Dr. Velma Trayham has been an expert in diversity, equity, and inclusion for over a decade. After opening a digital marketing and public relations firm in Houston 10 years ago, Trayham began attracting clients seeking to engage more with their communities. Her company, Thinkzilla Consulting Group, made a shift into the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) sphere as thought leaders reshaping diversity in a multitude of industries and government agencies. 

“Before people started using the buzzword ‘diversity’ we were already doing the work,” Trayham said. “We were already making the impact and helping corporations tap into underrepresented communities and giving the resources needed to help minority and Black businesses get to the next level.”

Now, Trayham is encouraging companies in the travel industry to diversify their brand cultures by being proactive instead of reactive to the cultural diversity challenge. Her company and other DEI firms are helping brands tap into minority buying power and bridge the gap to build supplier diversity programs so they can become more diverse. As one of the fastest-growing diversity and inclusion firms in the world, Thinkzilla Consulting Group is paving a new path for people of color in the workforce and giving companies the blueprint to succeed in the DEI space. 

“I think it’s very important because having the right DEI programs; they can create a positive economic impact,” she said. 

Photo credit: @WOCInTech

Realizing the word ‘diversity’ wasn’t even being used 10 years ago, Trayham says most brands have a lack of diversity in the workplace and need help navigating potential diversity and inclusion opportunities. Instead of allowing these opportunities to fall through the cracks, Trayham encourages travel brands to seek out DEI consultants to assist them in making a real impact. 

“A lot of companies are having dinners and sponsoring and saying that they are diverse,” she said. “Well, that’s not diversity. Diversity is really making an impact and having something that you can measure it against.”

Currently, the travel industry is comprised of 64 percent white professionals, with only 10.4 percent of the industry identifying as Black or African-American. Trayham believes this is a huge opportunity for the travel industry to diversify its workspaces and create an environment where innovation and creativity can flourish. 

“Having a diverse workforce enables a company to be more innovative; having more voices and having more people sit at the table that is of diversity,” she said. “The old things that used to work, they’re not working anymore. So the only way a company is going to thrive in today’s times is innovation, and diversity, equity, and inclusion are the ways to go in terms of innovation.”

Photo credit: Christina Morillo

Trayham encourages travel brands to do an assessment to determine areas that can be strengthened within the company. She also says they should create a strategic plan with DEI embedded into the structure, and outline and implement all DEI goals and objectives they intend to accomplish. In order to be successful, Trayham believes brands should have DEI woven into their organizational culture and always be seeking out new ways to be inclusive, including diversifying company leadership and being intentional in their hiring and recruiting. 

“Most companies, they’ve yet to identify DEI as a central focus to the organization’s success and well-being,” she said. “When I say success and well-being, do they have a mission and a vision statement that’s inclusive and has diversity in the toning? It has to start with the overall culture of the company.”

In a world where everyone has a voice and social media spreads information like a wildfire, Trayham says it is pivotal that the travel industry places DEI initiatives and programs at the forefront. Without diversity, she believes brands will notice a decrease in growth and innovation due to a lack of diverse professionals spearheading them in the right direction. 

“If you’re not innovating, you’re dying,” she said. “If the company is not inclusive, then the company is dying.”

Related: Black Travel Alliance Campaign Shows Lack Of Diversity In Travel Industry