The gender gap in the male-dominated outdoor industry may start to narrow in the coming years—at least, if REI has any say in the matter.
Speaking at the Outdoor Retailer tradeshow in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jerry Stritzke, REI's CEO and president, announced that the Seattle-based retailer has teamed up with the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition (OIWC) to create the OIWC CEO Pledge. By garnering the support of thought leaders and high-profile outdoor brands, the pledge aims to attract, retain, and ultimately advance greater numbers of women within the industry.
Stritzke announced that the REI Foundation will award OIWC a $1.5 million grant to fund the venture. The money will be used to develop new recruitment tools, implement best practices, and identify promising female entrepreneurs.
"Today, I am surrounded by women leaders on REI's executive team and on our board," Stritzke told the O.R. Daily. "They are a major part of what makes REI tick. I know the outdoor industry stands to gain as much as I have from the leadership that women have to offer. And it's already happening from Backcountry.com [CEO Jill Layfield, pictured right] and CamelBak to Burton, Patagonia, and others. And there's so much more to come."
“Companies with more women leaders also enjoy strong financial performance,” said OIWC executive director Deanne Buck in a statement. “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.”
Thirteen other industry CEOs have already signed the pledge, including those from Advanced Sports–Fuji Bikes, American Alpine Club, Active Interest Media, Backcountry, Burton Snowboards, CamelBak, The North Face, NPD Group, Outdoor Research, Patagonia, SmartWool and W.L. Gore & Associates., and Wolverine Worldwide.
Read more: OIWC