Last week, Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was accosted by Republican Congressman Ted Yoho, who in front of reporters called her a f***ing b**** on the steps of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. This was, according to reports, an unprovoked attack. He did this when he was walking shoulder to shoulder with Republican Representative Roger Williams and in front of the media. The story was reported in The Hill. Since that incident originally took place, it has been covered extensively in the media. In fact, it also broke C-SPAN Twitter video records, as well. The clip is C-SPAN’s most-retweeted ever, according to C-span communications director Howard Mortman.

Regardless of your politics or opinion of Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, the Congresswoman eloquently reminded us during her remarks on the floor of the House of Representatives last week that all women deserve to do their jobs and be treated with respect. It is sad that this behavior still exists and was on full display on the steps of the Capitol. It was prevalent when I started my career in Washington serving as a lobbyist for the Mayor of New York City. And in the nearly three decades I have been involved in the outdoor industry, I have witnessed sexual harassment incidents on trade show floors, in meetings, and at events. It needs to stop. This incident provides an ugly glimpse into today’s workplace reality that extends to all professions and the fact that there is still a great deal of work to do to effect true change.

Why is this relevant to the audience of SNEWS and colleagues in the outdoor industry? Because we are not immune to this behavior and women who work in our sphere continue to face the issue of a hostile workplace, as we have seen in studies and stories by Camber, SNEWS and Outside magazine.

After deciding she could not accept Congressman Yoho’s “apology”, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez decided to take action. She addressed the incident on the House floor and thoughtfully outlined her point of view in a measured, straight forward manner with precision and passion, but not emotion. She spoke about this incident as an issue that all women continue to face, and to which they can relate. “It impacts all of us,” she said. She clearly had prepared these remarks and given a great deal of consideration to their structure. Her speech lasted roughly 38 minutes, had a beginning, a middle, and an end. By the time she had finished speaking, she had made her case crystal-clear for why she was not accepting the so-called apology from Congressman Yoho and why his apology was nothing of the kind.

Author Connie Schultz commenting on MSNBC said: “Yoho and his crew would have liked her to just let it drop. Instead she said, you know what, permission denied. Permission denied. If you’re going to do this, we’re going to talk about it so all of America can have a conversation.”

Her planning, practice, and clear delivery made all the difference in the world. She did what any effective CEO or leader would do when faced with commenting on a sensitive and controversial topic. With a steady hand, she skillfully helped Congress wake up to the insidious nature of unchecked sexual harassment and in doing so landed on the front page of The New York Times, not in the middle in the politics section. It is incredibly hard to get on the front page of the “Gray Lady.”

This strategy was a master class in PR about how to attack a painful issue in a way that is relatable and understandable. It is an excellent skill to perfect for our industry, as we not only address gender equity and sexual discrimination, but also, diversity.

These kinds of discussions are never easy, but they are necessary and they are hard. We are making some progress in the outdoor community, but there is much work to do. We are seeing more female CEOs and female board members in the outdoor industry: e.g. Outdoor Retailer, where the majority of management is female. We’re seeing it at companies such as LifeStraw, Smartwool, and Vail Resorts, not to mention my colleagues in the PR agency world and media trade outlets. Respect Outside is making inroads by providing sexual-harassment prevention training to businesses in the outdoor industry, including manufacturers, retailers, outfitters, nonprofits, government agencies, camps, and universities.

Let’s keep working together to establish an environment where women in the outdoor industry are treated with respect and have a clear path to a gratifying future.

Related

People walking through a lobby at Outdoor Retailer trade show

Op-Ed: To be a force, we need the national trade show

For too long now, there has been frequent chatter and some discord around our industry’s ecosystem of national and regional trade shows: the number of shows and their purpose, timing, cost and business need. The persistence of these grumblings means we have issues we need to ...read more

misadventures

I'm fired up: It's time to feature more women in outdoor media

In 2013, after years of subscribing to outdoor magazines, and rarely seeing women on the pages or in the bylines, Zoe Balaconis, Marybeth Campeau, and I decided to do something about it. We founded Misadventures, an outdoor and adventure magazine for women. After all, ...read more

womenlogo

I'm Fired Up: Andrea Charest on motivating more women to rope up

It’s a beautifully sunny, January day, as I belay Izzy Lazarus up to the first pitch ice-screw anchor on Twenty Below Zero Gully (WI4+) at Lake Willoughby, VT. Izzy is a former student and employee, and she’s come back East for a short visit for women’s clinics at the Smuggs ...read more

Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2018 show floor shot from above

Op-Ed: Let’s redirect some of our trade show dollars to supporting what really matters

Outdoor Retailer brings together some of my favorite people in the world, people I am so grateful to call friends and colleagues. I thoroughly enjoy getting together with these fine people of the outdoor and snowsports industry. But the reality is that the thrice-annual OR shows ...read more

Nearly half a million people showed up for the Women's March on Washington on Jan. 21, the day after President Donald Trump's inauguration. // Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Op-Ed: Why it's time for outdoor women to act

Outdoor women are strong as hell, says Misadventures writer Carolyn Highland. It's time to band together and get to work. This story was first published at misadventuresmag.com. Let’s be honest. On Nov. 8, the country made a decision that put everything we hold dear under ...read more

Casey Hanisko, ATTA

How do we mitigate the impact of adventure travel?

People don’t buy gear to have new stuff. They buy it because they need it. The Adventure Travel Trade Association, with member gear companies, tour operators, and destinations, typically focuses on the experiences people have with the stuff you sell them. But Casey Hanisko, who ...read more

The American Alpine Club's boulder at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2018

Op-Ed: We have a trade show crisis

If you were one of the few people who attended the 2018 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market when it debuted in the November time slot, you know it was pretty grim. “Ghost town” was how many people described it. What happened? Industry members didn’t find it relevant, so they didn’t ...read more

black and white image of an array of aluminum cups (swag) on a wooden table

Op-ed: Enough with the swag, already!

The first time I went to Outdoor Retailer, my eyes bugged out. The multi-story booths, abundance of plaid flannel shirts, and general scale of it all were sights to see, to be sure. But I was focused on the swag. I had just started as an editor for SNEWS, and this was my first ...read more

Nate Porter Salida Mountain Shop standing in front of accessories in blue shirt

Op-Ed: The outdoor industry makes way too much stuff. We can use this unprecedented moment to fix it.

The outdoor industry makes way too much stuff. That has ramifications all down the line. There is a lot of product in the marketplace that retailers don't buy from vendors, and that customers wouldn’t miss if they never saw it. I would like to see lines shrink overall and focus ...read more