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January 2018

Speak Out :: January 2018

As harassment revelations topple leaders across a wide swath of industries, we must assess our own business culture.

Written by Olivia Rowan | 0 comment

Timing Is Everything
By Olivia Rowan, Publisher, SAM Magazine

In light of the cultural shift our country is going through, Kelly Pawlak’s appointment as head of the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) is perfectly timed. First and foremost, she is the right person for the job based on her credentials and experience. But it’s hard to overlook the impact of having a woman in this role right now (see our interview with Kelly on page 60).

A female leader in such a high profile position can inspire more women to work in our industry and encourage them to seek advancement. That may very well lead to more success for our industry as whole (more on that later). But first we have to confront the challenge before us. As a female leader in our industry said to me recently, “This is a moment to acknowledge that, culturally, we all (men and women) need to work together and fundamentally commit to building strong organizations, communities, and ideologies that are proactive, and not play the role of bystanders. Everyone should have skin in the game.”

The Elephant in the Room
Let’s face it: these are awkward times for many companies and organizations. Accounts of workplace sexual harassment and assault by high profile men in a variety of industries are surfacing daily. Is anybody really surprised? We’ve known this stuff goes on, but the way it has often been handled was to not make a fuss and keep it quiet—if the victims were even brave enough to come forward. That is all changing now. We are in the middle of a movement that is seeing consequences for the men guilty of this unwelcomed behavior, and has prompted men to question what is the right behavior. This could very well be affecting your workplace right now, and as a result, your productivity and ability to retain good staff.

A male colleague of mine shared a great article on social media that speaks out about our cultural climate. The writer, Laurie Penny, sums up the sentiments of our time: “Stay here, in this difficult place. Stay here actively. Breathe through the discomfort and pay attention to what it’s telling you. Listen to women. Believe women. There will be a lot to learn, and a lot more to unlearn.”

A Business Decision
Fostering a safe and comfortable workplace for women is vital, and should lead to more women entering the employment ranks of our industry—which will be good for business. According to a 2017 study of 400,000 people by Great Place to Work, “It turns out that exceptional work cultures for women also produce outstanding workplaces for all employees. Companies that lead in this way—by emphasizing the daily engagement and long-term buy-in of women—will see better performance from their teams and a stronger slate of leaders to helm their organizations in the future.” This is not just doing the right thing; it’s about being competitive as a business. “Women are a bottom-line enhancing commodity,” the study concludes.

Need help? There are resources and advisers out there to help facilitate these conversations and policy changes. You might also decide to be more outspoken in your support of gender diversity in the workplace. That is the mission of Camber Outdoors, an organization that champions women’s leadership and participation in the outdoors. One of its initiatives is the “CEO Pledge.” More than 65 active-outdoor industry CEOs have signed the pledge, making a formal commitment to women’s leadership as a strategic business priority. It’s also possible to become a partner of Camber Outdoors. Snowbird and Powdr Corp are the first to do so from the mountain resort industry.

In my family and most of the families I know, the mom is the vacation planner and the weekend scheduler. We all know data show that women are key influencers in our sport. Companies that reflect their consumer base are 70 percent more likely to report entry into new markets. And 87 percent of employees are likely to stay if a workplace is more inclusive.

Check out one such company’s story of change, REI, which set out to challenge the industry’s approach to women as customers and employees as part of its “Forces of Nature” campaign. Maybe your resort has a good story to tell? Email me at