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Jan Lee headshot

14 Outdoor Companies Pledge to Boost Women's Leadership

By Jan Lee

The Outdoor Industries Women's Coalition, along with REI and 13 other outdoor companies, have announced a new goal: boost and support women's participation in key leadership roles.

The pledge to accelerate women's leadership, which was developed by the OIWC, was unveiled by REI CEO Jerry Stritzke last week at the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City. REI, along with other big-name signatories like Patagonia and The North Face, hope the pledge will "drive change across the industry."

Stritzke also announced that REI planned to award a $1.5 million Mary Anderson Legacy Grant toward increasing women leadership in outdoor industries. The grant is named after REI's co-founder Mary Anderson, who with her husband, Lloyd, built REI. The funds will target three key areas:

  • Developing services and programs that will better address the participation of women leaders;

  • Providing matching funding up to $500,000 for companies that join or support the OIWC by elevating their membership;

  • Developing new programs that support mentoring and advisory roles for women who wish to pursue entrepreneurial roles.  New venues will be developed to help foster startups and mentor entrepreneurs as they grow their businesses.

Other industry leaders that have signed the pledge include: Active Interest Media, Advanced Sports–Fuji Bikes, American Alpine Club, Backcountry, Burton Snowboards, CamelBak, NPD Group, Outdoor Research, SmartWool, W.L. Gore & Associates and Wolverine Worldwide.

“Change starts at the top, and coming together like we have is a testament to the strength of our shared values. I encourage other leaders in our industry to join in this commitment,” Stritzke said.

“This work will change the nature of innovation and leadership in our industry," he added, "which is a big part of the U.S. economy, supporting 6.1 million jobs.”

Deanne Buck, executive director of the OIWC, noted that “companies with more women leaders also enjoy strong financial performance. One of the biggest challenges facing outdoor companies is competition for high-quality talent. This grant will give us the momentum we need to make the outdoor industry the employer of choice for women.”

According to statistics published by the  Outdoor Industry Association (2011),  only 12.5 percent of outdoor industry companies with $20 million in sales or more are represented by women.  Statistics for businesses with annual sales of $5 million to $20 million weren't much better: 10.5 percent. Women's leadership figured highest in outdoor businesses that garnered under $5 million in annual sales.

“We’re thrilled that these companies are making this a visible priority,” Buck said. “We’ll be stronger and more innovative as an industry if we build an environment where great ideas born from a diversity of experiences thrive.”

Image of logo: OIWC

Image of Danielle Pardee, triathalon runner: Chris Hunkeler

Jan Lee headshotJan Lee

Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.

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