Think About It: OIWC president addresses challenges facing industry women

An avid outdoorswoman, Jenni Dow also brings her talents to the outdoor industry as current president of Outdoor Industries Women's Coalition. Here, she shares her thoughts on the three biggest issues that OIWC and outdoor industry women face -- and the changes being made to address these challenges.
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Twin Cities resident Jenni Dow is no stranger to challenge. She has, in fact, made a business of coaching corporate leaders to accomplish their business objectives through her PR/coaching business Dow Marketing Communications and working as PR manager for Fox River Socks.

An avid outdoorswoman, she also brings her talents to the outdoor industry as current president of Outdoor Industries Women's Coalition. Here, she shares her thoughts on the three biggest issues that OIWC and outdoor industry women face -- and the changes being made to address these challenges.

Challenge No. 1: The first issue is that there are not enough opportunities to network and learn from each other. Throughout the years I have been involved in this male-dominated industry, there wasn't a huge opportunity to meet other women and learn from them.

It's definitely better now and I think OIWC is making a difference and there are simply more women in the industry. Still, there is not enough opportunity for women to network, especially outside the trade shows. There is really nothing for women working at the stores and in manufacturing.

The Solution: OIWC is addressing this with events at the various trade shows, not only Outdoor Retailer, but at SnowSports Industries America, Interbike and Adventure Travel Trade Association. In addition, our outreach program is trying to bring women together across the United States.

We have local chapters of OIWC starting across the country -- there are groups forming in places like Portland, Ore., Boulder, Colo., and the Northeast. During those gatherings, we will offer some type of professional development and networking.

We also hope to offer an increased opportunity to network online. That's something we haven't tapped into in the way we will in the future. Whether it's something like Facebook or LinkedIn, we will take advantage of the online networking opportunities that exist. We also plan to have a social networking section on our own website.

Challenge No. 2: Another issue for our industry is communicating information on the professional opportunities available in the outdoor industry to young women. There are a lot of opportunities out there that young women aren't necessarily thinking of.

Solution: We hope to encourage outdoor companies to do recruiting at college campuses in the ways that major corporations are doing. It's important to get the word out that a career in the outdoor business could be super fulfilling and fun. I hope that we can encourage that change through the interaction we have in the industry with our sponsors and the people we talk to.

Challenge No. 3: How do women achieve that work/life balance? This is not new to women who work, but our focus at OIWC really is about that balance -- helping women continue on their career paths, but understand that they have other interests and need time for themselves.

Solution: We hope to help them sort it all out. We are making this part of our seminars, panel discussions and workshops. Also through networking, we want to get women talking about how they balance their lives and families. We are not there yet, but it's a goal of OIWC. One of our initiatives for 2009 is to make it the Year of Mentoring. We want to help connect women to women in leadership positions so they have a chance to discuss this on a more personal level. The OIWC is a great resource to make that connection.

This new 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-winning magazine editor, whose work -- which focuses on outdoor sports, adventure travel, gear and sustainability -- has appeared in magazines from National Geographic Adventure and Outside to Bike and Skiing.

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