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How Peloton is Powering Change from the Inside

Triathlon has a diversity problem—but there are many people working hard within the endurance industry to improve this. In this penultimate part of our five-part mini-series, we hear from the head of DEI at Peloton.

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Triathlon is a welcoming sport, but it is still largely a white, able-bodied, affluent, and heteronormative sport. Although equity can sometimes seem like a finish line that is a long way off, the hard work of the people outlined in this five-part mini-series helps show that there has already been a great deal of work undertaken in the endurance world when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

RELATED: How To Ensure Triathlon’s Diversity Efforts Will Actually Work

We opened this series with Shannon Woods from Brooks Running, and have since heard from Lisa Bourne, Senior Director of Diversity, Inclusion & Social Impact at Zwift, as well as Toks Ahmed-Salawudeen and Michael Chapman, co-founders at SOUL CAP, the company that sells swim caps and hair towels for people with Afros, extensions, and voluminous hair. This week, we highlight the story of Dr. Christal Morris, Senior Vice President and Global Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Peloton

Where are you from, and what was your relationship with sports as a younger person—and now as an adult?

I’ve had a connection to sports and fitness since I was very young, growing up in San Diego, California, playing several different sports. I found team camaraderie and was able to build my confidence. I played soccer for five years, and when I got to high school, I started running track, including the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m relay. While I wasn’t the fastest runner in the state, I did make it to State Championships three years in a row and thrived in that competitive environment.

As an adult, I transitioned into watching sports and attending football games, while focusing more on my personal fitness journey. Peloton reintroduced me to fitness in such a fresh, engaging way and showed me how to connect my mental toughness with physical wellbeing. Peloton has made me fall back in love with fitness as an adult. It has shown me how valuable community can be in relation to fitness. I love that Peloton connects people from all over the world. Whether it’s through our diverse class content, instructor roster or connecting with each other through tags like #BlackGirlMagic, #StopAsianHate and #PELatinos, there are endless ways for members to engage with each other and find commonalities.

When did you first start working on DEI, and what interested you about doing that work at Peloton?

I’ve been working in DEI for over 15 years and have always been a supporter of empowering people to be the best versions of themselves. I grew up in an all-white neighborhood, going to predominantly white schools, and I think this ignited a lifelong desire in me to ensure that every person who wanted to have a voice or share an opinion had a safe space to do so.

When Peloton reached out, I had my own consulting business and was very busy working in the DEI space. When I sat down with Peloton CEO John Foley, I was very impressed with Peloton’s anti-racist stance and commitment to making a difference from the inside out. During my interview process, I learned that Peloton’s leadership had committed to a nine-month course learning how to be anti-racist in their daily lives as leaders. When I joined Peloton, I was honored to be able to participate in the remaining months of the course. It was an opportunity to play a pivotal role in supporting their leaders through a cultural transformation and make a deep, long-term impact that would touch so many global community members.

What is your mission at Peloton? How is the company working to improve DEI in cycling and fitness?

At Peloton, we strive to cultivate a culture where all team members feel valued, seen, and heard and have the ability to maximize their strengths without compromising their authenticity. We’ve always been an organization that has strived to be inclusive, from our community members to a diverse instructor base. There’s been a huge internal emphasis on encouraging different groups of people within the company—regardless of sexual orientation, age, race, or gender identity—to feel comfortable and gather in groups.

It wasn’t until the events of summer 2020 and the murder of George Floyd and other Black Americans that we realized we wanted to come forward and be part of the external conversation. We wanted to do something sustainable, long term, and active, so we created the Peloton Pledge, a four-year $100M investment to fight racial injustice and inequity, while promoting health and wellness for everyone. 

We identified five areas of focus including committing $60M to increase the wages of our own hourly workforce, $20M towards learning and development programs, and $20M to third-party nonprofit organizations that address systemic racism. We also want to make Peloton’s products and content more accessible to underserved communities.

What is the biggest challenge you’re facing?

We knew when we started our anti-racist mission that we weren’t going to get everything right, but we knew we had to start. I think it’s also important to remind ourselves that we need to pause, take time to reflect, and normalize some failures as part of this journey. Peloton has been experiencing an extended period of significant growth, and now it’s time to think about how we embed DEI into our core processes and make it an integral part of literally everything we do. DEI work is one of the biggest strategic priorities our leadership is focused on.

Why is this mission important to you personally and/or to the company?

At Peloton, we want each of our members to see themselves reflected in our instructors, our programming, our music and culture. In my role, I have the ability to impact how we make decisions in this space, including hiring, talent, shaping and creating internal processes, and how we show up for our teammates and communities. The Peloton Pledge is just the beginning for us. This was never meant to be an end point.