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OR Summer Market featured much for women to be happy about

From seminars to the OIWC Chillfest to a plethora of interesting product, there was plenty for women to celebrate as Summer Market appeared to pay attention to the "other" gender like never before.

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From seminars to the OIWC Chillfest to a plethora of interesting product, there was plenty for women to celebrate as Summer Market appeared to pay attention to the “other” gender like never before.

OIWC-sponsored events at Summer Market opened eyes and minds

He Said, She Said — The Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition (OIWC) reached out to both genders with its seminar at the show, “He Said, She Said: Maximize Sales with Gender-Specific Communication Skills.”

Speaker Irene Link, a communications specialist who has worked with Fortune 500 companies, small businesses and many others, was emphatic that neither gender has a “superior way” of communicating. “Women have a lot to learn from men and men should learn some wonderful things from women,” she said. According to Link, communication skills are the same no matter what you do for a living, and communicating well is an art.

“We come by our communication style honestly,” she said. “Part of it is genetic, part of it is socialization or training by example.”

Link took the audience through the three primary ways we are perceived when we are seen and heard. The first, and most important, is body language. The second is voice, and the third is word choice. “It’s not really what we say, but how we say it that is important,” she said.

Why is communicating with the opposite sex important? “Because women are major buyers, and heavily influence men and other women to buy,” she said. “Plus, 50 percent of the people you will encounter will be of the opposite sex.”

Tips on how to sell to women’s- and men’s-specific needs included for men: Remember that personal space is important, and make a woman feel comfortable. She said not to preach, but instead recommended using a conversational tone. “Men also need to learn to be better listeners,” she said.

Her advice to women? “Almost no one likes an aggressive woman, so learn the difference between assertive and aggressive,” she said. “Women need to learn to be more direct, not hard-hitting. It’s better to get to your point quickly.” Also, be friendly in a professional way. She warned women never to “play the sex card.” “Sexiness does not belong in a sales situation,” she said. And know your stuff. “No amount of cuteness makes up for not knowing your product.”

Her final advice for both genders was to choose one skill that you think would be most beneficial and learn it well, and then choose one communication skill from the opposite sex that would serve you and learn it well.

The audience was made up of mostly women, but there were men present as well. And, as might be expected, the reactions to the talk divided down the gender lines.

“My first reaction was, ‘When is she going to get to the point?'” Jim Trombly of Cascade Designs said. “But then she said that’s a hard trait women have to deal with in men — they want you to get to the point right away.”

“I thought it was really helpful,” Melody Appleton, founder of ProTech, said. “Women in business have a lot of barriers to overcome because men are so used to dealing with men.”

Women in Leadership — The focus of the second OIWC seminar, kicking off its annual Saturday evening social event, was geared more toward women, although a few men did attend. The panel discussion “Women in Leadership” brought four women to the podium to answer questions and share their thoughts about leadership. The theme of the evening? Believe in yourself and be open to others.

“The first person you have to lead is yourself,” said Kathy Murphy, general manager of Tubbs snowshoes. “But character, values, generosity of spirit, teachability, admiring qualities of others, listening, positive attitude — all those things are important too.”

Murphy compared a leadership position with preparing for a backpacking trip. Both require choosing a destination, doing research, planning, gathering gear, and learning about the people and culture of the place you’ll be going.

“It’s all about learning as well as leading,” she said. “And having the passion to believe in yourself.”

Jean Dunham, a trainer and coach with the Strozzi Institute for Leadership, spoke about how women in middle management could prepare for leadership positions.

“Any staff position has the opportunity for leadership,” she said. “All you have to do is move and make something happen.”

Dunham then listed some essentials for building leadership skills: practice, find someone doing what you want to do and ask questions, learn to make powerful requests and powerful offers, develop a repertoire of leadership styles (strong, decisive, indignant, compassionate) and know what you care about.

Colleen Clark of Eastern Mountain Sports emphasized the importance of valuing interactions with other people and contributing something to others. “The real value of your interactions with others will be that you leave them with a greater ability to believe in themselves,” she said.

Clark also shared the important roles that her coaches and mentors have played throughout her life. “My coaches and mentors taught me to always look for the second right answer,” she said. “And to always shoot for what you really want, not what you think you can do.”

Addressing traps women should avoid, Dianne Walker, professor at the University of Utah Graduate School of Business, shared some of her own mistakes in illustrating her point. “When I was first starting out, I was terrified to let go and I was too controlling,” she said. “It’s important to learn to delegate. Don’t try to do everything yourself.

“Don’t spend all your emotions at work,” she added. While making the point that it’s good to be passionate about what you do, Walker told her listeners that it’s crucial not to let your emotions take over in a work situation.

In a second segment, speakers were presented with specific scenarios highlighting problems or challenges that leaders can encounter and discussed good ways to deal with them. Ultimately, the ideas that the presenters shared followed the same thread: listen to what others have to say, take responsibility for your actions, and ask others for their thoughts.

Lu Setnicka of Patagonia, who acted as moderator, underlined the point of the evening’s discussion very clearly. “Leadership is about modeling behavior,” she said. “It’s also about the transfer of wisdom.”

“I’m younger and newer to the industry than a lot of the others, so it was great to hear several women’s perspectives on leadership,” Moriah McMillan of Outdoor Mind said. “Many times workshops and panel discussions, in any industry, are filled with abstract ideas that are hard to carry forward once you get back to the daily grind of things, but the OIWC panel of women did an amazing job of suggesting concrete ideas and goals to bring back to our work and personal lives.”

Chillfest offered post-showmania break — Nearly 40 women, from manufacturers to retailers to non-profits, piled in cars after the close of Summer Market and headed to Brighton for the OIWC’s annual Chillfest campout. The two-day trip allowed industry women to mingle and network during activities that included rock climbing, fly-fishing, yoga and hiking — as well as relaxing pursuits like massages and pedicures.

Black Diamond’s Maile Buker, and chief camp counselor, said she heard from several campers that the Chillfest was “a much-needed rest from showmania,” providing a reason not to jump into the post-show mop-up.

In addition to communing with nature, the group’s evening entertainment included a slide show presentation by Beth Krusi and Irene Link, a gender communication speaker.

Krusi’s slide show, “Women on High: Return to Mont Blanc,” chronicled the re-enactment by a group of modern-day climbing women of 19th century female adventurers, who climbed Chamonix’s Mont Blanc. Dressed in period costumes (think long skirts), the five women retraced the women’s routes for a book and short film.

Product Highlights

When it comes to the women’s market, it’s gotten to the point where just about every supplier offers women’s-specific product, from sports bras (well, that’s a big duh), to gloves and socks, to tops, bottoms, packs, sleeping bags and, of course, shoes. And well they should since women are eager for gear and apparel that fits right, functions well, and flatters also. That means that we can’t begin to mention every new sport bra or women’s sock line or you’d be reading for a week and a day. We’re only covering product that stood out to us and was ready for
prime time, so if you’re not mentioned, we either did not see you, we
didn’t think your product stood out sufficiently, you were showing the
product behind closed curtains which implied you didn’t want us to talk
about it, or we were just plain clueless — you pick one. Here, then, are a couple of hits our female team of SNEWS® editors particularly liked to get you thinking about what’s available:

Hind — Now having five former Victoria Secret’s designers on its payroll, Hind has taken underwear and bras quite seriously in its newest collection that expands on the intro to the sport bra and undergarments it introduced for winter ’04. The sport bra business is worth $300 million, new PR Manager Sharon Barbano noted about the company’s expansion. With everybody now touting seamless (ho-hum, aren’t we jaded?), Hind tried to differentiate its line with welded insets of soft mesh that not only served to ventilate but also served to add spot designs and color. Plus, it was showing off prints knit into the seamless line and nice designer touches like angled back lines.

Isis — With the introduction of its new Seamless Bodywear line, Isis can now say it is covering women from the inside, out. Isis is working with a company in Turkey to create the lightweight, quick-drying and high-wicking seamless pieces made of a Tactel and Lycra blend. All of the pieces are precision fit with engineered zones of open knit pattern to pull moisture away. Designed for year-round multisport use, the collection includes a Scoop Back Camisole and Strappy Camisole with built-in bras, Sport Bra and Sport Brief. Also, because of its diverse client base (ages 25 to 50-plus), Isis is offering different waistband height fits in its pants. Women can now choose from Traditional (above the navel), Favorite (one inch below the navel) and Low (two inches below the navel).

Kavu — Sometimes when a girl goes away for the weekend she just wants life to be easy. Enter Kavu’s Weekend Package, a tank and full-coverage panty in a drawstring bag that can be anything you want it to be — skivvies, swimsuit, workout clothes, etc. Made of Vapor Active Knit, the polyester/Lycra blend is a high-performance wicker with Rayosan treatment to transport moisture away from the skin and protect from UV rays. Easy to clean, so it’s ready for whatever the new day brings. Available in XS-XL in black, sky blue and violet colors.

Moving Comfort — Unfortunately, one of the true and respected leaders in recognizing and providing for women’s-specific needs had some of its new collection overshadowed by an incongruity with the company’s mission in its catalog. First, the good: Russell Athletic-owned MC is now addressing DD cup size in its Maia bra and continues to address sport bras as true equipment. Plus, the company has expanded its seamless collection nicely. However, all is not well, it seems. On the not-so-good front, an outside agency got a hold of a few pages of the spring 2005 catalog that resulted in embarrassment, chagrin and a real step-backward for womanhood, leaving a few whispering on the show floor about what happened to Moving Comfort. In one catalog photo, two women are apparently fitness walking and one says in a thought bubble: “When do I tell her I got the promotion?” Her walking partner says in a thought bubble: “I wonder which one of us got promoted?” To add insult to injury, another pair of women is walking in another direction with one thinking: “She’s walking fast today, wonder what’s up?” Wait, it gets better…. On another page you see several women doing crunches on stability balls with one thinking: “Did I shave?” Founder and President Ellen Wessel told SNEWS® about the catalog, “It fell through so many cracks,” and maintained adamantly it does not represent the brand one iota. The problem was, with so many printed, the company couldn’t pull them, we were told. When she and others saw the result, she said there were a lot of “come-to-Jesus sessions” on the phone with the powers-that-be at Russell about the catalog. SNEWS® View: We were appalled at the catalog and how even a company like Russell could let this slip through whatever cracks must have been as large as earthquake faults. We think that continuing to distribute the oh-my-gosh photos only will lead more to think that Moving Comfort ain’t what it used to be. Thing is, the company still is. It’s just the catalog that sucks.

Patagonia — Patagonia not only rallied support for the environment at Summer Market, but also provided large-breasted women with support of a different kind. The Capilene Classic Bra for C/D cup women had a little something new the outdoor industry doesn’t normally offer — underwire support. The moisture-managing performance bra has soft seamless molded cups with underwire and adjustable shoulder straps. Its streamlined styling looks smooth under body-hugging tops. Available in sizes 34, 36, 38, 40. No bra burning here.