Outdoor Industry Women's Coalition poised to support women of Utah

By Lori Lee

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Jan. 27 2012 11:14 p.m. MST

Are you a woman who works in the outdoor, snowsports or bicycle industry? Or perhaps you have a wife, mother or daughter who does? The Outdoor Industry Women’s Coalition, also known as OIWC, is a national industry organization, but in April of 2011 the group kicked off its first Utah regional event, officially making Utah a new region on the group's non-profit corporate map.

In the late 1990s, the group’s big event was a three-day retreat called Chillfest, held at the Wasatch Mountain Club lodge at Brighton Ski resort. The group enjoyed classes, networking among women and sport outings, including fly-fishing and rock climbing. The list of members at that time was conservative, but the idea of a group to support women in the industry by learning from one another, promoting recreation and mentoring one another was sound.

Since 1996, when the OIWC was established, the group has grown from that small post-Outdoor Retailer Convention event to a National Organization with 1,500 members across the country. The vision of OIWC is: respect, inclusion and gender equality at every level in the workplace. The mission is advocacy, education and resources for women in the outdoor, bike and snowsports industries.

A Utah chapter was in the works for years, with the idea that Utah members would have more of an opportunity to associate, network and find value in the group. But until last year, one road block after another stopped the progress. In 2011 OIWC finally kicked off its first Utah regional event at the local retailer REI.

“Our membership in Utah is not where it will be. When we start a new region we pick an area that has a strong density of outdoor companies," said Sally Grimes, OIWC executive director. "We want to go into a region, and our goal is longevity. We are strategic about where we place the regional chapters.” She added that she has little doubt the Salt Lake Area will be a thriving region.

Three regional events are planned for 2012 — a panel presentation on leading and navigating change in June; a network night in October; and an event at the Salomon Center that will kick the year off on April 24.

Membership in the group includes not only women already in the industry but also men who want to support women in the industry and women who would like to break into the industry. A variety of outdoor corporations also form a large segment of the membership with members like REI, North Face and Timberland.

Amy Luther, OIWC’s program director and a Park City resident, announced that during 2012 OIWC will focus on an advocacy program. After listening to member surveys that asked for OIWC to be a voice for women in addressing gender issues within the industry, a new mission on advocacy was established for the year. Grimes hopes that in 2013 OIWC will launch a mentorship program that may include software that will smoothly match mentors and mentees.

“It’s like Match.com,” Luther said. “You put in what you want in a mentor, and the software helps line you up.”

Just like any nonprofit, OIWC development pivots on gaining financial support. But plans for local events where members learn from one another about a variety of topics — including how to balance work and life, how to deal with management issues, how you got to where you are; share discussions on hot industry issues; gain strength by networking and relationship building — are well established. Luther said, “Our regional events have been huge.”

According to OIWC’s marketing material, group members are highly educated decision makers in the outdoor industry, with 87 percent having completed at a bachelor’s degree and 60 percent working in a management capacity. Members are also women who are self-employed, freelancers and corporate employees. Membership is also open to unemployed individuals looking to change their situation.

An individual OIWC membership is $45 a year. For membership information, visit www.OIWC.org.

Lori works as a freelance writer for the outdoor recreation industry. She lives in Bounitful with her two sons, their dog Molly and an office full of gear to be tested.

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