There was a lot of talk last week during the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show in Salt Lake City, January 20-24, 2015, regarding just who is the modern outdoors person? From Range magazine’s excellent presentation on the Modern Outdoors Woman, to the New Product TV area interviewing panelists on the Modern Outdoors person in general, to the hugely successful Venture Out section added to this winter’s show, there was significant discussion about the fact that the outdoor demographic has changed, but the industry has not kept up and lacks in diversity. Still.
To be honest, walking the halls of the Salt Lake Convention center during the show, you’ll easily note that the demographic is mostly white middle-aged males. The higher percentages of women were mostly found in areas that exhibited yoga gear or running, or brands with that were on the path of sustainability. And in terms of different ethnicities, it was a rare find.
Which is why the new deal with the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition (OIWC) and REI, which was announced at the show, is at least one very important step in the right direction.
January 23, 2015—Today, Jerry Stritzke, CEO and president of REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.), was joined by 13 industry CEOs who signed a pledge to accelerate women’s leadership in their companies. In addition to the pledge, developed by the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition (OIWC), Stritzke announced a major initiative to spark innovation and mentor women entrepreneurs, supported by a $1.5 million grant.
CEOs who have already signed the pledge lead organizations including Active Interest Media, Advanced Sports–Fuji Bikes, American Alpine Club, Backcountry, Burton Snowboards, CamelBak, The North Face, NPD Group, Outdoor Research, Patagonia, REI, 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,” said Stritzke. “This work will change the nature of innovation and leadership in our industry, which is a big part of the U.S. economy, supporting 6.1 million jobs.”
“We’re thrilled that these companies are making this a visible priority,” said Deanne Buck, Executive Director of the OIWC. “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.”
The REI Foundation is awarding the OIWC a Mary Anderson Legacy Grant of $1.5 million to fund this effort. Mary and Lloyd Anderson co-founded REI in 1938. As one of REI’s first leaders, Mary helped frame what today is the country’s largest outdoor consumer co-op and a community of more than 5 million active members. The grant is a catalyst to unleash the talent of women and spur ideas and will be used in three ways:
1) Building programs and services for the industry—OIWC will provide the industry with valuable research, tools, best practices, and resources to better serve women leaders.
2) Offering match funding—REI will match up to $500,000 for new companies who join OIWC’s powerful member network or elevate their level of membership
3) Creating new opportunities for entrepreneurial women—Leaders of the outdoor industry are launching a new initiative to jumpstart creativity and entrepreneurism among women. Participants will have an opportunity to pitch ideas in live advisory sessions with senior industry executives twice annually. Ideas put forward can be for new products or services – or even how to change the industry. This initiative goes hand in hand with a robust mentoring program that will be run in parallel.
“Companies with more women leaders also enjoy strong financial performance,” adds Buck. “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.”
Here’s more about the pledge.
Stay tuned for more from the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show posting soon. Meanwhile, here’s our report from the Agenda Trade Show earlier this month.