Ellen Johnson from Pacific Cycle received a Pioneering Woman award from the OIWC Thursday afternoon at Interbike. Richly deserved.
Ellen worked her way up from her Seventies retail roots in Champaign, Illinois, through successful stints at Specialized, Mongoose and Huffy, to a position of great power and influence.
The fact that she works on the Mass side of the aisle (they call them Massholes, and we hope that’s a term of affection) has held her back from proper recognition by her peers. As has her self-effacing, easy-going personality.
This year, a group of guys she has dazzled with her intelligence and patience stuffed the ballot box in her favor. Thanks to Gary Coffrin, Dan Nall, Blair Clark, Larry Pizzi and others for their efforts.
Ellen was up for a similar award once before, back when the BRaINys first started. Remember the dress-up events at the Hard Rock back in 2001-2002?
She was in the running with Georgena Terry and Alyssa Margolin, a DC attorney who had a good year running the LAB (and left six months after winning the award for a different non-bicycle gig).
I was outraged that neither Ellen nor Georgena won. Ellen tried to calm me down. “No big deal, Ray, forget about it.” That kind of ease and grace is why she’s still in the industry after 35 years of tolerating our male-centric little world.
And no matter what your gender, you’ve got to admit things are better for women cyclists than they were in the mid-‘70s. There’s so much more women-specific gear, more women working in shops, more women’s rides, the list goes on.
In fact, in an online survey back in February commissioned for the BLC (with 2,100+ respondents), 92% of women consumers were very or somewhat satisfied with their most recent bike purchase.
For women in the industry, maybe things are a little bit better? I think the guys are more respectful and more accepting of women in their ranks. It’s certainly no revolution, more like a creeping glacier.
I leave it to industry women to evaluate that. I do know that the New Generation of women leaders, the Elysa Walks, Sally McCoys and Megan Tompkins, can play stronger roles than their Ellen/Georgena/Penina Bush foremothers were able.
By the way, this is the Official Launch of my Penina Bush for OIWC Pioneering Woman of the Year for 2011 campaign. I hope those of you who have enjoyed working with Penina will join me when the ballot comes out next July!