Outdoor industry’s gender equity grows as companies elevate women
In what is emerging as the Year of Women, the outdoor industry is leading the charge in elevating more women into leadership positions.
With women unleashing their power in Hollywood and technology industries grappling to advance women into top offices, outdoor businesses — which gather this week in Denver for the newly blended Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show — are boasting progress in promoting women.
“You can’t be succeeding in the women’s market if it’s just guys around the table,” said Donna Carpenter, the chief executive of Burton Snowboards who has prioritized gender equity with a goal of 51 percent women leaders in her company, 51 percent of Burton’s sales to women and more than half of all snowboarders being women. “You have to have women in strategic decision making. The outdoor industry has an opportunity here to say, ‘Hey, we take this seriously.’ ”
Two years ago, Boulder’s Camber Outdoors, a 22-year-old group promoting women’s equality in the outdoor industry, launched its own CEO Pledge, with about a dozen companies committed to bolster leadership opportunities for women. Since 2015, more than 75 outdoor company executives have committed to attract, retain and advance more women as a cornerstone business strategy, including bosses from Burton, W.L. Gore, CamelBak, Specialized, SRAM, Patagonia, REI and Arc’teryx.
Camber released a report Monday describing how the work has unfolded in the $887 billion outdoor industry, with executives describing the internal policies they’ve used to recruit women and keep the female employees they have moving up the corporate ladder. CamelBak has increased the number of women engineering its gear from zero to 30 percent of the total by developing relationships with schools. Burton boosted retention of workers in jobs that require a lot of travel with an infant-travel policy that covers care — in-home or on the road — for the first 18 months of a child’s life.
The outdoor industry’s growing push to advance more women dovetails the industry’s unified effort to become a social, political and economic force capable of swaying public policy. The outdoor industry can and should be a role model for all other industries, Camber Outdoors executive director Deanne Buck said.
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