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Outdoor panel: Break out of the mold to hire more women

Published October 2, 2013

SAN DIEGO, CA (BRAIN) — When CamelBak began a search to hire a female engineer, it took three years to find the right person. But that’s the level of commitment that’s needed to bring more gender diversity to the outdoor industry, said Sally McCoy, president and CEO of CamelBak.

Sitting on a panel hosted by Deanne Buck, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Women’s Coalition, at the Outdoor Industry Association Rendezvous, McCoy spoke candidly about hurdles to hiring more women in the outdoor industry and ways to overcome them.

"We have so many people with bike knowledge it’s sickening; we need people thinking differently and bringing different perspectives we don’t have" — Pat Cunnane, ASI

McCoy said leaders have to acknowledge and overcome biases about hiring women, particularly for roles such as engineering, product and sales. “We all have ingrained prejudices about what we hear and how we take women’s input. We all have biases,” she said. But she said if you put those biases aside, you might be surprised, noting that CamelBak’s best salesperson on the military side of its business is a woman.

Pat Cunnane, CEO of Advanced Sports International, said hiring outside of the traditional industry hiring pool expands diversity. ASI employs 15 women, and of them only two had bike industry experience when they started. Now, all 15 have bike industry experience.

“You actually have to buy in, because as a leader you decide. There are so many arguments against hiring someone that doesn’t fit the mold. The only way to have diversity is to open it up,” he said. “We have so many people with bike knowledge it’s sickening; we need people thinking differently and bringing different perspectives we don’t have.”

McCoy also noted the talent wars to attract and retain talented women when they may have more lucrative opportunities in other industries. “Other industries might have more appeal because then you can make enough money to go climb any mountain, you don’t need that pro deal,” she quipped. 

For company leaders looking to increase gender diversity at their companies, the panelists suggested starting by identifying what percentage of female employees work at your company, what percentage work at senior levels, and measuring whether there is a pay gap between male and female employees.

Topics associated with this article: Advocacy/Non-profits

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