The highlight of my trip to Interbike this year didn’t happen on the trade show floor. Several flights below the sales pitches and shiny new bikes, at the OIWC awards reception, Pat Cunnane, president of Advanced Sports International, shared a call to action to bring more women into the bike industry.
We knew we needed to continue that discussion at the National Women’s Bicycling Forum. From the bikes we ride to the advertising messages we see, the industry plays a major role in encouraging more women to ride and we’re bringing together a diverse panel of leaders from Giant, Gazelle, REI and ASI to delve into three specific areas: product, marketing and workforce diversity.
Stephanie Genuardi (pictured), marketing communications manager at ASI, is a perfect example of the company’s commitment to workplace diversity. Schooled as a journalist, Genuardi came to ASI with no background in biking — but she’s quickly become a passionate bicyclist and incredible ambassador for the brand. Read more about Genuardi below and register for the Women’s Forum today!
Who or what inspired you to start riding?
Beyond beach cruising and riding to meet up with friends in the neighborhood when I was a kid, I had never ridden before joining ASI. But once I commit to something, I fully immerse myself in it. When I took on the job of blogging about our pro tour team in particular and, in turn, became rather obsessed with the sport, I knew I had to get out and try it for myself. And at ASI, I’m surrounded by people who love riding and would love nothing more than to get more people on bikes. They were encouraging, patient, and willing to help/teach.
What’s your riding style / bike background? Do you commute? Ride on the weekends? Participate in cause rides or races?
I’m a weekend rider. I can never seem to find time during the week, and I live 30+ miles away from the office – which makes commuting pretty challenging. I’m pretty new to road riding but am slowly building up my mileage. I also am a self-admitted fair-weather rider. I went to school in Miami. I love the heat and hate the cold!
It looks like you have a background in newspapers and magazines? What brought you from Miami to Philly?
Home base is Philadelphia. I went to an all-girls, Catholic high school in the Philly suburbs and was yearning for diversity, which led me to the University of Miami. I majored in print journalism and English literature, with a minor in political science. I loved my time there. After graduating, I worked for several months at The Miami Herald as a breaking new reporter and really enjoyed my work. Unfortunately, there are so few opportunities in print journalism right now. As soon as I left, the newspaper laid off nearly 100 employees.
How did you get into the bike world professionally?
After leaving The Miami Herald, I struggled to find a job in journalism. I had a contact at ASI, and they were looking for writing help with an upcoming project. I was hired as an intern, fell in love with the company and cycling, and was offered the opportunity to stay on. Three years later, I’m the Marketing Communications Manager.
Was it a challenge to come into the industry without that retail background (which, too often, seems to be a preconceived criteria for success)?
In many ways, it was definitely a challenge. I knew nothing about bikes before joining ASI. It was a whole new vocabulary to learn and way of thinking. But I like a challenge. And I hate being behind the curve. So I asked a ton of questions and just immersed myself in it. This past year at Interbike, as I was walking editors through the line and explaining our High Compaction carbon molding process and the shortened chainstays on our revamped Tahoe 29 rear triangle, I was pretty proud of how far I’ve come. I still have a long way to go but making big strides. I think my journalism background prepared me for it. When I was writing a feature story, I had to become an expert in the topic I was writing about – no matter how foreign it was to me. I also think there are basic, inherently valuable skills that both me and some of my non-industry coworkers bring to the table that others within the industry might not: new perspectives, context, critical thinking for example.
I’ve heard Pat Cunnane [president of ASI] speak about ASI’s true and unique commitment to addressing gender equity — how has that played out for you in your work?
ASI has provided me with every opportunity to excel. They’ve trusted me and encouraged me to pursue everything I’ve wanted. Despite being outside of industry, they’ve placed total confidence in my ability to get things done. They provide the platform for their employees – particularly their female employees – to succeed, regardless of gender and background.
What are you most excited about in your work for ASI — especially as it pertains to getting more women engaged in the industry or riding bikes?
I manage our brands’ social media presence, particularly for Fuji. Since I took over the Fuji Facebook page a year and a half ago, we’ve grown by nearly 20,000 fans. I recently received a message from a fan saying how much he loves our Facebook page because it represents everything as a company we are passionate about and doesn’t just tell the stories of our sponsored athletes but also those of regular people. It’s the stories of our customers and consumers that I enjoy telling most and that I believe inspire growth – ultimately getting more people on bikes.
Examples of some of my favorite recent content: A photo of our Nigerian distributor visiting Fuji headquarters explaining his mission of growing the sport of cycling in his country, where it is largely undeveloped; a photo of man with his new Fuji mountain bike setting a goal of a 100-pound weight loss, with fans chiming in with their own stories, sharing advice, and wishing him luck; a photo of a dad an daughter out on their first-ever ride together.
What’s the best thing about working for a bike company?
Working in a laid-back environment filled with great people who are passionate about what they do and marketing/selling a product that offers a healthy, happy lifestyle.
What’s the best piece of advice another woman ever gave you about riding?
Hmmm. I really can’t think of anything for this question. I’ve actually received the most advice from ASI President Pat Cunnane, who has taught me pretty much everything I know about riding thus far – teaching me how to shift, how to ride in a group, how to ride in a city.
Hear more from Genuardi and about ASI’s diversity efforts at the National Women’s Bicycling Forum!
Carolyn SzczepanskiCarolyn joined the League in March 2012, after two years at the Alliance for Biking & Walking. In addition to managing the League's blog, magazine and other communications, Carolyn organized the first National Women's Bicycling Summit and launched the League's newest program: Women Bike. Before she crossed over to advocacy, she was a professional journalist for nearly 10 years.