Dear Fitness Leaders- We Have an Equity ProblemMar 05, 2020
“If Diversity is being asked to the party and Inclusion is being asked to dance at said party… then Equity is making sure everyone has equal space to move in the way they choose to on the dance floor.”
When I first started teaching in the group fitness space, I was clear with myself and others that my two worlds would never overlap. In my career as a Talent and Equity Executive, I spend my days thinking deeply about how organizations can not only create an incredible talent development infrastructure that helps each person grow and also makes it a great place to work but more importantly does it in a way that ensures it is equitable, particularly for groups of people who have been traditionally been marginalized. I thought in my second career as a fitness instructor, my only role would be to motivate and change lives from the inside out through the class they were experiencing. Naively, I assumed that equity was not an issue in the fitness space and what I came to quickly realize is that it is not only an issue; it is one that many have yet to either realize or acknowledge that a problem exists.
If you take the time to google diversity, equity, and inclusion in the fitness space, you’ll find a tiny collection of articles (less than 50), primarily written by women of color addressing what many have yet to acknowledge: the group fitness industry is continuing to design spaces that primarily serve white women under 40 with a homogenous body type and similar socioeconomic status. And because some assume that it’s easy to have an instructor team that looks like the target client being served, our instructor teams are equally as homogenous. You may pause here and think to yourself, well, that’s not true, we have more than one of x type. Herein lies the problem: when studios and gyms begin with attempting to justify what they have on paper, it can lead to them to not understanding the real problem underneath the surface.
Under the surface reveals a very different experience for instructors of color: they are often made to feel like the “only”, may feel that their voice, culture, and perspective is not equally considered and designed for, and when it is considered, the burden of how to address the issue is placed on them. The fitness space has been designed on the premise that we want to change and impact lives collectively and yet, we have not taken the time to deeply look at if we are actually creating environments ourselves where typically marginalized groups actually feel equally celebrated, belong, and that they can be their true authentic selves in the spaces we have designed. It’s time for a shift and not because I or anyone else has made a significant, data-driven business case for it. It’s irrelevant and quite frankly, there doesn’t need to be a case for an intentional focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the fitness space. The only two questions that should be asked are Why Not? And Why Not Now?
The Equity in Fitness Collaborative (The EFC) is designed to begin addressing this question, particularly for group fitness instructors of color. The collaborative was designed to support the growth of instructors in the space while helping to elevate their voice, visibility, and perspective. In addition, The EFC recognizes that the shift cannot just happen through the instructor team and is committed to providing education and support to studio and gym spaces of how to recognize there is a problem and make meaningful changes to address it. The reality is that while a studio has the ability to make this same shift and impact for clients, the EFC recognizes that the core driver of a studio’s success and a client’s experience is the instructor who leads their classes. They determine what a client experiences and if they will return, how effective the studio’s classes (core product) are perceived to be, and how the studio is seen to potential new clients. And if clients are both seeing and experiencing the same, homogeneous make of the instructor team, a studio can’t expect that who they reach will suddenly shift to being more diverse. It starts from the inside out and the EFC is designed to focus on the core.
If we are striving in the fitness space to change and impact more lives, we have to start with us and the teams that we design to lead the change. We miss a fundamental piece of the puzzle when we fail to acknowledge that diversity, equity, and inclusion is more than just saying we have someone that looks different on the team or that we don’t even believe a problem exists. It does and it starts with us digging deeper to understand why and how to shift this. It starts with a conversation with instructors of color who can their share their perspective of why we all don’t equal space on the “dance floor”. And it starts with everyone, regardless of race, understanding that if we change the system and the space, we ultimately will do what we’ve intended to do: change more for the better.
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Author: Dynasti Hunt, is founder of the www.dynastihunt.com, a platform focused on developing and supporting women to break their imposter syndrome, in the fitness industry and beyond as well as a Lead Trainer and Instructor at Uforia Studios (Bay Area). As an AFAA Certified Group Fitness Instructor and Indoor Cycling (Schwinn), she is committed to leading sweaty sessions across the Bay Area that incorporate heavy-hitting beats, exercises that push you past your limits and creating environments that push you to dig deeper and go harder. Dynasti’s fitness journey started off accidentally, as she began to seek out classes as a way to stop her own personal burn-out from long days of work. Once she began taking classes, she noticed that everyone who was leading classes had the same approach: same music, same style, and externally, looked the same, from age to body type to how they identified racially. Passionate about wanting to see the group fitness space move away from a homogenous approach, Dynasti became a Group Fitness Coach and is deeply committed to helping diverse instructors own their story and their space in the fitness community.
When she’s not pushing you beyond your limits as an aspiring instructor or client, Dynasti leads an active dual-career life as the Managing Director, Talent and Equity for a non-profit consulting firm with over 15 years of experience leading Human Resources teams and coaching CEOs, Leaders, and Executive Leadership Teams. A proud Nashville native and equally proud Bay Area resident, Dynasti is a national Forbes Human Resources Council member and 2020 OnCon Icon recipient of the Top 100 Human Resources Professional Award.