EXCLUSIVE: Winnebago Industries Creates Programs to Encourage Gender Diversity

A picture of Winnebago WIN advisors

Winnebago Industries is spearheading initiatives to promote women’s involvement and advancement company-wide and in the manufacturing industry.

“We are trying to get more women interested and involved in manufacturing jobs as well as engineering jobs,” said Stacy Bogart, Winnebago Industries SVP, general counsel, secretary and corporate responsibility. “Manufacturing as a whole still has an underrepresentation of women and manufacturing in the RV and marine industry has an underrepresentation of women as well.”

The company encourages women to start their careers at Winnebago Industries and wants to discover ways to retain them and make sure they reach their full potential, Bogart said.

Women’s Inclusion Network

Winnebago Industries has increased its awareness and initiatives to promote women by founding a Women’s Inclusion Network (WIN).

Winnebago Industries started WIN in March. To kickstart the group, the company hosted a panel with three female Winnebago Industries board members who discussed their careers, advancement paths and perspectives.

The board members included Steelcase CEO Sarah Armbruster; Maria Blase, president, Power Tools and Lifting for Ingersoll Rand and Jacqueline Woods, Teradata chief marketing officer. Blase passed away in July.

Winnebago Industries is inviting women, as well as men, to take part in WIN activities. The group holds monthly meetings with inspirational or educational keynote speakers. WIN hosts lunch-and-learn activities and networking events with external groups such as Women in Manufacturing and the Society of Women Engineers.

The group is piloted by an internal steering committee and led by female industry executives:

WIN Steering Committee:

  • Jen Armogan, Winnebago Industries VP, talent and HR strategy
  • Stacy Bogart, Winnebago Industries SVP, general counsel, secretary and corporate responsibility
  • Jil Littlejohn Bostick, Winnebago Industries director, diversity, equity and inclusion

WIN Leadership:

  • Melissa K B Mallory, Winnebago Industries director, business excellence systems
  • Megan Pollock, Winnebago Industries assistant corporate controller
  • Melissa Kearney, Winnebago Industries supervisor, visitor center
  • Kim Mann, Winnebago Industries senior manager, interior design
  • Amy Hicks, Winnebago Industries HR business partner
  • Chellsie Corder, Chris Craft manager of assembly
  • Mary Minix, Grand Design VP of HR
  • Darlene Borkholder, Newmar manager, purchasing process

This year, WIN partnered with Camber Outdoors to support college and junior college internships for women and students of varied racial backgrounds. The program is another avenue for introducing more diverse individuals to the outdoor recreation industries, Bogart said.

A recent group event featured female Indy car owner Beth Paretta. Paretta spoke at Winnebago Industries’ dealer meeting in Savannah, Georgia, in March.

“She spoke about leadership, and it was really well-attended by both men and women…,” Bogart said, “because she is a dynamic person and she did an excellent job speaking about women’s issues.”

Tracking Change

Winnebago Industries is starting to track how these initiatives are evolving the company’s internal diversity.

“We plan to increase our representation of both females and diverse individuals as a whole,” Bogart said. “We are pretty excited about it. It is a journey. It takes time. It takes longer when you look at senior leadership areas. You have to fill the pipeline… We are very committed and excited about the endeavor to get more diverse representation.”

Reflecting diversity at Winnebago Industries is especially important as the outdoor industry demographics change, she said. According to Kampgrounds of America, more people of color and more females are making purchasing decisions in the outdoor industries, she said.

“It is important that we have that representation,” Bogart said, “so that we do not have any blind spots in either our products or how we approach our customers.”

Drawing from History

Women’s initiatives have been important to Winnebago Industries since the company was founded in Forest City, Iowa, Bogart said.

“Luise Hansen was very involved in the startup of the company with her husband John,” she said. “She was on the board and very active in the business, as was Mary Jo Boman who was the head of the Hansen Foundation. (Winnebago Industries has) had senior leaders at that level really from the beginning… it has been a priority for Winnebago Industries for a long time.”

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