Women make up almost half of the working population and lead some of the country’s biggest corporations. Yet despite society’s advancements in the past few decades, in many respects, we still have a ways to go to even out the playing field of Corporate America.
To learn more about what women wanted in their professional setting, OIWC launched its 2009 Career Satisfaction Survey, “Are Your Women Satisfied?” The results show that one’s job is so much more than a paycheck, with the top five quality-of-life benefits being:
professional development training or seminars
clear performance reviews/policies
relaxed dress code
subsidized or discounted gear or services
So how does a company keep their women happy? For industry companies, survey author Ali Sacash-Johnson said she believes that adding such quality-of-life benefits would be “an easy slam-dunk.” The outdoor, snow, bike and fitness industries are in the unique position of being able to offer meaningful perks that substantially enhance their female employee’s quality of life. Despite a rocky economy and major cutbacks by many companies, sports-based industries are still poised to attract and retain employees due to the ease to offer discounts and gear deals.
“Incentives don’t always have to be financially based,” said Sacash-Johnson. “Just because a company isn’t making money, doesn’t mean that the employees aren’t working hard. This is a group that enjoys alternative perks, and the industry is perfectly aligned to provide such benefits.”
For many companies, setting up a solid pro deal or discount on goods and services is not an extremely difficult undertaking, nor is it an expensive investment.
Survey results noted that mentorships and clear performance reports registered lower on the survey scale. With about 68 percent of women in the outdoor industry having undergraduate or graduate degrees, it would seem that college-educated women would want the necessary feedback that would give them the opportunity to progress higher up the ladder. Eighty-five percent of companies in the outdoor industry are offering official professional development training.
“Investing in current employees does not have to be expensive or formal. If a company has a good writer on staff, they could help coach younger employees with effective email communication. Or, pick a day for a brown bag lunch and pull in a senior executive for thirty minutes to speak about how they got into their specialty,” she said.
Sacash-Johnson said she was surprised to see that an all-women survey provided results where women-centric issues were so far down on the totem pole. “Generally speaking, there is a very low birth rate in the outdoor industry. It appears that women are either having kids and leaving the job or simply just not having kids.”
Women are a permanent part of the U.S. workforce, so it’s surprising that some companies (and even a substantial portion of public opinion) haven’t yet fully come to terms with the tradeoffs inherent in raising a family and working. The survey suggested that despite not asking for specific women-centric benefits, women still valued flex time as their overall priority. Working moms will always need a flexible schedule and will expect a company to understand that.
In a field dominated by men, GreenOrder, a sustainability consultancy firm, has made significant strides to enable all employees, regardless of gender, to have favorable benefits. It permits employees to work from home once a week, grants unlimited vacation time, gives working moms priority to local projects that require less travel, encourages community involvement and supports a healthy working environment.
Stephen Linaweaver, who is in charge of the San Francisco office and an avid outdoorsman, said, “Being outside and enjoying life is what drives people to work in this field. It is critical that the managers help foster that environment.”
This expectation is not industry-specific. Netflix is a prime example of a company that goes the extra mile to provide premium quality-of-life benefits “to increase employee freedom as we grow, rather than limit it, to encourage attracting and nourishing innovative people, so we have a better chance of long term success.” Netflix nixed the 9-to-5 day policy and eliminated its vacation policy. It is focusing on what people get done, not how many hours or days they work.
It is evident that no matter the size of the company, it is the employee who has outgrown the protocols and procedures of yesteryear.
Today’s workforce has different demands than those of our parent’s generation, and companies like GreenOrder and Netflix have made changes to grow with the changing times. As the OIWC survey suggests, it is imperative that, regardless of the industry, the corporate culture needs to be malleable and accommodating to today’s workforce. After all, who knows what tomorrow will bring?
Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition is a membership community of professionals in the outdoor industries united to provide power, influence and opportunity for women in outdoor-related businesses and to generate champions to inspire other women. For more information, visit its website at www.oiwc.org.
This monthly column, a partnership between OIWC and SNEWS®, aims to address the issues that concern women in the industry most -- anything that is controversial, topical or newsworthy relating to women and the outdoors. The goal is to help, educate, inspire and grow. We welcome your ideas, gripes, thoughts and comments. Bring it on. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Devon Sibole is an account executive at OutsidePR, an outdoor-oriented public relations and sports marketing firm in San Francisco.