need more internal diversity in organizations and leadership. It is critical to have mentors and leaders that look like the folks we would like to introduce into the sport. And, organizations need to create specific invitations for new audiences to participate.


So she did… to read about the 2020 Sloop Tavern Yacht Club (STYC) Women at the Helm Regatta she founded, click here.

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