Inclusivity in Travel and at EF
A candid conversation with Leslie Anselme, Program Manager for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging for EF North America.
Hi! My name is Leslie Anselme. I am the Program Manager for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging for EF North America. Before taking on this role, I worked on the HR/Benefits team at EF, and I am currently pursuing a Masters in Human Resource Analytics and Management from American University.
Growing up on Long Island with Haitian immigrant parents, travel meant going to see family. My parents would take my brother and I to Boston, Montreal, Miami, and the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia area) to see relatives, but they always incorporated activities that allowed us to explore these areas, learn about their histories and have fun. We also visited the Caribbean often, which always felt like home to me. Even now, I make a point to visit a new Caribbean country each year.
That was the extent of my travels when I started working at EF. I didn’t have the opportunity to travel to Europe until I won a trip to Paris to cheer on EF Pro Cycling at the final stage of the Tour de France. It was the first time I really felt out of my comfort zone in my travels, and I loved that feeling of newness and exploration—I quickly became addicted.
What has been your favorite place visited so far and why?
I went to Eastern Europe two years ago with EF and was blown away! I fell in love with the history, the food, and the cities. Prague looked and felt like a fairytale. You couldn’t tell me I wasn’t the Queen of Genovia as I crossed the Charles Bridge. The entire eastern European trip was amazing. Aside from the beauty of these cities, I also got to learn so much about the history of the communist regimes in these nations. The museums, images, and stories will stick with me forever. EF Ultimate Break has a highlights of Eastern Europe trip that hits Prague and more!
What do you enjoy most about working as Program Manager, DEIB for EF North America?
I love the opportunity that I have to connect with people from all our departments, offices, and regions. Our goal is to weave DEIB into everything that we do, and in doing that I get the opportunity to learn so much about our employees, our customers, and our business. In these discussions and meetings, I also get to learn about the experiences of our staff members. These new perspectives allow me to tackle my role using a more holistic approach. It's so important to recognize that we see the world based on our own identities and experiences, and we must work on expanding those viewpoints as much as possible. Because so many of us are committed to this work, we also hold one another accountable. We’re all on a journey to do better and we can’t do it alone. My team publishes an Accountability page internally for staff to keep them updated on what we’re working on and to ensure transparency. We’re holding ourselves accountable on this team, and at EF.
It's so important to recognize that we see the world based on our own identities and experiences, and we have to work on expanding those viewpoints as much as possible.
Your role with EF is to make the company's products and services, like EF Ultimate Break, more inclusive. What does that mean in practice? What changes are you instituting?
Internally, we have been supporting our staff with DEIB-focused training and professional development opportunities that have helped to grow an inclusive workforce, as well as a greater sense of belonging in our offices. We have also updated the way that we recruit and source talent in a commitment to diversifying our candidate pool and workforce. Over the last year, we have really grown our Employee Resource Groups, or “EFinity” groups. These communities, which include Black@EF, Latinos@EF, LGBTQ+ @ EF, API (Asian and Pacific Islander) @ EF, and Parents @EF, provide employees with a brave space to network with, share, and learn from colleagues who identify similarly as well as allies. We’re excited to see new groups developing in the future.
In addition, several of our products have audited and updated their itineraries to be more inclusive in both opportunity and accessibility. This year, we have added an amazing Language Coordinator to the team to begin the process of translating many of our documents and traveler resources into Spanish to account for a large population of the United States. Some of our products have also developed and expanded their scholarship and grant opportunities. Externally, we are making sure that all of our travelers are represented in our marketing and social media. This is just the beginning, and our goal is to adhere to the commitments we made in 2020.
As a Black woman that's traveled quite a bit, have you faced challenges anywhere you've been?
Whether traveling on my own or with a group, safety is my number one priority, but I navigate travel just like I navigate my life in the United States. I make sure to do research and stay alert and prepared. Depending on where I go, sometimes I get stared at which can obviously be a little uncomfortable, but I'm fortunate that this has been the extent of that in my travels thus far.
What advice do you have for people that want to travel more but are hesitant?
Something I learned later in life is that the world is mine too. The world is also my oyster. Although it can sometimes feel like the opposite is true, we absolutely deserve to travel and explore and experience new things. It's up to us to create these opportunities to get out and see something different. Start small if you can. Explore parts of your city that you haven't seen yet. Take a day trip to the next state for a hike or a lobster roll (can you tell I live in New England?). For bigger trips, start where you feel comfortable—group travel is a great option for new travelers.
I also follow several young travel bloggers for great tips and ideas on Instagram. TikTok is filled with people exploring their own cities. The possibilities are endless. Get out there.
March was Women's History Month. At EF Ultimate Break, we constantly hear stories from our women travelers about how much travel shaped who they are. From the new cultural experiences to the incredible friends they make during our trips, there's a sense of empowerment and community that travel can give women. Do you share that sentiment based on your own travel experiences?
Absolutely. Traveling to me is so empowering. There is something about challenging your comfort zone, owning your itinerary, and simply putting yourself out there. Everywhere I have visited, I have interacted with amazing women who told me where to go, where to stay away from, and who were always down to chat. Whether I am traveling with my friends or on a group trip, I've had the pleasure of building and strengthening bonds with other women.
One of my favorite things is to hear the travel stories of older women; women who are retired, women on missions to bring back souvenirs for grandchildren, and women who have no problems traveling solo without friends or family simply because they wanted to. These women inspire me to keep going.
What are some organizations or resources you'd suggest following?
These travel BIPOC women travel bloggers not only share their experiences and tips, but they also highlight other travelers and the work they do.
I love these organizations for resources on traveling as a person of color or a member of the LGBTQ+ community. They share safety tips, suggestions, deals, experiences and opportunities to network with other travelers.
Travel can feel so intimidating when you're starting out, but there are so many resources to get you going.
All photos courtesy of Leslie Anselme.