Industrial Profile 8/16/2012

Deanne Buck, OIWC Executive Director

Deanne Buck, OIWC Executive Director

The Outdoor Industries Women's Coalition (OIWC) has been active since the mid-90s and serves as a non-profit association with the purpose of equipping women to reach professional success in the outdoor industries with advocacy, education, development through networking, providing resources, and handling honors & awards for experienced women in the outdoor industries.

In its nearly 20 years of service, the OIWC has been led by Sally Grimes, who served as the coalition's first and only Executive Director until last month, when Deanne Buck officially started as the new Executive Director of the OIWC on a mission to "significantly move the needle on gender equity and leadership diversity in the workplace... in the outdoor, snow, and bike industries."

Deanne is a consultant working with various start-ups, social enterprises and non-profits within the industry "to create and launch new initiatives, grow existing programs and divisions, open new markets, and fine- tune or overhaul brand inconsistencies." And she clearly has a passion for the outdoors - since her first climbing experience in Omaha twenty years ago, Deanne has worked in the outdoor industry in a variety of capacities and it seems she's here to stay. "One of the things I love the most about the outdoor industry is that for many of us, we came to our careers through our passions, be it climbing, running, biking, paddling, hiking, or skiingĀ”­ I get that most people with whom I interact would rather meet up on the slopes, on the river, in the mountains, or at the crag. I am that person too."

Deanne specializes in organizational change and sustainable business strategy through integrated and visionary thinking and as she smartly states: "Most all of us in the outdoor industry understand how the health of the planet directly impacts a company's bottom line. The obvious reasoning goes something like: if there are no places left to play outside, there will no longer be a need for gear."

Read on for how Deanne plans to bring her past experience in the outdoor industry to her new role as the Executive Director for the Outdoor Industries Women's Coalition and how she plans - with the help of the OIWC board and her talented staff of Amy Luther and Hillary Harding - and under the umbrella of the new vision and mission established last year, to stay committed to working with all of the OIWC's partners to find solutions that can help move the industry to the next level of business sustainability.

What are you most excited about in joining OIWC?
Sally Grimes, OIWC's first Executive Director, built a strong organization that is well respected in the outdoor, snowsports, and bike industries. I am most excited to build on this solid foundation with the talented staff of Amy Luther and Hillary Harding. Under the umbrella of the new vision and mission established last year, we are committed to working with all our partners to find solutions that move us to the next level of business sustainability.  So, the next question is what is business sustainability and what is OIWC's role?


(l-r: Amy skate skiing, Hilary + Amy at Outdoor Retailer, Amy fly fishing)

Recently, California, Hawaii, Maryland, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia enacted Benefit Corporation laws that, in essence, create a legal obligation to a triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit. Similar legislation in seven other states is currently pending. Most all of us in the outdoor industry understand how the health of the planet directly impacts a company's bottom line. The obvious reasoning goes something like: if there are no places left to play outside, there will no longer be a need for gear. More subtle persuasions include minimizing the impact of the products we make, striving for the highest quality possible, and the "cultural cache" and organizational alignment gained by minimizing our collective environmental impact. At the end of the day, however, it is just the right thing to do. This is the "planet" part of what has become known as the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. Proudly, the outdoor industry is well on its way to being a leader in how to do "planet" right.

While the link to "planet" is embraced, the "people" contribution to the bottom line is ripe for development. Specifically, understanding why gender diversity in the workplace matters to our industries is less clear. This is where the OIWC with its new mission comes in. OIWC seeks to be the spark that positions the human-powered recreation industries as the vanguard of triple bottom line success through the elevation of workplace gender equity and leadership diversity to be in equal standing with our commitment to "planet."  This is what gets me out of bed in the morning.

Sally Grimes left big footprints to fill.  Do you find it daunting in anyway?
Sally is one of the most gracious and generous leaders I have met. True to her nature, she has not only blazed a trail, but also handed me a map. One of the unique qualities about OIWC is the high level of collaboration that occurs throughout the organization. Sally's commitment to OIWC's mission has included her involvement as a volunteer, board member, and executive director. She has demonstrated her continued dedication to OIWC's mission throughout this transition and assured me that she is never far away. Because of the level of support I have felt by Sally, my co-workers, the board of directors, our members, and our industries, I am not daunted but honored and empowered to embrace this opportunity.

How has your background in the outdoor industry helped to prepare you for this new role?
One of the things I love the most about the outdoor industry is that for many of us, we came to our careers through our passions, be it climbing, running, biking, paddling, hiking, or skiing. Our commitment to getting outdoors is a critical criterion on our resumes. Our authenticity is really about how we weave the outdoors in our lives- instead of "street cred" it is more like "trail cred." I get that most people with whom I interact would rather meet up on the slopes, on the river, in the mountains, or at the crag. I am that person too.

Most of my work in the outdoor industry to date has been in the conservation realm working first for the Access Fund and then at the American Alpine Club. I will always be committed to conserving the places we play while maintaining access. I am a firm believer that the most direct path to becoming a conservationist is through our experiences in nature. As I mentioned, this is the "planet" part of sustainable business. In my role at OIWC, I now have the opportunity to help develop and elevate the "people" part of the triple bottom line. I look forward to the day when we, as an industry, are able to highlight our gender diversity commitment and successes at the same level as our conservation successes.


Deanne putting her 'trail cred' to the test at Joshua Tree, photo: Nicole Friend

Tell us a little bit about the new mission and vision that the OIWC adopted last year.
In 2011, OIWC expanded its mission to include advocacy. This change allows us to continue our commitment to professional development of the individual woman while building programs of leadership and workplace gender diversity. We have developed keynote speaker programs for Outdoor Retailer (OR) Winter Market, SnowSports Industries America (SIA) and Interbike (IB) titled, "Thought Leaders," to highlight success stories that will help us figure out together how to navigate the gender diversity terrain. And, we are bringing together leaders in the outdoor, snowsports, and bike industries to advise us on how to best work with our partners to move forward our collective endeavor of gender equity and diversity.

This fall, we will be releasing our full workplace study results that examines more in-depth the advocacy issues of underrepresentation of women in leadership and key decision making roles, as well as the low rate of working mothers in our industries. Through this study, we surveyed our membership in the outdoor, snowsports, and bike industries and received our marching orders: 68% of all respondents urged us to champion companies that are excellent places to work for both genders and 67% felt OIWC could make the most impact by working with companies in regard to best practices when it comes to gender diversity retention and advancement. Interestingly, for those in senior management roles, 73% ranked this as our number one priority. According to a McKinsey report, three important steps a company can take to make gender diversity part of its DNA are options for flexible working conditions, mentoring programs for women, and a commitment to gender diversity at the top of the strategic agenda. OIWC is here to help our industries negotiate these changes. Providing tools for companies committed to the gender diversity of their workforce and, specifically, of their leadership teams, will be a cornerstone of OIWC's work moving forward. This will both inform and guide our research and vice versa.

What are key upcoming achievements for the OIWC to successfully 'move the needle on gender equity and leadership diversity in the workplace?'
We will evaluate our success on many levels- an increase in the numbers/percentages of women in leadership roles, movement toward pay equity, greater engagement by more companies in our mission and at higher levels of support, higher retention of key employees, and an increase in a company's bottom line.

Sally poised OIWC to embark on this bold new direction. With the recent change in our mission we are asking the industry and our members to reimagine our organization as not only providing needed resources to the individual employee, but also as partners in an industry-wide commitment to elevate the "people" component of our companies. The great news is that research demonstrates a company's commitment to more women in leadership positions is not only an essential component of a sustainable workplace, but also positively effects the bottom line and is good for business. A 2010 McKinsey survey reveals that the companies where women are most strongly represented at board or top management levels are also the companies that perform best. So, not only is greater gender diversity and wage equity the right thing to do, it is a smart business decision.

We have to know where we are starting to determine our outcome and impact goals. According to a 2008 OIA study titled "Manufacturer Employee Compensation Report (2008)," women are underrepresented in key decision-making roles within the industry:

  • 12% of all OIA company CEOs are women.
    • 0% of OIA company CEOs with sales between $5-$20 million are women.
    • 10% of OIA company CEOs with sales over $20 million are women.

This pattern is ubiquitous in the U.S., and, in fact, the Outdoor Industry is above average. For example, women account for one-third of students in MBA classes but only 2% of Fortune 500 CEOs, 6% of top earners, 8% of top leadership positions, and 16% of board directors and corporate officers. The 50 highest-paid executives in the U.S. are all men. In addition, white men are paid approximately 25% more than white women, 30% more than African-American women, and 40% more than Hispanic women for the same work. We look at this baseline as a great opportunity for all of us. We are committed to looking to the future. Where we are today is a springboard to assess our current reality, for OIWC's partnership to make greatest impact, and our bottom line is a commitment to working with all of our partners to find solutions that move us to the next level of sustainability and business success.

Do you believe the OIWC model can be applied, and find success, in different industry segments?
Yes. Our model is applicable to all businesses and industries that are interested in increasing their bottom lines while moving toward a more ethical business model. We provide networking opportunities to individuals entering the work force, we teach leadership skills through mentoring, skills workshops, and board of director opportunities to women in mid-level manager and director positions, and we work with C-level women and entrepreneurs to meet their needs of building community and connection with women who are tackling high-level leadership decisions. In the near future, we will move into working with companies who are committed to greater diversity of their workforce and of their leadership teams to build inclusive environments and expand opportunities for women at work. It is a multi-faceted model that provides value to any size company and to women at all stages of their careers.

Is OIWC open to adding membership from other similar industries such as the Surf industry and / or broader action sports and similar sports or lifestyle-driven industries?
OIWC's mission is focused on the outdoor, snowsports, and bike industries. The human-powered recreation industries are unique in our fundamental premise that participation and connection to the outdoors are strong considerations for employment. As OIWC's mission currently reads, this is a defining factor in how wide we cast our net.

Kayaking, rafting, and now, standup paddling, are membership areas within our mission where would like to be stronger. A water-based human-powered activity such as surfing would certainly fit our criteria. That said, our immediate priority is to fully engage with those companies that have traditionally categorized under our mission before we look to expand our membership base.

How can interested peoples get involved? Is OIWC also open for men to become members?

Individuals and companies can join on our website at OIWC.org and click on "join" or go directly to: https://oiwc.site-ym.com/general/register_member_type.asp.


Deanne at home with her goats on the hobby farm, photo: Nicole Friend

Provided the organizations goals are met in the coming years, what will OIWC look like in 2017?
OIWC envisions a future in which the outdoor, snowsports, and bike industries are the vanguards for triple bottom line success - placing equal value in people, planet, and profit. OIWC will lead the way in the "people" category by working within our industries to achieve this transformational goal through workplace gender diversity programs that focus on employee retention and leadership development.

OIWC will also look to other industries and feedback from leaders in our industries to set our priorities. We will grow in response to opportunities to achieve this vision. As we set the standard for gender diversity we will serve as a resource and partner for companies that recognize the importance of the triple bottom line. We will continue with our commitment to lean operations that allocate a high percentage of our funds to delivering on our mission while setting the example for employee engagement and respect. Ultimately, our role is to put OIWC out of business. When our industries have achieved respect, inclusion and gender diversity at every level in the workplace we'll have accomplished our goal. It's bold, but I firmly believe the outdoor, snowsports, and bike industries are the platform upon which we can achieve this success.


Deanne is just getting started on her journey with OIWC and beyond, photo: Nicole Friend