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REI announces a $1.5 million grant to help fund future OIWC progams

Published January 23, 2015
Jerry Stritzke at OR on Friday. Photo: Gary Newkirk.

SALT LAKE CITY (BRAIN) — The Outdoor Industry Women's Coalition (OIWC) received a $1.5 million grant Friday from REI to help boost the role of women in the outdoor and bicycle industry.

Jerry Stritzke, REI's president and CEO, announced the grant at Outdoor Retailer's Winter Market at an early morning breakfast for the OIWC to honor women leaders in the outdoor market. He also named 12 CEOs who have pledged to help mentor women as future industry leaders. Pat Cunnane, president of Advanced Sports International and its various brands — Fuji, Breezer, Kestrel and others — is the first bicycle company to join REI's push to bring more women into the active sports industry.

The audience also included a number of representatives from the bicycle industry including Elysa Walk, Giant USA's general manager, IMBA's Rich Cook, ASI's Karen Bliss, Catalyst Communication's Lynn Guissinger, Leisure Trend's Greg Shoenfeld and others.

Stritzke, who took the reins at REI in October 2013, said the companies that have signed on have pledged to accelerate women's leadership in their companies. "Change starts at the top, and coming together like this is a testament to the strength of our shared values," he said addressing an overflow crowd at a Marriott Hotel ballroom.

"This work will change the nature of innovation and leadership in our industry, which is a big part of the U.S. economy supporting 6.1 million jobs," he said.

The grant was made by the REI Foundation to honor REI's founders Mary and Lloyd Anderson. The couple co-founded the cooperative in 1938 that now has more than five million members nationwide with more than $2 billion in annual sales. The co-op has 138 stores in 38 states.

Part of the grant — $500,000 — will be used as a match for new companies who join OIWC's network. "This initiative goes hand-in-hand with a robust mentoring program," Stritzke added, noting a disconnect between the make-up of senior leadership in the industry and opportunities in the marketplace.

"We aren't accessing the full potential talent pool, which is limiting our access to sources of innovation," he warned. The industry, including the bicycle industry, sometimes perpetuates well-worn stereotypes that men are more naturally suited for these activities because women lack so-called "street cred," Stritzke said.

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