Feminism in (Action) Sports – Burton Snowboards and Donna Carpenter

Posted: March 8, 2019 in Feminism in Action
Tags: , ,

While watching the stream of the Burton U.S. Open, I was getting very frustrated at the misogynistic trolls in the chat.  Then during one of the breaks, there was a beacon of hope.  I learned that for as long as women have been competing in the U.S. Open, they have had equal prize money.

Unfortunately, as common as this is in snowboarding, it’s not the norm.  From tennis to hockey to even skateboarding, there is a gender wage gap.  Hell the World Cup women’s soccer champions earned far less than their lower-ranked male counterparts.  Donna Carpenter, co-C.E.O. of Burton Snowboards, said that equal pay was an obvious choice, and so I decided to recognize the efforts of her and the company to elevate women in snowboarding.

This isn’t the first time Burton has come up in a Feminism in Action (Sports) post.  The company has sponsored many female riders and made sure that equal energy is put into promoting them.  The company has outreach programs, and Donna even participated in the Global Sports Mentoring Program.

A lot of discourse on sexism in sports focuses on ability of the athletes and harassment, but the business side is just as important.  Both Donna and Jake Burton Carpenter (obviously a great feminist himself, seeing as how he took her last name and worked with her to build his company) admitted that Burton wasn’t immune to the pitfalls of patriarchy.  Over a decade ago, they noticed that less than 10% of company leadership was female.  It reflected in their content, as their Love line of boards featuring photos of nearly-nude women drew lots of criticism.

After talking to employees of all genders, Jake kicked off the Burton Snowboards Women’s Initiatives in 2003.  Then a year later, Donna started the Burton’s Women’s Leadership Initiative to tackle issues women face in their careers, like finding resources for childcare, biased hiring processes, and lack of mentors.  Currently 45% of upper management at Burton is female.
There’s nothing wrong with pin-ups on boards, but snowboards featuring iconic women like Salt ‘n’ Pepa in a non-objectifying manner are a much more welcoming sight.  This was created in 2014 and designed by JesseHectic. 

Even if they don’t explicitly use the word “feminism”, Burton’s blog affirms a mission to uplift women around the world. They even paid for employees who wanted to travel to the 2017 Women’s March on Washington.

Burton Snowboards wouldn’t be what it is without Donna Carpenter, and the company truly demonstrates words and actions that are feminist.

Check out some inspiring interviews with Donna:
REI – “Burton CEO Donna Carpenter Prioritizes Gender Equity On and Off the Slopes”
The Inertia – “Burton’s Donna Carpenter Is Changing the World”
Conscious Company Media podcast


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