Think About It: OIWC offers up positive ways to 'rock the boat' in your workplace

Got ideas? Then perhaps it's time to bring them to the table to inspire positive change within your company. Still, as a woman in a male-dominated industry, it can sometimes be challenging to find the right time, place and method to bust out with your ideas.
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Got ideas? Then perhaps it's time to bring them to the table to inspire positive change within your company. Still, as a woman in a male-dominated industry, it can sometimes be challenging to find the right time, place and method to bust out with your ideas.

"Women can be shy at the beginning," said Ce-Ce Plunkett, human resource director at Spyder Active Sports. Still, she added that the right environment or the right personal initiative can make all the difference. For example, at Spyder, where the male/female ration is an impressive 50/50, there is an open-door communication policy for both genders. "Everybody's ideas are welcome," she said.

Since not every workplace may be as encouraging of communication, we offer some tips and real-life stories to help get your wheels of change rolling.

Tips for Change

>> Own your strengths: Before stepping out onto a limb, take some time to reflect on your true strengths and leverage those within your team. "Bring what you are strong at to the table," said Susan Viscon, director of merchandising for action sports at REI. "But also become comfortable looking at someone else and learning how they finesse an area or get through a problem." In fact, connecting with a mentor is an excellent way to gain knowledge and confidence in the workplace.



>> Empower yourself: "One thing a woman must do is empower herself -- get involved in projects a little bit outside your scope," said Laura Wisner, senior marketing manager at Spyder, who added that she learned a lot by watching her female role models at work over the years.



>> Go beyond the issue: It's one thing to point out a problem, but an entirely different skill to help solve it. According to Viscon, having the initiative to be a problem solver -- and not just tossing issues onto the table -- is imperative in today's workplace. "When I was nominated for the outdoor industry's '40 under 40', Terri Pearlman (an REI product manager in snowsports) came into my office and said, 'It's a shame that there are only three women nominated,'" said Viscon. Instead of complaining, the two decided to take a proactive stance and help nominate more women in the future.



>> Make it about business: According to Donna Carpenter, co-owner, founder and director of women's initiatives at Burton, it's vital to demonstrate how your idea for change will positively impact the business. "You have to shift the culture when you make proactive initiatives," she said. "So, you really need to make a business case for it."



>> Build relationships: Having strong relationships in your company and within the industry can only be a help to your career and your change-inspiring ideas. "Building partnerships and relationships is a business essential," said Viscon. "And, having those resources can be particularly effective when you are working on things collaboratively."

Case in point: Change for all

Viscon was able to help inspire change within her workplace at REI by proactively reacting to low scores received in one area of an employee survey. "It was from the survey response, 'Someone made a personal investment in me and my supervisor gave me clear direction,'" she said. "So, we implemented monthly, one-on-one meetings with managers and their direct reports so they could dedicate time to talk about direct development, almost like an informal mentoring program." As a result, the approval scores on this issue shot up from 60 percent to 90 percent the following year. "I loved getting that feedback so we could work with our managers and tackle that change," she said.

Case in point: Change for women

When Spyder's Wisner had children and found it important to breastfeed and be a full-time working mother, she decided to inspire some positive women's-specific change in the workplace. "I brought in my pumps and shut my door two times a day and kept my milk in the marketing department fridge," she said. The rewards extended even further than breastfeeding in the workplace. "Because I had that balance, other women were able to recognize that they too could function as a woman, as well as a business person in the workplace."

On a similar note at Burton, maternity leave and flex time policies are designed to help encourage women to take leadership roles. "When I first started doing these programs, women were afraid to tell their bosses they were pregnant," said Carpenter. "But, as a company, we've invested so much in her career, to have her leave at the height of it is nuts for everybody. It's such a transitional, short period of time and then you can get right back on track without missing a beat."

In the end, more and more companies today are looking to female employees for innovation, direction and diversity. So, there has never been a better time to step forward with well-thought-out strategies and ideas for your company.

This ideal abounds at Burton, where Carpenter has put numerous programs in place to help with diversity at all levels of the company. "The research firm Catalyst said, 'Diversity is not a feel-good or do-good initiative, it's a bottom line initiative,'" she said. "Companies that are more diverse at senior levels are ultimately more profitable than those that are not."

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.

Erinn Morgan is an award-wining magazine editor from New York City who has relocated to Colorado to pursue her outdoor passion and a freelance writing career. Her work -- which focuses on outdoor sports, adventure travel, gear and sustainability -- has appeared in publications from National Geographic Adventure and The New York Times to Outside and Mountain Bike.

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.

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