Donna Carpenter and her husband Jake Burton Carpenter are the sole owners of Burton Snowboards, arguably the world’s leading snowboard company. Since 1982, Donna has held a ton of roles at Burton, which originally operated out of her Vermont barn and now has offices around the world. I was lucky enough to corner her via the intrawebs for an in-depth conversation about the evolution of the industry, her role as President of Burton, and her leadership role in the non-profit Chill Foundation, which she and Jake founded back in 1995 to bring snowboarding to youth who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity. If that wasn’t enough, Donna continues to oversee all efforts to ensure that Burton is an employer and brand of choice for women in the industry.
Participation is key for any sport, and snowboarding is no different. Donna talks about what she and Burton do to support growth and programs like the CHILL foundation, which takes underprivileged kids to the mountain and teaches them to snowboard, as well as taking the time to personally teach others to snowboard. Donna and Burton know that in order to grow snowboarding, you need to grow snowboarders. As a volunteer herself, Donna uses programs like CHILL and her after school program to connect to people in the industry.
Like many industries, snowboarding has historically been male-dominated…and well, still is, but unlike a lot of industries, that is actually changing within snowboarding. Looking to make more women see themselves as a part of the snowboard industry, Donna not only leads by example, but also works to change that with the Women’s Leadership Initiative—an internal program that helps women get into leadership roles within Burton. Saying she will never rest on her mission to increase female participation until it’s 51% of the industry, Donna is committed to this mission.
P: Tara Sanborn L: Stevens Pass, WA
In addition to using the non-profit CHILL and women’s outreach to boost participation and accessibility, Burton is working to create a sustainable brand. Yup, the “hot topic” that everyone talks about supporting but Burton is starting to set the bar for industry standards. Through partnerships with Mountain Dew and Bluesign, Burton is looking for ways to increase their sustainability and decrease their impact on the environment, and they aren’t afraid to wear that badge loud and proud. Whether it’s working along every step of the product process to ensure a clean as possible production, creating products that utilize recycled materials, or even going zero-waste at events like the US Open of Snowboarding, sustainability has been worked throughout the entire company.
In the podcast Donna touches on many aspects on what makes her a great leader as well as what Burton is doing for the good of the snowboard industry. From working to increase participation and boosting the role of women in the industry, to staying true to snowboarding and working to make a more sustainable company, Donna and Burton are on the right track in my book. Check out the podcast and let me know what you think by chiming in on the comments below.
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