Burton Snowboards and evo recently hosted an all-women’s panel at evo’s downtown Denver store to engage in a conversation about the current state of women in snowboarding and the ways in which female presence can be elevated. They brought together a roster of leading women from Burton including; Jesse Dawson, Staff Photographer, Lesley Gendron, Senior Product Manager, and the lady at the helm of it all, Donna Carpenter, Burton’s outspoken and progressive CEO.
The evening kicked off with a diverse and sprawling crowd who mixed and mingled while sampling delicious all-vegan eats and frosty ones from 10 Barrel, as DJ Skeena set the soundtrack for the night.
As the first of three women’s speaking events hosted by evo and Burton, the turnout was unprecedented. Every chair was filled and standing room was at a premium in evo’s large space.
The panel, moderated by Colleen Farrell, a previous Burton employee who now works for evo, offered a range of questions, which were answered openly and honestly by the powerful panel. Dialogue was created with insights and enthusiasm for women’s role in snowboarding and how together with more involvement, snowboarding is stronger as a whole.
Topics ranged from inclusivity within the industry and sport, to motherhood and action sports, how to reach for your goals, and beyond. It was an inspiring evening that elevated topics on how to keep snowboarding evolving for all.
Here are key insights from Donna, Lesley and Jesse:
I think in our culture right now, we’re demanding attention. We’re demanding the moment, we’re demanding the microphone, and I think women are asking for more information. More of the stage, and as you’ve seen that come through, you can feel the change. You can feel it in the women’s events that are happening, in our upcoming campaigns, products, everything.— Lesley
On how to inspire more women in leadership roles…
We knew we weren’t going to be innovative and pulling the best talent, if we didn’t include women from the beginning. We always believed in inclusivity, because we [as snowboarders] were excluded at the start. We put out a call to whatever misfit you are, to come join us. We still believe in that. Now we have 45% of women in leadership roles in at Burton, and it’s 50/50% on my team.— Donna
On what has affected positive female growth in snowboarding…
I think mentoring has a lot to do with it, but conversations like these and the ability to speak more about it, is inspiring and empowering too. Men have a big part in this. Men that encourage women is such an incredible thing to see. And the more women help women, we’ll only get bigger and better. Advocacy is key. — Jesse
On overcoming adversity in the workplace…
I always try to work a little harder, a little longer, shoot a little more. — Jesse
You have to prove yourself. You sometimes have to earn the respect the hard-way. — Donna
As far as tactics go, you have to prove yourself to those around you. Proving yourself in your community, gaining trust and having allies in the men around us who believe in us and uplift us, and allow us to tell our stories is key. — Lesley
On women’s participation…
83% of purchasing decisions are made by the mother of the family, so speaking to women is really important. When you make snowboarding better for women, you’re making it better for everyone. — Lesley
I’ve seen a generational change. Back in the day, I remember seeing some of our women’s pro snowboarders, and they weren’t wearing any of our women’s gear. When I asked about it, they said, when you play with the big dogs, you have to look like the big dogs. They really felt that. In the old photos, they wore everything in size XL. Now, I feel young snowboarders feel comfortable and confident in expressing themselves and showing their individuality. We don’t let men define what’s cool or core for us, anymore. — Donna
On women specific snowboard products…
While snowboarding products cannot tell your gender, they do respond to bodies in different ways. We really consider what’s happening with women and their shapes when creating product. So truly women-specific products are just that, totally designed for the female frame and tested by such. — Lesley
On barriers to women’s leadership within snowboarding…
There a lot of subtle barriers along the way. But women in action sports are badass women. These are the women you want on your team. They do work harder, they do prepare more. I think having a family can be difficult, as it still falls primarily on women to be the primary caretaker, until we change that, but we can get innovative and help women get through that. If a company can help support a women through that, she is more likely to see herself as a leader in that company. — Donna
On getting kids involved…
25 years ago, when my kids were starting to learn about snowboarding, those engineers didn’t give a damn about kids product. They were like, oh whatever. But now, they all have kids, so now we’ve made amazing progress with kids products. — Donna
On the future of snowboarding…
I’m super stoked on the attendance in this room. It shows the want for this sport to go further with this level of participation and excitement. This is literally the largest panel event on women’s snowboarding I’ve ever been too, so it’s great to see that…. This is going along with what’s happening the world right now— [Women] are demanding space, and it’s happening — Lesley
“Don’t be scared. Go do it. If you’re passionate about it, absolutely just go for it. Don’t stop until you’re where you want to go. Keep shooting.” — Jesse
“Find mentors. I often tell women to create your own board of directions. Create those people around you who will not only be your cheerleader, but also those that will help you see things about yourself you might not see. Trust and go for it.” — Donna
“I always tell people to be authentically you. I don’t think you should compromise who you are for your career. Especially in a male dominated industry, you might think you have to do things one way, but if you’re authentically yourself, you’ll standout and push your way to the top.” — Lesley
The evo Women’s Speaker Series continues with two more stops in Portland and Seattle.