Hi Everyone, Rebecca here coming at you from the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City, Utah where I’ll be hanging out for the next several days checking out the latest in outdoor gear and clothing -and- learning every possible thing that I can about how the outdoor industry works. I’m actually at OR for another upcoming business venture, not HLAW….but I digress…
So there I was…
Sitting on a high chair around a table at the Outdoor Retailer Show waiting for a panel discussion and pondering this question.
“What can I do to be a better leader in the outdoor community?”
I looked down at my feet, calloused from last week on the Continental Divide Trail and heels blistered from a day of walking around the convention center in my pretty blue non-hiking shoes.
Do leaders have calloused and blistered feet?
I looked at my legs, strong, but not as lean as they used to be.
Are leaders strong?
The skirt covering my legs wasn’t made by a big outdoor brand. No, I bought it at the Farmers Market during a recent trip to the place where I was raised–Bozeman, Montana. I like supporting small businesses with big dreams and great products.
Do leaders support each other?
My shirt was free, a sample from a big outdoor company. They sent it to me to test and review. It’s an ugly color and ended up with little balls of cotton all over it after the first washing, so naturally, I won’t be working with that brand again but I still wear the shirt because I don’t like to be wasteful.
Do leaders make hard decisions?
My long blonde hair (which I dye every 6 weeks to cover up my premature gray roots) was pulled back into a bun.
Do leaders have time to focus on themselves?
My sunglasses have left a permanent tan line on my face and today two different brands selling face cream approached me about trying their wrinkle cream to take care of my crows feet.
“It’s like botox but in a cream,” they both told me.
“Why the hell are you at the OR show trying to tell outdoor women that we have wrinkles?” was my reply.
So there I sat, looking like a pretty typical 38-year-old woman waiting for a panel discussion called When Women Lead.
I was out of my element.
Shit, I’ve been out of my element since the moment I decided to make a huge career shift and ended up at the OR show pursuing that new career.
I’m much more comfortable with a group of women on a trail or sitting around a coffee shop or over a cocktail discussing things like empowerment and equality than I am listening to a discussion in a crowded room under fake lighting.
But as I put my discomfort aside and looked around I realized that I was surrounded by “my people.”
There were women of all shapes and sizes and colors.
There were young women and old women.
There were women with diverse thoughts and opinions.
There were even a few men in the audience, supportive spouses I assumed as I watched on panelist smooch her husband before taking to the stage.
But I also assumed that some of the men in attendance simply recognize the importance of bringing a female perspective to the outdoor industry.
It was a unique group but there was one thing that united us all.
A desire to help women become leaders in the outdoor industry.
The women on the panel had impressive resumes with extensive backgrounds in business, leadership, and philanthropy.
CEO’s, COO’s, authors…
As I listened to their discussion I was impressed with all of them.
Naturally, I didn’t agree with everything that every single one of them said.
But, that’s a good thing, they showed the diversity of women in the outdoor industry.
As I listened I couldn’t get this thought out of my head.
I need to do more. I need to be more.
And then I thought to last Saturday when my spunky niece and I paddle-boarded out to the middle of a crystal blue lake.
“Do you wanna do something fun?” I asked as I looked at her balancing on her SUP like a pro.
“Sure,” she said.
“Follow me,” I said, as I did my fanciest flip (ie belly flop) from my board and came splashing into the water.
For nearly a half an hour we climbed on our boards, jumped off of them and then climbed back on again.
It was a moment of pure joy and an awesome time to spend with a girl who I rarely get to hang out with.
So here’s what I learned as I sat listening to the panelists and reminiscing about a fun time with my niece.
Maybe we don’t need to do more, or to be more.
In fact, we all need to stop being so damn busy. Can we all just stop bragging about how busy we are?
Maybe, just maybe what we really need to do is to grab our daughter, or our niece, or granddaughter, or a girl in our neighborhood who needs a friend and say, “follow me.”
Maybe we need to smile at our neighbor across the fence and reach out to get to know the woman who has just moved to town.
Maybe we need to send a positive note of encouragement to a friend for no reason at all.
Maybe we need to encourage women to open outdoor retail shops, to invent new outdoor product, to boldly lead and guide groups on wilderness expeditions, to write about their experiences, and to show the world that our voice matters.
Because our voice does matter.
Eventually, all of the marketing budgets for women’s initiatives developed by every single outdoor brand will dry up.
The cycle might reverse.
It won’t be trendy or cool to be an outdoor woman any more.
But our legacy will remain.
Women’s voices will still echo from the mountains to the boardroom as we change the outdoor industry.
Our voices will say, “follow me.”
Women who have the courage to make change happen will lead the way.
Haley Robinson, the CEO of Kammok sat on today’s panel.
She said, “show up, ask for help, find a mentor.”
Might I suggest that we take it one step further by becoming that mentor?
Ask for help.
Find a mentor.
Be a mentor.
Will you follow me in my quest to find opportunities to mentor the next generation of outdoor women?