Following its board's mandate to focus on the outdoor industry as a whole, the Outdoor Industry Association has parted ways with the Outdoor Industry Women's Council, a specialty group under its guidance for the last two years. OIA had already dissolved its other specialty groups, and the OIWC was the last to go after a 12-month transition, said Frank Hugelmeyer, OIA president.
"We've had a lot of specialty groups within the organization. It was one of the ways the organization built itself in the early years," Hugelmeyer said. "But we've gotten to a point where having multiple boards trying to drive agendas is not a preferable position for us to deliver good benefits to the members. The board has made it very clear that we're not going to be focused on specific small niches. We're going to be a broader organization for the outdoor industry as a whole."
OIA supported OIWC in its mission to promote the advancement and participation of women in the outdoor industry and provided financial and in-kind support, such as marketing, accounting and insurance. To aid the OIWC in its transition to an independent non-profit association, the OIA board gave the group a $25,000 grant.
Kathy Murphy, vice chair of OIWC and general manager of Tubbs Snowshoes, said part of the grant is being used to fund work on the group's website and its upcoming events. The remaining money is in a transition fund that will likely be used for the incorporation fee process. Murphy added that many of its members have volunteered to fill in the gaps left in administrative duties since OIA's departure.
Murphy said the group is doing strategic planning. "We're incubating as we go through some strategic initiatives that (OIWC chairwoman) Neide Cooley is heading up to be able to best determine how to prioritize and allocate these resources."
Moving into 2003, OIWC says will continue to hold its two gatherings at the Outdoor Retailer summer and winter trade shows, as well as give its Pioneering Woman Award and hold the "Chillfest" summer camping trip. For the first time, though, the group will have its own booth at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market and is sponsoring a retail seminar, "Implementing Successful Promotions and Clinics for Women."
That panel discussion on Jan. 31 at the show will focus on outreach programs in schools, universities and communities, retail promotions, and manufacturer-sponsored programs that support local retail. Sharon Leicham, merchandising columnist for GearTrends and SNEWS, former merchandising editor for Outdoor Retailer magazine, and author of the book "How To Sell To Women," will moderate the panel that includes Kim Reynolds founder of Freelance Adventures Inc.; Leslie Ross, founder and director of Babes in the Backcountry; Deanne Buck, marketing director at Mountain Sports in Boulder, Colo.; and manufacturers representative Andrea Dillon.
OIWC will also be holding its Winter Gathering reception on Feb. 2 in Abravnel Hall in Slat Lake City and announcing the recipient of this year's Pioneering Woman Award, which acknowledges a woman who is committed to mentoring female colleagues. This year's nominees include: Nancy Coulter-Parker, editor of Hooked on the Outdoors Magazine; Rachel Ligtenberg, general manager of REI's Seattle Flagship store; Sally McCoy, president of Sierra Designs; Kathy Murphy, general manager of Tubbs Snowshoe Co.; and Dawn Riley, president-elect of the Women's Sports Foundation.
SNEWS View: Although it was not OIWC's choice to be removed from under OIA's umbrella, it is the push this organization required to really begin serving the needs of women in the outdoor industry. OIWC's challenge now will be to generate sufficient funds as well as in-kind service donations to elevate itself beyond the social club many currently perceive OIWC to be and turn OIWC into a force for women that many think the organization can and should be. There is certainly loads of talent on the OIWC board. Now the pressure is on them to deliver with solid strategic initiatives the industry can get behind.