Outdoor Retailer: When Women Lead

It’s well known that only 4 percent of Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs. But the outdoor industry, which backs liberal stands on the environment and public lands, targeting young and progressive customers—isn’t much better. For instance, women represent only 37 percent of the National Park Service workforce.

At the Outdoor Retailer show last week, a panel of seven women discussed and answered questions about these lopsided statistics. The seminar’s description tried to be upbeat, saying that for these few women executives, “power and potential are unlimited.”

The panel of outdoor-industry women, including Heather Rochfort from JustAColoradoGal.com, Georgia Miranda from Altitude Seven, Jennifer Vierling from Tailwind Nutrition, Tsedo Sherpa-Ednalino from Sherpa Adventure Gear and Haley Robison from Kammok, discussed the struggle to change the status quo and what the outdoor industry would look like if more women were in leadership positions—a better stand for equality and a larger representation of real women, especially when you look at the current marketing strategies.

A lot of people don’t think to look at the adverts of beautiful men and women equally sharing risk and adventure for the times of their lives. Most company decisions, including marketing, are made by men in business suits—men, the panelists argue, who make it hard for women to break into the industry.

The panelists talked about the challenges in breaking into higher levels of management, their personal feelings and experiences in a male-dominated environment—the feelings of condescension, the overlooking, and the unintentional patronizing.

The discussion was driven by independent and unadulterated feminism. These were anything but man haters. Instead, they operated from a simple notion that everyone is equal in all things—even in outdoor businesses. The panel spoke of their values, including Haley Robison and Heather Rochfort, and how they stuck to those values. How they spoke up when they were afraid and how they, unlike many of the men about them, did not fear change and conversation about change.

Heather Rochfort, head of JustAColoradoGal.com (one of the most popular outdoor blogs in Colorado), says, “Don’t be afraid to stick to your values, but be open to change.” That’s solid advice for any women trying to make a difference in their careers—or life in general. Don’t apologize for being yourself, but don’t limit yourself with closed-mindedness. Change is the keystone for progression.

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