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Vail Daily column: Diversity and inclusion for Vail

Ross Iverson
Valley Voices

When you hear the word “diversity,” most people will immediately jump to race or gender as key-defining components. In recent years, diversity has been paired with the word “inclusion” as a way to identify an additional element of diversity. Inclusion is defined as the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure.

As a white male, I inherently fall within a privileged category, and have felt little oppression in my life. This was never more evident when I mentored a young African American boy from the age of 9 until he was 18. Each month through the nine years Avery would challenge me on my viewpoints and remind me how different his world was. This began my process of building empathy for another’s world-view. Empathy is not just racial, but flows into every category of differences between religion, socio-economic, gender and privilege.

A recent article in Powder Magazine by Julie Brown addressed the diversity crisis in ski towns across the country saying, “Skiing is a homogenous, insular experience. Much like golf, with an average household income of $95,000; sailing, with an aging white male majority; and hockey, where 95 percent of players in the NHL in 2015 were white, skiing’s participation demographics are embarrassing.”

I recently attended a roundtable discussion of 50 leaders in Boulder regarding the various stigmas around diversity. Organizations such as Twitter, Techstars and the University of Colorado discussed how Boulder should lead the discussion around diversity and inclusion for the state. This group has linked diversity to spurring new levels of innovation within work teams and helping start-up companies succeed.

This summer Yale University is hosting their top ranked Diversity and Inclusion course in Vail. This course attempts to elevate the inclusion conversation for our community and the state. Yale + Vail appears on the surface to be just another elite program, but when you enter a classroom environment where learning is the top priority, social status takes a second seat to the intent of the cohort. Learning is a unique platform for our community to break down traditional barriers. Scholarships help unlock social mobility for community members to advance their talent to new levels and gain leadership influence.

Our community is faced with a challenge of “engagement.” As our population expands, we will be faced with a growing percentage of second-home owners who come from an affluent background.

The Vail Valley is an oasis to escape from a nation of socio-economic challenges. How do we convert this group of new residents to care about an integrated community that values diversity and inclusion over status? Leaders in our community should be thinking about diversity and inclusion plans for their organizations.

Without them, we are limiting our creativity, innovation and capacity to grow a balanced community that welcomes the world.

Ross Iverson is CEO of the Vail Centre. For more information, go to http://www.vailcentre.org or email ross@vailcentre.org.

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