“Chicks dig him, men want to BE him.” This phrase is often uttered but seldom truly earned, except – of course – when it is said in reference to today’s guest blogger, #OIBIZ legend and bon vivant Larry Harrison. In truth, no phrase describing Larry can ever be considered hyperbolic: “Living legend,” “Uber-Rep,” and “The Most Interesting Man in the World (forget that Dos Equis poseur…),” these all fit, but just barely. Larry is truly larger-than-life, and we’re honored to be hosting him here at PEMBAserves.com. As the first ever male board member of the Outdoor Industry Women’s Coalition, Larry shares his vision of why we all – every one of us – should be supporting the OIWC. Listen in…
In my long and happy years in the outdoor industry I have gleaned much wisdom from prolonged discourse in steamy hot tubs. After accepting an invitation to sit on their board, I recently had the opportunity to sit in such a steamy tub with some of our industry’s leading women while attending the annual Board of Directors meeting of the Outdoor Industry Women’s Coalition (OIWC).
And yes, it IS a different experience being the only male at a conference dominated by women.
My experience there led me to think about the history of the outdoor industry and how women must have noticed that same glaring gender disparity during the early years of our business. Being the only guy at the board meeting wasn’t the only difference I noticed when compared to my years of serving on the board of the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA). A striking difference at the meeting was the diverse background of those on the board of the OIWC. The OIA board is primarily composed of senior executives, while the OIWC panel is comprised of people who hold a wide variety of positions in the industry. I think a wider perspective and the exchange of a broader range of ideas comes from having board members who head companies, sit alongside those who work at companies.
Diversity always translates into opportunities for outdoor companies. Many of you may remember the days when scratchy-shirted men with beards ran this industry. There was little input from women. Now our companies are enlivened and improved by the contributions women have made. Apparel is just a small example. Today we design clothes that fit the female body, in styles and colors that women actually want to buy, and it is a growth area. Women have helped with these practical matters of fit and fashion for all of our industry’s products and their considered discourse and sense of community has brought real change to the outdoor business landscape.
Although we now have a wealth of female talent to choose from, I feel compelled to encourage a more robust level of support for the OIWC and for the women who toil in the outdoor industry. I ask that every company in our industry become a member of the OIWC. You might wonder why you should join the Women’s Coalition in addition to your OIA membership. The answer is simple: supporting them will help grow our business.
A company that is a proud member of the OIWC is sending a message to their female employees that they have the support they need to pursue career opportunities at the highest levels. The OIWC hosts over 30 events a year to mentor women in the outdoor industry. That’s one event every two weeks of the year to help the women who work with and for you realize their potential. In a way, they are taking the burden off of companies who lack the time or inclination to mentor their female team members. The OIWC does this on an unacceptably tiny budget. Your membership, either as a company or an individual, will help make the outdoor industry a destination for talented women.
Why encourage more women to join our industry? Take a look at the numbers. Women across the board make more buying decisions at the consumer level than men. (Reportedly 85% in a recent Time magazine article.) Women are graduating with their college degrees at a higher rate than men and are expected to outpace men in job placement (with the exception of certain industries) in the coming decades. Women decide what their families will eat and how their families spend their spare time. In other words, it is simply good business to encourage an organization that makes our industry more welcoming to young women starting out, and one that mentors them throughout their careers.
Many years ago, I invited people of long standing in the outdoor industry to become “Woodchucks” to acknowledge their tenure and to honor their contributions to what has become a $730 billion industry annually. My hope is that, with your support, a few years from now, we will see greater numbers of women Woodchucks wandering the aisles at our shows.
I look forward to your increased participation with the OIWC and to many happy nights in a steamy tub talking business, just completed adventures, and plans for future escapades.
Larry Harrison has enjoyed a long career creating sales teams for leading brands in the outdoor, ski, and action sports marketplaces, representing Body Glove, Eagle Creek, JanSport, Lowa Boots, Rockport, and Sierra Designs . He now serves as the Director of Sales for adidas Outdoor, North America. The Outdoor Industry Women’s Coalition recently named him as their first male member of their Board of Directors.
Larry excels at developing activities that build community and increase sales. One example is an event he called the University of Fun that brought together employees of surf shops, outdoor stores and sporting goods chains in an environment of water, rock, and product instruction. The event evolved into Southern California’s Outdoor University.
Harrison served 10 years on the Board of Directors of the Outdoor Industry and was also the recipient of the Outdoor Retailer Industry Leadership Award in 1999. Woodchucks, the group honoring 20-year veterans of the outdoor industry was Larry’s answer to the question of how to preserve the stories of how they got their start. Harrison’s Woodchucks now number over 500 members and is housed at SNEWS. The organization is beginning a new group for those with 10 years of service.
Larry and his wife of 25 years, Carol, live in San Clemente, California. They were married climbing Mount Rainier and still walk in the local hills together. Their two sons, Taylor and Hayden, attend college in Berkeley, CA.