Founded over 20 years ago as the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition (OIWC), Camber Outdoors announced an evolution of its mission to “Equity in the outdoors, from boardroom to backcountry.”
To learn more about the history of this evolution, read the full interview below.
Many people in the outdoors think of Camber Outdoors as a women-focused organization. How does the new mission change that and why?
Camber Outdoors will continue to build-on our foundation and responsibility around women’s leadership in the workplace as a strategic priority. That work is far from done. This evolution builds on the role that Camber Outdoors has been able to cultivate through over 20 years of relationship- and trust-building with current, future, and aspiring leaders in our member companies and the active-outdoor industries as a whole.
One outcome of building trusted partnerships with companies under their commitment to gender equity is the opportunity to serve as a convener of otherwise competitors. As we spent the past 3+ years exploring how best to support the CEO Pledge, we heard time and again that our partners want to hear from each other on what works and what doesn’t work. We then sought to find the best mechanism to facilitate this collaboration and realized that the industry had already built a viable model in the Outdoor Industry Association’s (OIA) Sustainability Working Group that created the HIGG Index.
Since early 2017, have been building the foundation for Workplace Equity Working Group (WEWG) by working with OIA. Last summer, we convened members of our board of directors and CEOs and liaisons from our Peak Partners for a CEO Roundtable. At that gathering we reaffirmed Camber Outdoors’ strength as convener. We discussed and molded the creation of a repository of best practices– a Center of Influence, where partners could easily search how other companies have addressed and solved for specific opportunities to increase workplace equity, inclusion, and diversity. The group also understood the limitations of a gender-only focus and asked Camber Outdoors to explore how elements of diversity intersect with gender identity and expression- ethnicity and race, culture, sexual orientation, and physical ability.
One outcome was the evolution of the mission. We are not leaving women behind. In fact, we are doubling down on those programs that are accelerating progress, such as our Professional Mentoring Program. The mission evolution affords us the opportunity to incorporate more broadly and deliberately all dimensions of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the organization’s programming.
At the end of the day, industry-leading companies are building workplaces where equity is embraced as a strategic business priority and a competitive advantage. These companies build the capacity to welcome and receive people who bring different experiences and perspectives. Member companies that commit to reflecting the demographic composition of participants in the outdoors will attract the best and the brightest talent needed to succeed in an increasingly competitive economy.
How and when is the Equity Working Group being chosen?
The WEWG is launching on July 25 from 3-6pm in conjunction with Outdoor Retailer. We know that not all our partner companies will be able to send a representative, so we will ensure that we provide a platform for partner company liaisons to contribute even if not physically in attendance. The WEWG will convene liaisons from our partners who can speak to or are responsible for workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion practices. We are outreaching and inviting participation and input from our partners committed to expanding participation in the outdoors; their voice and perspective is invaluable.
We are also relying on our partners to let us know who else should be “at the table.” For example, Patagonia reached out and suggested that Angelou Ezeilo, the Founder and CEO of the Greening Youth Foundation would help accelerate success. Because we are collectively building the expertise, we will look to our partners to suggest additional participants and subject matter experts to accelerate the learning and knowledge where we may have gaps.
Finally, we have been working with an extraordinary scholar and practitioner, Harvey Floyd II, who has depth of knowledge and experience in organizational and workplace change to guide us through the initial work of building a solid foundation of shared understandings and goals.
How long has this mission evolution been in the works?
I was looking through the minutes from a 2011 OIWC board meeting. This was the meeting when the board voted to add the word, “advocacy” to its mission. There was discussion back then that focus of the organization would include accelerating change at the systems-level of the workplace. That decision put the organization on a trajectory that became broader than a “woman-focused” organization.
Since that time, the organization has continually grappled with ensuring that every person in our partner companies sees themselves as contributing to the solution of equitable and inclusive workplaces. We served as a convener in the creation and launch of the CEO Pledge in 2015. It was, and still is, a first-of-its kind, industry-focused gender initiative.
In 2016, we changed our name to Camber Outdoors. We felt that the visual of a curve in an otherwise straight line to propel forward movement represented the inclusive nature of Camber Outdoors’ philosophy and approach. The broadening of the mission to equity for all, in conjunction with the launch of the WEWG, allows Camber Outdoors to engage deliberately with partner companies that are committed to accelerating transformation under such programs as the CEO Pledge. It also recognizes that there is still an ongoing need for gender-based efforts to address workplace barriers specific to women while expanding existing or developing new programs to solve for broader DEI gaps, such as recruiting and hiring practices.
From this perspective, the mission change is a natural evolution that will more holistically support our partners and the active-outdoor industries in their commitment to creating an innovative industry that welcomes all.