Think About It: OIWC asks, where are all the women?

Earlier this year, SNEWS released its inaugural Power Players list and SGB came out with its 2009 40 under 40. On the bright side, the lists highlight some of the vast talent that exists in our industry. However, there was something disappointing about both lists -- the lack of female representation: only five women out of 25 SNEWS Power Players and only three women on the SGB 40 under 40 list. This got us thinking: Why are there so few women recognized in the outdoor industry? To recognize the women behind women's products, OIWC will launch Intuition & Ingenuity: A Women's Product Showcase at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, available at the SNEWS booth (#22050).
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Earlier this year, SNEWS released its inaugural Power Players list and SGB came out with its 2009 40 under 40. On the bright side, the lists highlight some of the vast talent that exists in our industry. However, there was something disappointing about both lists -- the lack of female representation: only five women out of 25 SNEWS Power Players and only three women on the SGB 40 under 40 list.

This got us thinking: Why are there so few women recognized in the outdoor industry? Is it because there so few women working in the industry? While most of us would agree that we work in a male-dominated industry, it is difficult to find any numbers to accurately identify the ratio of women to men. I would, however, venture a guess that it is higher than the 12 percent recognized by the above accolades.

The good news is that, in the last decade, women-specific products have taken off -- the 2008 OIA Topline report noted above-average sales growth for women's apparel, footwear and accessories. It is refreshing that companies are recognizing the need for products designed specifically for women. Today, women's products are both technical and fashionable, hopefully forever banishing the days of "shrink it and pink it."

The bad news is that the growth in women's products might lead people to the conclusion that there must be women working on these products, but there is no evidence of this, particularly in terms of recognition.

At OIWC, we believe that the companies making the best women's products are doing so because they are putting resources and energy into their female employees. After all, you wouldn't design climbing gear without the input of climbers, so how can you design great women's product without women?

To recognize the women behind women's products, OIWC will launch Intuition & Ingenuity: A Women's Product Showcase at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market. Unlike other showcases, this one not only highlights women's products, it also recognizes the women who develop, design, test and create these products. A Lookbook will be available at the SNEWS booth (#22050) -- use it as a guide to participating companies and look for the Intuition & Ingenuity hangtags, which highlight the women behind each product.

So the big question is: Why, despite advances in gender equality, can it still be a challenge for women to be recognized for their contributions and abilities in the outdoor industry? Is this because of a glass ceiling? Or is it because women are not as good at promoting themselves as men?

In a male-dominated industry, it is easy to blame lack of advancement on this fact alone. In reality, it is a complex question with many factors to consider. To be sure, major advancements have been made by women over the years, but there is still a ways to go.

One key to moving forward is the recognition that men and women have different ways of managing and leading. There are pros and cons to every management style, so there is no one right way to do things.

OIWC Pioneering Woman Award winner Neide Cooley noted, "Women should have confidence in their leadership style. It will always be different than a man's."

In general, women tend to have a more collaborative management style. Critics will say that it slows decision making. However, projects often move forward more quickly since stakeholders have been involved from the start.

It is also important to think about the big picture rather than being self-centered or having tunnel vision.

"You should be true to the truth; focus on what is best for the industry, even if there isn't a direct benefit to your company," said Paige Boucher of Mountain Hardwear. "It will build credibility for both you individually, as well as your company."

The key for women is to be self-aware and, from that understanding, learn to emphasize the positive and compensate for the negative. In doing so, it is important to be authentic -- be true to yourself and who you are; don't try to be something that you are not.

Most people recognize that women tend to have different communications and management styles than men. This isn't a bad thing, it simply means that people -- both men and women -- need to recognize that it isn't necessary to "act like a man" in order to be effective and successful.


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 oiwc@snewsnet.com.

Lisa Morrison is a strategic marketing consultant focused on creating targeted and meaningful marketing programs that reach the right audience and convince them to act. She can be reached at lisamo@magma.ca or 802-393-0330.

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 their website at www.oiwc.org.

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