Recap | Thought Leader Keynote
An Industry Reimagined: A Conversation with Donna Carpenter, CEO of Burton; Sally McCoy, former of CEO CamelBak; Jerry Stritzke, CEO of REI Co-op; and Ken Meidell, CEO of Dakine
Over 650 community leaders, members, and participants gathered to discuss the future of gender equity and women’s leadership in the active-outdoor industries, three years into the launch of the Camber Outdoors CEO Pledge.
Saturday morning’s crowd assembled at the Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show in Denver, Colorado to celebrate pledge progress, and more importantly, to dig in and say, “What’s next?”
Moderated by Amanda Worthington of Heidrick and Struggles, the panel discussion expanded on a white paper highlighting the pledge: Women in Leadership: From Backcountry to Boardroom. Following is a recap of the mornings biggest moments and most thought-provoking insights:
What would be the one piece of advice that you’d give your fellow CEO’s as they think about signing this Pledge?
Jerry Stritzke: Approach it with humility. Recognize that there’s probably a gap to close and that raising your hand creates a degree of accountability, but also enables a conversation.
Ken Meidell: It’s easy to get hung up on the idea that you need to know the answers before you start. Don’t be afraid. Just start.
Donna Carpenter: Be really proactive.
Sally McCoy: It is a cultural change, and you can’t be afraid to open your culture, because you won’t have all the ideas. It has to be open to that dialogue, and you won’t see women or people of color in your pool unless you do outreach.
What was the “aha” moment that made you go, okay, it’s time. Let’s do something about this?
Donna Carpenter: It was 2003 and Jake (Carpenter) came out of a global directors meeting where, out of 25 people there, there were two or three women. He said, “We’ve got a problem.” As an entrepreneur, at a gut level, he knew a lack of diversity was going to hold us back.
Jerry Stritzke: I went on this journey of self awareness and discovered the terminology of unconscious bias. I became a student.
Ken Meidell: My job as a leader is to maximize the contribution of talents of those who work for me, and that means embracing who they are as people. So, I have to make sure that if there are impediments for them, I get them out of the way.
What approaches have you used to get more women in leadership roles, and what have been your biggest challenges as you’ve gone through those?
Jerry Stritzke: You have to insist on seeing a diverse slate of candidates, and you don’t hire until you do. You also have to look for potential. This idea of finding people who have done it already is overrated.
Donna Carpenter: Recruitment—and this was one of our biggest challenges. We would put out a job posting, and we’d get all male applicants. We decided to put in a requirement that the hiring manager had to have a woman as a finalist.
Ken Meidell: The messaging and symbolism have to be deliberate. At every all-company meeting, I talk about how the Camber Outdoors initiative is progressing. People pay attention, and then they focus on it.
Sally McCoy: There is a dominant misogynistic paradigm that women have to be aware of. Women have to try to assert themselves without being perceived the wrong way. It’s a dynamic most people don’t want to talk about, but it’s super important and it stands in a lot of women’s way.
Sally McCoy to Jerry Stritzke: In private conversations, what do male executives say to you?
There is a discomfort with being vulnerable. It’s not a word that’s typically associated with leaders, and it’s not a word that a lot of men are comfortable embracing. But the truth is, signing this pledge, you might discover that you’re part of the problem, and that creates a lot of anxiety. What happens if you’re doing something wrong? Well, you probably are.
Closing Comments: Five years from now, you write at tweet about the state of women in the outdoor industry. What does your tweet say?
Ken Meidell: In ten years, we won’t need a press release every time a women is put into a position of leadership, because it’s utterly unremarkable.
Donna Carpenter: Camber disbands because they have achieved their goals. A great organization should be trying to work itself out of business.
Jerry Stritzke: I am proud of the racial equality that we’re seeing in leadership roles in the outdoor industry.
Sally McCoy: I agree with Jerry.
*This discussion has been edited for length and clarity.