Why diversity efforts are vital for cultural attractions

Implementing diversity into your cultural attraction can seem like an overwhelming task. Where does an organization start when there really is so much to do? Given this, it makes sense that many companies begin by focusing on a single element of their broader Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access (DEIA) program.

Maybe you’ve made great strides in improving diversity in your hiring efforts and also made a specific place for it in your company culture. Perhaps your goal has been to improve diversity efforts for your guests and make their experience at your attraction more inclusive. You may have prioritized working with partners who directly reflect the local community in which you do business.

All of these contribute to a more diverse cultural attraction, and wherever you are, congratulations on getting started. Let’s dive deeper into these three key areas to find additional ways to implement DEIA initiatives in all aspects of a cultural attraction to ensure your organization is set up for success in the future.

Create a more inclusive corporate culture

Often, diversity efforts begin with a company’s recruiting and hiring practices. Starting from within can be a good place to start, as these standards can be implemented internally so that your culture and your employees reflect the values ​​of equity and inclusion that your company is trying to embody.

Here are three ways to improve diversity in recruiting and hiring:

  1. Assess strengths and weaknesses: If you’re not sure where to start, assess your current situation and set goals around your inclusion journey with key business stakeholders.
  2. Recruit with diversity in mind: Broaden your recruiting reach to ensure you open up opportunities in your organization to a diverse audience. This can be done through partnerships with local organizations and resource groups in your community.
  3. Educate with Intention: Develop training for your employees that teaches them to think about inclusivity both at work and when they leave.
  4. Create Diversity Norms: Educate your staff on what is and is not tolerated from them and guests who come to your attraction. Conduct regular reviews, hold quarterly culture summits, and maintain ongoing training to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Beyond implementing inclusive hiring practices, ensuring your employees feel welcome and supported through race, gender, sexual orientation and other employee resource groups. beyond will help them find both personal and professional meaning.

A group of employees posing for a photo

Finally, offering mental health resources, whether it’s in-house counseling or partnering with local mental health facilities, will also show your employees (and future talent) that you’re invested in facilitating their long-term growth and development.

“Diversity is not a destination, rather it is the result of all our work on equity, access and inclusion. At the Los Angeles Zoo, our goal is to create an organization where people can belong and be welcomed as themselves. The work is not easy, but it is necessary to achieve our mission to create a just and sustainable world where wildlife and people thrive together,” said Denise Verret, Chief Executive Officer and Director of Los Angeles Zoo in Los Angeles, California.

“Our work really started with uncomfortable conversations. For us, it was important to start at the basic level. And although we occasionally fumbled with them, they eventually showed a commitment to learning, understanding, and intentional focus. Out of this emerged our Diversity Culture Equity, Inclusion (DICE) task force, programs and initiatives, the creation of a personnel department and a non-negotiable position that the SSA family is a home for all human beings. Throughout it all, there was one constant: talking and listening,” said Shannon Fitzgerald, SSA Group chief of staff.

Establish a more diverse customer experience

The ultimate goal of diversity around your customers’ experience is twofold. First, it establishes that your visitors are a direct reflection of the diverse population that makes up local communities, and second, that this audience also feels comfortable and safe when visiting.

Man with prosthetic leg showing T-shirt to woman in wheelchair

As a cultural attraction, that means making sure customers feel inclusive in every way about their time with you. Create an inclusive customer experience by considering the following:

  1. Accessibility does not equal inclusiveness: simply providing access, such as a wheelchair ramp, does not solve inclusion. Consider creating a design that doesn’t necessarily benefit the majority versus the minority (eg able-bodied versus someone in a wheelchair). By emphasizing their “otherness” and treating them differently, even if well-intentioned, individuals may not feel equal or truly included.
  2. Consider your marketing materials: Make sure your marketing supports the diversity you hire for and the clients you serve. This includes everything in your images, from a diverse representation of in-store photography to images visible on your website and social media. In addition to your marketing images, don’t forget to also evaluate the content that your attraction offers to your audience. The language and visuals used should be an authentic representation of your brand and the community you belong to and not just an illusion of inclusiveness.
  3. Be flexible with time: The time of day you allow your contributors can also be a useful tool to be more inclusive. Offering different time slots to visitors with neurodiversities that make it difficult to attend crowds during normal business hours is a great way to help these people have the opportunity to visit your cultural attraction.
  4. Think beyond the walls of your business: Inclusiveness isn’t just about your attraction’s customers, it’s also about expanding your visitor population to reflect the diversity present in local communities. Look for nearby postcodes that aren’t represented in your attraction and consider opportunities to overcome the barriers that exist for those people to visit. Maybe it’s the lack of transport, price or time. Find new ways to reach these people so they too can experience what your cultural attraction has to offer.

“As you know, there are many aspects to diversity – I think Birmingham Zoo has done a great job embracing neurodiversity, and we are proud to have been the first zoo to be certified as sensory-inclusive, and d ‘having started this wave of certifications around this inclusivity,’ said Lori Perkins, deputy director of the Birmingham Zoo in Birmingham, Alabama.

Establish local and diversified partnerships with suppliers

Bear cans and wares from a local Denver brewery called Great Divide

Another critical part of diversity in your organization is ensuring that the partners and vendors you work with to deliver your products and services are an accurate representation of the diverse local community you represent. Here are some ways to do it:

  1. Evaluate your suppliers: Launching a supplier diversity program can help ensure a wide range of on-shelf representation and can directly correlate to where your exhibits or animals at your cultural attraction come from.
  2. Community Tables: By creating spaces for people from diverse backgrounds to come together for activities, Community Tables also serve as an interactive place where local vendors give presentations and hold workshops using their products that would otherwise not have the opportunity to do so.
  3. Current Trend: Use the latest retail and food trends to constantly find new ways to include local, diverse, and minority vendors and vendors in your cultural attraction offerings.

Inclusiveness from all angles

Building diversity into your cultural attraction can start from a variety of angles, but there’s value at every level for those who are willing to put in the work to better serve your employees, guests, and wider community.

Photo credit: ©SSA Group

Shannon Fitzgerald is Chief Brand Officer at SSA Group.

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James C. Tibbs