It’s about damn time

by

Harley-Davidson boasts the highest market share of women riders out of all the OEMs, according to Amanda Lee, the company’s PR manager in charge of Outreach audiences — women, young adults, African American, Hispanic and active military. This, of course, is no big surprise given Harley’s long history with women riding its motorcycles.

Of the 235,000 people trained through the company’s Rider’s Edge courses, 35 percent are women. Lee herself is a graduate of Rider’s Edge, as is Claudia Garber, Harley’s director of marketing and product planning.

The Motor Co. is reaching out to women riders with a host of events and marketing efforts. From the now-ubiquitous Garage Parties to this month’s Biker Bootcamp for Women (a full week in Milwaukee immersed in Harley culture), Harley-Davidson is taking an active and aggressive effort to connect with its female customers, existing and potential.

Harley’s idea is to seize upon the growing women rider demographic and help encourage, support and inform those who have taken or are taking the leap into what has traditionally been a male-dominated sport/pastime/industry.

“As more women get into the sport, it’s kind of a contagious thing,” Lee says. “As more women are riding and more women are seeing other women riding, more women are stepping up to the plate and saying, ‘I want to do that.’

“We’re simply throwing fuel on the fire, responding to a movement that’s happening in the industry,” she adds.

The “women riders movement” — not that it’s a formal title or anything — is a relatively new phenomenon. Yes, women have been riding motorcycles, ATVs, personal watercraft and snowmobiles forever, but not in any great number and not in a way that ever attracted much attention from the industry at large.

Even five years ago a female motorcyclist would have been hard-pressed to find riding gear that not only was cut to fit the female form, but was stylish to boot. Again, yes, there was riding apparel, but it wasn’t until Joe Rocket and Icon jumped into the mix that women’s gear looked like it had actually been designed by and for women.

These days, apparel manufacturers know they need a women’s line to even compete.

How about riding on the back? You’ve got to be kidding. Women are finally coming into their own in the powersports industry, and it’s about time. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely. But with more women moving into everything from dealership and OEM/aftermarket management to wins on the racetrack, it’s clear: This ain’t the same old boy’s club.

In honor of May’s Women Riders Month, Dealernews puts its focus on the women who help drive this industry, from the pioneers who pushed through gender barriers to those coming into a business that now welcomes them. Even our cover profile highlights Top 100 dealer Donna Coryell and her dealership, Deptford Honda Yamaha. Hers is an inspiring story.

Why is it important to recognize the women in our industry? Because it’s about damn time. Women are more than the “other half”; they bring new perspective and vitality to a business that — truth be told — could use some freshening up. The industry’s history has been drenched in testosterone, and it’s left things a bit, um, ripe.

Indeed, there are many, many women leading the charge at the dealership, in the media, in the aftermarket, at the OEM level and on the racecourse. We’re profiling just a few of them in this issue. Go to www.dealernews.com/women11 to see a running roster of notable femmes and their contribution to our industry. And if you’d like to nominate women for the list, drop us a line at editors@dealernews.com with their names and brief bios. We’d love to add them.

Dennis Johnson
Editor in Chief
dennis.johnson@dealernews.com

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