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3 Working Mom Stories From The Backcountry Herd

In Celebration Of International Women’s Day

In honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we’re telling the stories of a few Backcountry moms—including our CEO. With children ranging from a toddler to adults, our CMO Sarah Crockett, Deputy General Counsel Betsy Haws, and CEO Melanie Cox share their experiences. A few common themes? The value of mentorship, ditching the mom guilt, power in partnership, and the benefit of getting outdoors for perspective.

Sarah Crockett, Chief Marketing Officer

Do you have any advice for how working moms can excel in both work and motherhood? 

Excelling in both is tough—do the best you can. I credit my personal path largely to my partner. Without him, I don’t know what sacrifices I would have had to make. When I’m working, I try to focus on that moment of work. When I’m in a moment of playtime, I try my best to focus on that. Finn just turned nine and he sees me working from home, which provokes a conversation about what work means. I try to be intentional about the language: I get to go to work versus I have to go to work. 


How do you address the challenges women face in the workplace?

I feel highly accountable to give my time and experience and advice to anyone, whether they’re becoming a new mom or working their way up through their career. I am guilty of overscheduling my calendar with mentorship conversations. I want to see more women at all levels and types of organizations. 


How does Backcountry support you and other working moms? 

There’s an unquestioned level of flexibility. If I had to say to my boss, I have this school function or my son’s jiujitsu competition, there would be no guilt. There are a lot of young families at Backcountry, which helps with that. There are some exciting conversations at the executive level that help us further improve that level of flexibility as things come back on line. 


What are your strategies for striking a good work-life balance and how does outdoor activity play into that?

I try to put things at the very end of my schedule to force me to stop—like a workout class at 5:30pm—even if I come back eventually. On weekends, I’ve gotten a lot better about unplugging. We spend all weekend snowboarding. This is the first year that Finn hasn’t been in a snowboard class—he’s riding with us and he’s so good! 


Who are your working mom role models and why? 

I had an inspirational mom who just retired two months ago and worked all my life. She was the COO for a California hospital chain and has always been in healthcare. She was always an employee and a mom, often in that order (and I don’t think she’d be offended hearing that). I realized at some point that that was unique, and I wanted to be just like that. As every parental-child relationship evolves, she’s my go-to when I’m considering something. We talk shop all the time. It’s super helpful to have that resource and her perspective from a different industry—especially a male-dominated industry.

Betsy Haws, VP, Deputy General Counsel

With your son still under two, how are you balancing your career and motherhood so far? 

Sometimes I’ve done well, sometimes I’ve done really poorly. It ebbs and flows depending on the day and my best advice as a very new mom is just to keep at it. I thought it was really difficult to be a working mom when my little guy was an infant and it was helpful for me to have a long view. I would think through what I wanted him to know about me as a person as he grows up and part of that was having a profession and goals outside of being his parent.


This Women’s History Month, which challenges are front of mind for you that you and other moms face in the workplace?

I think globally, the challenges are childcare, protected leave, pay equity, and there’s a real crisis with how many talented women have exited the workforce in the last year because of challenges with the pandemic. Personally, I feel remarkably lucky to work in a place that’s so supportive of flexible schedules and the immediate demands that kids pose if they’re sick or daycare is closed. I’d love to see those kinds of options for every working parent.


How does Backcountry support you and other working moms? 

When I was on maternity leave, Backcountry hired another attorney while I was out, so when I returned, I didn’t have a massive backlog of work. When daycare has closed because of COVID or my toddler has been sick, I’ve had nothing but support from my colleagues. This needs to happen universally, because otherwise, women opt out and it not only impacts their career, but organizations, with the different perspectives and massive consumer power that comes from women and mothers. 


How does getting outside help you strike a good work-life balance?

I ran the Moab Half Trail Marathon when I was five months postpartum. It was a wildly slow half, but adding goals keep me going even when I’m tired. Walking my dog around the block and hearing the sound of the birds and feeling the rain or snow is really centering. It’s also been fantastic to watch my toddler learn about the world—pointing out the moon, teaching him about snow. The times I get outside are a lot shorter than they used to be, but they’re still really centering and I appreciate them more. 


Who are your working mom role models and why? 

I’m one of four kids and my mom stayed at home for a long time. When she went back to teaching full-time, I learned so much about her talents and personality. She was an amazing teacher, a debate coach, and mentored a ton of my friends and her students. She’s taught me that there’s always a possibility around the corner—she quit teaching when she was in her 50s and has since written three novels.

Melanie Cox, CEO

Over the course of your career, how have you balanced your professional goals and motherhood? 

It was hard. As a mom, It was frustrating because I felt like I was not able to give 100% to either work or kids. Over time, I developed boundaries at work where I could, and that really helped me manage both. I also had a tremendous support system in my husband. He worked, but he had a more flexible schedule and he was able to pick the kids up from school and things like that. 


Did that feeling of not being able to give your all to either cause you any guilt?

I carried the mommy guilt with me for a long time, but when my son was 13, I thought I had retired. During that period at dinner one day, my son asked when I was going back to work. I told him, “Oh, I’m not going back to work. I love staying home with y’all.” He decided to use that response as the perfect opportunity to test me on acceptable language and said, “Bullsh*t! You are happier when you’re working—you come home excited, tell us about your day, and listen to what’s going on in our day.” I would just say to all the moms carrying mommy guilt—role modeling that you can have a great career and be an engaged mom is really important because most women do not get the choice to be a stay-at-home mom.


This Women’s History Month, which challenges that working moms face are front of mind for you? 

I was lucky that I had a partner who shared equally in all the responsibilities around childcare and house care. I think a lot of working moms don’t have that, so they have a full-time job at the office and a full-time job as a keeper of the house, managing all the kids’ schedules, appointments—all of those things. That is a monumental challenge. For the time period that I stayed at home, I realized that in some respects, that was harder than going to work because nobody is thanking you. I do know that as women, we need to really articulate to our partners what we need to share the burden. 


What can women do to reduce gender inequity and address some of these challenges themselves?

Women need to take responsibility for their compensation. They need to negotiate and be willing to ask for the raise. Most of the articles I’ve read say women don’t stand up for themselves as much as men do; maybe we should be coaching women on how to advocate for themselves.


What should companies be doing to work toward gender inclusivity and equity, whether that’s more women in leadership positions or equal pay?

Companies need to do a much better job analyzing their own data around compensation and career advancement and make appropriate corrections where there are glaring issues. The best path to achieving a diverse workforce is to commit to recruiting a diverse class for entry-level positions, and providing training and mentorship to all. Obviously, when middle and senior management positions become available, active recruitment across all groups will help provide a balance of perspectives and experiences that will be additive to the organization in a myriad of ways.


How do you lead Backcountry in a way that supports gender equity and working moms at the company? 

We’re in a really interesting and transformative time. No one wants a pandemic to have to inspire change, but it has challenged the way we think about working from home. I think this is an opportunity for us to have not only broader WFH policies, but policies around moms and dads—what we need to do to support them in their parenting as well as their work. I have an open door, and I love that there are several women who have reached out to set up a time once a month to talk about careers and family. Those one-on-one conversations are incredibly valuable.


What have your strategies been for striking work-life balance and how does getting outside play into that?

I’m a morning person—if I don’t work out in the morning, I’m not likely to do it when I get home. I was a runner for a long time; I don’t run anymore, but I certainly walk. Going on a hike, a ski run, or a walk on the beach brings me to a place of calm that nothing else can. I do my best thinking when I am outside. I can rationalize emotions. The outdoors always reminds me that no matter what my problem is, it is super tiny in the scope of the universe. 


When your kids were younger, did you have any working mom role models?

Nope, I was on new territory. Interestingly enough, I got judged by some of my friends for putting work—in their view—ahead of my kids. I’m older so a lot of moms weren’t working at the time. Don’t misinterpret me: Most of my friends are super moms who stayed home and did an amazing job. Frankly, I don’t think I am cut from the same cloth. I’m not apologizing for it, but to have my kids recognize that I was more vibrant and interested in their lives when I had a life of my own is a really important thing to think about.