Meet Kaitlin Wilson
Meet Kaitlin Wilson of Eyes Up, Darling
My name is Kaitlin Wilson, and I started Eyes Up, Darling as a photo journal to document my journey of getting back in the saddle after an eight year break and creative outlet to express myself. Growing up in Toronto, Canada, the mosaic of cultures, I consider myself extremely fortunate to be raised in a city that is so accepting. As a minority, pursuing a sport that is dominated by caucasian men and women has its challenges. I am a proud Chinese Canadian who has always been aware of the lack of racial representation in the sport, but it became even more noticeable when I started creating content on social media two years ago.
"I was hesitant to pursue a sport that was predominantly caucasian."
My riding journey started when I was in grade three. I rode once a week, 9:00 am on Saturday mornings in a semi-private lesson with my sister. When I was younger, my sister and I were the only Asians in the riding school - in fact, the whole barn. When I was younger I experienced acts of racism, from being stared at, critiquing my smile, my eyes, and speaking to me in gibberish. I remember being referred to as “chinky,” and “squinty,” and had fingers being pointed at me; all at the age of 9. It was difficult, and I was hesitant to pursue a sport that was predominantly caucasian. As a Chinese Canadian, I’ve always been aware of the lack of racial representation in the sport, and it became even more noticeable two years ago, when I started creating content on social media.
As a child, I looked up to strong and passionate caucasian women, yet I always found myself missing a piece of the puzzle. There is a foundation of great powerful women out there who have broken the glass ceiling in this sport. While this is beyond commendable, there is a connection untouched when a child doesn’t see their own ethnicity being represented in the media. Although this sport is dominated by caucasian men and women, it does not excuse the normalization and tolerance of the lack of diversity within this industry. Many leading equine companies have the platform and presence to embrace diversity but lack the desire to initiate such a conversation. All industries have struggled with racial diversity, but what matters is how the industry reacts to challenging conversations and how willing the industry is to stray from antiquated traditions and methods.
Seeing riders of different ethnicities encourages racial minorities to join the sport and allow it to grow.
Improving diversity in the sport
I've mentioned in previous blog posts that there are two major initiatives the industry needs to achieve in order to improve diversity in the sport. The first initiative is through marketing efforts and promotional materials. I’ve mentioned previously that there is an intangible feeling when a child does not see their own ethnicity being represented. Seeing riders of different ethnicities encourages racial minorities to join the sport and allow it to grow. There is a common phrase brands fall back on, “we only use real riders”. That begs me to ask the question, then what does that make me? This common phrase describes a fraction of our industry. While it is commendable brands strive to incorporate natural horsemanship, it fails to include many aspects of diversity. Diversity in marketing is not only the visual appearance of the advertisement, but also the overall message, language it involves, perceptions and how consumers interact with it.
The second initiative is diversity in the workplace. Companies need to demonstrate diversity internally by actively recruiting talent from diverse perspectives. Furthermore, companies should advertise for openings with Equal Employment Opportunity statements that are empowering, encouraging, and inspiring for future employees. Some potential challenges brands may face due to lack of diversity in the workplace include tone-deaf deliverables, limited perspectives, limited role models, divisions within the office, and more. All of these challenges have the ability to affect the brands productivity, industry and consumer relationships, and public image.
I look up to brands like Knix, Girlfriend Collective, and Good American, who are dedicated to a purpose and emulate their core values through their branding efforts. These brands create a connection with their consumers that allows them to align and identify with the brand based on who they are as individuals. Although the equine industry is one of the slowest to embrace diversity, I look forward to the day equine companies begin listening to their consumers in order to create a similar connection.