Outdoor Insider Fall 2017 - Page 8

development programs, so their talent development functions are fairly organic. In order to cultivate the next leaders internally, developing talent needs to be a very conscious part of every supervisor’s and every leader’s wheelhouse. When it isn’t front and center for a team or for a leader, because they don’t have the resources to do so, what can happen is leadership becomes more opportunistic. This favors those who reflect the current leadership demographic, be-cause people tend to give the benefit of the doubt to people who look like them.

When employees make connections with leaders, it’s often in informal situations, but not everyone has the same access to those settings. So what the mentoring program does is it creates formality around something that is already in place—but not available to everyone. It also demystifies what it means to pursue leadership opportunities, especially for women. Sometimes people have no idea what it takes to get to the next level of their career. Supervisors aren’t sitting down with their team on a regular basis and saying, “Here’s what leadership looks like in our company. Here are opportunities that are available, if you’re interested in stretching yourself.”

Because your work encourages greater inclusion of women, does it in effect encourage other types of diversity as well? Does a rising tide lift all boats?

We’re about all women. It’s complex, because there are intersections of identity, and individuals prioritize those intersections based on experience. That’s the individual level. When you look at the system level or the organizational level, there are questions like: Are companies creating inclusive work cultures? Are they curious about the needs of their employees? Are they willing to lean in and be uncomfortable and understand what employees need to feel like they can contribute to their workplace?

One example is parental leave, which has primarily affected women in the workplace. Burton has invested in families, and they’ve seen great success. They will say that they did it for women, but that it’s great for everyone. All of their employees love the fact that they can have families and have careers. We are looking at how to create great places for all to work—that’s really the end goal—where diversity and talent thrive. When people have aspirations and feel like they can achieve those aspirations, either at their current job or their career in general, and they see how they can continue to develop as people and as professionals and get to the place where they want to get—that’s really the goal of what we’re doing.

What opportunities do you see for people to learn more about these industries, and for outdoor recreation and education professionals to be part of that?

I think there’s a ripe opportunity for leaders who are really working at the ground level of introducing people to the outdoors, to the activities that we all love, especially at the college and university level. They may have engineers or business-major participants who have never thought that there are companies who need their skills and expertise in order to develop the next iteration of hiking boots. You can say to a participant, “I know you’re in engineering, and I know you love to climb. Did you know that Black Diamond and Petzl are great places to work?” There are entire industries where their skills and talents could be leveraged to contribute to their passion. Sometimes the focus is on going into the parks service or wilderness training, and less on accountants, engineers, and designers—who are also who our industries needs to drive it forward.

What about welcoming more women to the outdoor space in general?

Leaders need a firm understanding or acknowledgement of the influence that they have--not only on the future of the outdoors and who it’s accessible to but also the future of outdoor industries. This means making a concerted effort when people show up—all people to make sure the first experience is welcoming and arms wide-open. We can make sure new participants understand that there is a community from day one, and we can acknowledge that it might be intimidating if a person looks around and doesn’t see a lot of people who look like themselves.

One tangible, and proven, tactic is to host women-specific skills classes that create a space for women to learn from and ask questions of other women. . Research shows that women are often socialized to learn differently than men. Understanding that there are many ways that people learn allows leaders the opportunity, to make outdoor experiences as welcoming as possible and to meet people where they are for as long as possible—that will probably be one of the biggest success factors in bringing more diversity to those programs and to the outdoors.

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'Are companies willing to lean in and be uncomfortable and understand what employees need to feel like

they can contribute to their workplace?'