Q&A: Deanne Buck, executive director, Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition

Our Q&A with OIWC Executive Director Deanne Buck at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2013 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 23-26. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives. Today we revisit a Q&A with OIWC Executive Director Deanne Buck.

Deanne Buck, executive director, Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition

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A diverse workforce often is overlooked as a factor in achieving customer inclusivity, says Deanne Buck, the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition’s executive director. And OIWC has a new advocacy mission: It’s poised to help make a more diverse outdoor industry a reality. The effort will even benefit the planet, she tells us.

Expect to hear a lot more from OWIC in the coming months and years as the organization expands into workplace diversity programming, along with providing other new resources and benefits. The organization aims to challenge some long-held industry ideals — such as what defines a great outdoor employee. 

Last summer marked your 18th season at Outdoor Retailer — but it was your first as OIWC’s executive director. How did it differ from the other times you’ve attended?
Most of my interactions were about reintroducing myself and highlighting OIWC’s new mission. To date, I had been on the conservation and sustainability side of the conversation. In my role at OIWC, I am now talking with industry leaders about how to bridge the gap between current and future customers. OIWC believes that an inclusive customer base is critical to a healthy, successful industry. One proven way to achieve this goal is through a diversified workforce. Until our entire industry buys into and supports workplace gender equity and diversity, we’re all missing the chance to expand our collective reach.

Since you’ve been with OIWC, what initiatives have you worked on, and what are you planning for the future?
My goal for the first three months was to understand the strengths of the organization both internally and within the industry and what our new mission could mean to the industry, our members and our corporate partners. Through feedback, research and reaching out we received our marching orders: Continue our commitment to professional development while building programs of women’s leadership advancement and workplace gender diversity.

What are some of the challenges you anticipate in the coming years?
The biggest challenge we’ll face in the next two years will be rebranding OIWC to our corporate partners. OIWC is in an enviable position of having a solid reputation as a resource for women employees in the outdoor industry. As we expand into workplace diversity programming, we will also be expanding the resources and benefits we are able to provide to our partners. OIWC understands that the pathway to change is different for each industry, company and type of business, and that one size does not fit all. Over the next two years, we will be building organizational capacity in order to serve as thought partners with companies and business leaders to develop customized solutions that build and sustain workplace inclusion.

What is OIWC currently working on and what do you hope the organization will get out of it?
We recently released our 2012 Workplace Summary, in which we looked at four trends relevant to the industry’s ability move the needle on gender diversity: lack of women leaders, values that make for an ideal workplace, low rate of working parents and the organic path to leadership. In some ways, all of these takeaways revolve around what one could call “trail cred,” our passion for our activities, or what it means to be authentic. The opportunity to prove oneself at work (or to even get the job in the first place) is typically tied to our experiences. Our commitment to getting outdoors is a critical criterion on our resumes. For example, if you aren’t an accomplished traditional climber, the chance that you are heading up this department is slim regardless of your knowledge of the product. We understand and recognize that this is part of our culture that’s not going to change. The question we as an industry need to ask ourselves is: We are doing a good job of connecting to passion, but are we doing it to the exclusion of other values that could increase our workforce diversity? It’s a bit of a conundrum. To quote Joel Heath, global marketing director for Teva, we know our business will “die a death in the middle of the woods by itself” if we don’t target a broader range of consumers. Yet, we still maintain this stringent lens on who qualifies as authentic.

What will OIWC look like in 10 years?
The answer to this question is itself a question: What do we collectively want the industry to look like in 10 years? Part of finding that answer is having a conversation with the industry about what we want our customer and participant base to look like in 10 years, and how is that reflected in our workplace.


--Ana Trujillo

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