For those of us who travel as part of our job: have you ever noticed that most businesses travelers fall into one category. Yes, white men. With all the conversations around diversity challenges in most industries, it is surprising that diversity in business travel is not often mentioned. Business travelers, in many cases work in industries with considerable diversity challenges. Making the makeup of the business traveling public a bellwether of diversity in business in the United States. Keeping this in mind, the diversity and inclusion challenges in the workplace are much worse than we realize or are willing to admit.
I am not saying that things have not improved, because they have. The number of women business travelers has shown a dramatic increase in the two decades I have been traveling for business. However, the number of brown / black business travelers has shown little to no change in those same two decades. Actually, in the past few years that number seems to have decreased. Why is that? Since I am not a Social Scientist or a demographer; I am not going to try an explain the reasons for this. I will however say; that as both a black and brown (yes I have both African and Hispanic ancestry) business traveler, the numbers are distressing.
How often do you sit in a flight, and can count in one hand the number of people that look like you, or at least share some similar racial traits. For some of us, that is an everyday occurrence, and sadly a way of life. God forbid you get an upgrade to first class, you are deafened by the silence when you take your seat; and feel the glare of all the looks telling you that you are interloping, that you do not belong in that seat. Though you feel the weight of it, you laugh it off; because you are definitely going to enjoy that first class seat, especially if it is a long flight. You belong there. It is not self consciousness, it is a realization that you are representing an entire group of people that do not often get represented. No pressure.
So…… how can we improve the situation? what do we do? I wish I had an answer to those and many other questions in this space, but I don’t. My intent: forwarding the conversation from a different vantage point. Increasing everyone's awareness as the conversation moves forward. Yes, I know that without concrete suggestions many will see this as just more empty commentary. However, realization of the many facets of the challenge is a step, in many, we have to take to move forward. And at the end of every day we should all be striving to move forward. Let’s be a better person today than we were yesterday.