Prioritizing Gender Equality, Giving Women a Voice

With the #metoo hashtag going viral and reflecting on my own incidents both in and out of the workplace, I found this piece very uplifting and full of anecdotes that are actually actionable. There’s even a case specifically focusing on a Product Development project. Go Donna! (Header photo credit: Winnie Au)

Burton CEO Donna Carpenter Prioritizes Gender Equality On and Off the Slopes – REI Co-op Journal, by Annie Fast

In 2004, Donna established Burton’s Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI). “The idea was to pull key women from every department and say, ‘What are the short-term opportunities to increase women’s leadership here and what are the long-term things we should work on?’” What was expected to be a short-term focus group is now in its thirteenth year and has evolved over time.

The first issue the WLI focused on was the fact that women couldn’t envision a future at the company. “Women said they didn’t see themselves here 10 years from now with a family,” Donna said.

A lot of the article focuses on organizational and systematic changes implemented within Burton since the introduction of WLI.  These include a widely-used mentorship program, a policy that says at least 1 finalist for any leadership position must be female, and allowing for a caregiver to attend business trips for new parents.

The Product Development case that I mentioned is the new Burton Step On™ boot-to-binding connection system.  I think like most unisex products, bindings were typically designed focusing on a male user and then later adapted as needed to women.  I’m guilty of doing it.  Sample size for shoes is M9 and W7 so when I start on something unisex, I inevitably start with M9 and deal with fit-testing of the smaller sizes later.  The  Burton Step On™ is different in that it was mandated to consider W4-M13 all at once.  Early testing showed that lighter female users couldn’t latch the toe piece with the same ease as heavier males and this was quickly rectified though a material revision.


Burton Step On™. Image as seen on REI Co-op Journal (linked). Photo credit Gabe L’Heureux.


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