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How the Women Leading the Running Industry Diversity Coalition Are Using Sport to Create a Better Tomorrow

Created as an agent for change, the Running Industry Diversity Coalition is led by several of the most inspiring women run today.

The organization, which was established in October 2020 to advocate for a more equitable and inclusive running industry, features Hoka One One ambassador — and FN cover star — Alison Désir as its co-chair. Also, industry veterans and beloved runners Martha Garcia, Verna Volker, Shannon Woods and Robyn Goby have critical roles in carrying out the coalition’s mission.

Below, these five inspiring women from RIDC share how they are using their connection to the sport to create a better world.

SHANNON WOODS
SENIOR MANAGER OF DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND INCLUSION AT BROOKS; BOARD MEMBER OF THE RUNNING INDUSTRY DIVERSITY COALITION

HOW I TRY TO INSPIRE OTHERS:

“By building relationships, listening and sharing in vulnerability. When I can connect with people on a human level, we can accomplish any goal together. I also love bringing cross-functional teams together to work on a project or to problem solve. I want to set an example of how valuable different perspectives are to innovation when you have a group from different backgrounds, experiences and expertise.”

OVERCOMING 2020’S BIGGEST HURDLE:

“I transitioned careers from design to DEI, and I [began] working from home in March. I live in a multi-generational household, so I am managing work with family and disruptions, but it works out just fine. [And] I have two family members who are high risk if they contract COVID-19, so my priority is keeping them safe. That said, I also had a personal call to action with the racial injustices we witnessed. Balancing showing up for Black lives with the pandemic was challenging. I committed myself to protesting one day a week and was diligent in my safety protocols.”

BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE LAST YEAR:

“Sharing in the launch of the Running Industry Diversity Coalition. I’m proud of the diversity, equity and inclusion work our team is doing at Brooks, and to extend that to create change throughout the industry is amazing.”

GOALS FOR 2021:

“Each year, I set the same two goals: Do one thing I’ve never done and go somewhere I have never been. My running goals include continuing to run 4-5 days a week and complete my first trail race. Professionally, my goal is to create pathways of opportunity for people to work in the industry. This year, I hope to lay a solid foundation removing barriers, welcoming people from all backgrounds and creating opportunity.”


MARTHA GARCIA
LEADERSHIP TEAM MEMBER IN THE RUNNING INDUSTRY DIVERSITY COALITION; FOUNDER AND CEO, I AM COLLECTIVE

HOW I TRY TO INSPIRE OTHERS:

“By leading with my actions. A big chunk of my work last year was focused around diversity, equity and inclusivity. Working on the Running Industry Diversity Coali- tion, we were able to help create more action and accountability within the industry. That was really inspiring because it wasn’t just focused on one brand; it was focused on an entire industry.”

OVERCOMING 2020’S BIGGEST HURDLE:

“It was learning to trust my full self and to honor what it is that I need. That meant trusting all of my identities — being a woman, a woman of color, Mexican immigrant, a runner, an athlete — and knowing that I am capable of handling the opportunity or the lesson that’s put in front of me.”

BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE LAST YEAR:

“Being a part of the leadership team that helped launch the Running Industry Diversity Coalition. That was huge because it brought together people who never worked together before in this capacity — leaders at brands, activists, run specialty storeowners — to launch something that is going to tackle dismantling systemic racism.”

GOALS FOR 2021:

“Continuing to empower people to show up as themselves so we can create a more equitable future for Black, Indigenous and people of color who are runners. And I’m stepping into a new role within the running and the outdoor industry with my own company, and I’m excited to help different brands and individuals who are working toward more inclusive marketing solutions.”


VERNA VOLKER
GLOBAL AMBASSADOR, HOKA ONE ONE

HOW I TRY TO INSPIRE OTHERS:

“I haven’t been a runner all my life, so I often share my story of becoming a runner in March 2009 in the midst of motherhood with three little kids, losing 50 pounds, going from a non-runner to a 5K runner to an ultramarathoner over the years. I hope that me sharing my story would inspire others because I know the struggle. I know how hard running can be, but I also know anything is possible, that we can do more than we could ever imagine.”

OVERCOMING 2020’S BIGGEST HURDLE:

“I love in-person races, and virtual races have not been as motivating. The challenge has been not having any kind of goal, but I realize that right now, you just have to deal with it. Now, I’m using running to help relieve stress and release everything that’s going on in life.”

BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE LAST YEAR:

“I have an account, @nativewomenrunning, that has been an online community. I’m proud of how much it’s grown and keeping people motivated by simply sharing each other’s stories. [Also, of] becoming a Hoka global ambassador. I’ve worked hard to be where I am today, and to have this is like a gift. I got emotional about it because I’ve never seen myself as a runner, and this is saying ‘you are a runner, you belong here.’”

GOALS FOR 2021:

“To run a 50K again, maybe in the fall. I’m a part-time teacher, teaching second graders in the morning, so right now I’m that minivan mom, driving kids around, so I’m looking forward to having the summer to train.”


ALISON DÉSIR
HOKA ONE ONE-SPONSORED RUNNER

Alison Désir has always fought for racial equality, with an emphasis on a more inclusive running industry. But the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others amid COVID-19 last year tested her resolve. “For centuries, Black and brown people have been the target of both police and vigilante violence, but last year during the pandemic, it reached a tipping point,” said Désir. “Grappling with my own pain, while also trying to mobilize and organize for change, was really difficult.” Nevertheless, she persisted. In 2020, Désir continued her fight for a more equitable running industry as co-chair of the newly formed Running Industry Diversity Coalition. “As a Black woman. I’ve always thought about how the running industry was not built for people like me, and if only the industry came together and did something about it,” she said. “It was really cool to be connected to other leaders in the industry I didn’t know, who were also invested in this work with the same hopes and dreams for this industry.” And her fight will continue in 2021 on page: “I am writing a book, and the manuscript is due in October. The title is ‘The Unbearable Whiteness of Running’ and it looks at the historical roots of running and the ways running has become centered around middle-class white folks, and what can be done [about it],” Désir said.


ROBYN GOBY
WESTERN REGIONAL SALES MANAGER, CEP COMPRESSION SPORTSWEAR

HOW I TRY TO INSPIRE OTHERS:

“I try to inspire others by being as vulnerable and open as I can be. I’ve always felt that life is too short for surface conversations. Let’s be real. Let’s dig deeper with each other, be curious about each other and support each other.”

OVERCOMING 2020’S BIGGEST HURDLE:

“My biggest hurdle this year was looking inward and thinking hard about how I show up. The RIDC and amazing women on the leadership team have helped me to see what I couldn’t see before: that although I try to dig deep with people and support them, I wasn’t truly doing that for all people. I have been selfish and clueless about where I fit and my role as a white woman in the world, but I am at the beginning of a journey with the goal of being better, more knowledgeable and aware.”

BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE LAST YEAR:

“I have felt for the last couple years that I was ready for a new chapter in my life but have been too nervous to make big changes in my life. But this year, I quit my job and sold my house and found a new job and am moving my family across the country. So I guess my biggest accomplishments this year were being brave and maybe a little crazy.”

GOALS FOR 2021:

“Figure out what my next chapter looks like and live my life more intentionally. Continue my journey, understand my purpose and remember to be grateful.”

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