Since 1911, the United States has celebrated Women’s History Month – an annual month declared worldwide that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. This year the Salt Lake Chamber is honoring the extraordinary accomplishments, determination and tenacity of women. Against social convention and often legal restraints, women have created a legacy that expands the frontiers of possibility for generations to come.
Throughout the month of March, the Salt Lake Chamber will highlight women making a difference in Utah business and the local community.
The second feature of the month is: Amanda Covington, SVP of Communications & Government Relations, VISTA Outdoor.
Below is the transcript from the video, please note slight edits have been made.
Amanda Covington, SVP Communications & Government Relations, VISTA Outdoor.
What role do you play within your organization?
I have an exciting role in my organization, and it’s one that’s evolved over the last decade. I work for the CEO and I’m a member of the senior leadership team at Vista Outdoor. Communications and government relations seem to touch almost everything we do as a company. We sell 51 outdoor recreation brands, brands that you might know like Camelback, Bushnell, Bolle, Giro and I get to touch communications that relate to the financial performance of the company and the brands, employee relations, corporate advertising, as well as policy on a state and national level.
What is your favorite part about working there?
I love that I get to use and enjoy the products we make. I’m an outdoor girl at heart, I was raised in the outdoors camping and boating and fishing and hiking and skiing and golfing, and so I work at a company that makes products that support all of those outdoor activities. I often get to take my team and my coworkers and head out to the backcountry which is fun because we get to come back and make great recommendations for product improvements. So I feel like I live work, and work is part of what I like to do outside.
What pivotal moment in your career led you to where you are today?
It started with a mentor who is a woman, Vicki Varela. Early on in my career, I met Vicki when she was the press person for Governor Leavitt and I worked at the department of transportation. Long story short, over the years we got to know each other very well and she helped recommend me for the job to support Governor Walker in her press area. To fast forward a few years, I was working for higher ed, and I got a call from a business recruiter saying that ATK was hiring a communicator and that I had been referred to them by Vicki Varela. It was a change for me, I had always worked in state government and I had never worked for a business or a for-profit company, and for her to have the confidence in me and my skill set to recommend me for such a job took a leap of faith, but it was very important. That was 10 years ago, and my career has continued to evolve and I’ve been able to do things I’d never thought I’d see happen or put on my resume, so I thank her for that.
What has been your most rewarding professional experience?
I have had many rewarding experiences over my career but I would say the most memorable and one of the most impactful was working for Governor Olene Walker. She was a true stateswoman. She really was not a politician. She was a person who cared about the future of our state and the people of our state. It was an amazing time because I was so young. I was mid-twenties at the time and I had a lot of my career ahead of me, but I was able to learn some really amazing lessons from her in terms of seasons of life and how to balance work and life and family and how to bring those things together so you can be impactful all around. She taught me a lot of great lessons, and I’m grateful for that experience it because it shaped who I am when I’m sitting in a board room, it shaped who I am when I’m at home with my family and also who I am when I’m out in the community.
What do you hope to accomplish in the next five years?
I’d like to do more for the company that I work at today. I feel like I’ve been very instrumental in spinning off Vista Outdoor and creating this new outdoor rec company. But, now what we need to do is grow our pipeline of talent and increase the number of women in leadership positions. And I hope that over the next 5 years I’m able to help that come to fruition. We just created a diversity and inclusion council there (at Vista Outdoor)–I chair it. We just joined the women’s leadership institute and the ElevateHer Challenge here in Utah. I see that things don’t happen overnight, but in five years, I think there’s a lot that can be accomplished and I would hope to be a big part of that.
In what ways are you involved with your local community?
I loved to be involved. One thing I’m not is idle. I have a hard time sitting still. So when I’m not at work or not doing something directly involved with my children, I’m very involved with my church, I’m also on the board of “Tread Lightly” which is an organization that promotes the responsible use of our public lands, so whether you’re on a motorized vehicle, or whether you’re fishing, or at a shooting range, making sure that you’re responsibly using and protecting our resources. I also participate on the Women’s Leadership Institute advisory board which I find very rewarding and I support the Olene Walker Institute Board, which helps get youth more involved in public policy.
What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
I think it’s a time for us to reflect on those who have fought for, and brought to the forefront, the empowerment of women. Opportunities and milestones like women’s history month or any other type of celebration really create an opportunity to celebrate because there has been so much that has been done, but also a time to reflect on what more can happen. So for me, it’s a nice time to recognize those who have gone before us but also stop for a moment and think what we can do to be instrumental in the future. It’s a great time in the office for us to recognize women in leadership in our communities and in business. For me it’s very special being a woman and having benefitted form trailblazers who have forged that path, it’s special.
Why do you think Women’s History Month matters?
Like I said before, I think it’s very important to reflect. I think it’s a nice opportunity for everyone to come to the table and take a moment. We should be focused on empowering women everyday, but to recognize and reflect is important and I think that’s the gist of taking a month and highlighting those stories that should be remembered. Exposing young women and young men to people who have created change and have been advocates for change helps to inspire the next generation and future stories.
What do you hope to see for the future of women?
I hope women recognize that they can do it all and that balance is important. It’s okay to be nurturing and compassionate and that it’s great to be strong in a board room and to share opinions and to lead out, and it’s okay to listen. There are so many components of what women bring to the table that should be celebrated, and I hope young women can capture that and find that confidence so that they can share their talents and traits and their skill sets with others. And that they can find the right balance with men. I think that the dialogue has to be that we’re better together and that we are advocates and allies for one another. I hope that as time evolves, we’ll see more women confident in those skill sets and talents and be willing to share and bring those to fruition.
What do you see as the biggest challenges women face in the world today?
I think people face challenges whether you’re a man or a woman or person of color or whatever perspectives we’re coming from or unique challenges we face. But I think a majority of challenges today stem from confidence. I think there have been a lot of great advancements for women and great changes whether it be through policy changes or just attitude changes, but I think now we need to see women take that another step further and embrace it and be confident in who they are and their capabilities. When I work with young women, or when I mentor other women at work, it really is about being confident in their capabilities and being willing to share and stand up.
What motivates you?
My family motivates me. I have two beautiful boys, they are teenagers now. I want to be the best role model and mom that I can be so that they’re strong and independent contributing adults when they get out into the world. That’s my main motivation.
Who is your role model?
My mom. She was a working mom and that was rare when I was young. Most of my friend’s mom’s were not in the workforce, so my mom was different. But it was interesting because my mom never missed anything that happened at school, or if I was sick or if my friends were sick it was my mom we always called. She was a real role model in selfless service.
What tip of pearl of wisdom would you share with other female professionals?
Two tips. Number one, become a good listener. Learn how to listen to understand. Listen and understand before you speak. The second is just do it. Believe that you can. I think many times women may think ‘well I might not be 100% qualified for that job, I think I have 70% of the skills but I might not be 100 percent’ or ‘you know, I’m really uneasy about asking for that opportunity.’ Just go and do it. Just say yes and try something new. Be bold and be brave.
About Amanda Covington
Amanda is Senior Vice President of Communications and Government Relations for Vista Outdoor Inc., a leading global designer, manufacturer and marketer in the growing outdoor sports and recreation markets.
Most recently, Amanda served as the Vice President, Corporate Communications for ATK, an aerospace, defense, and commercial products company, prior to its spin-off to Vista Outdoor.
Before joining ATK, Amanda worked as the Assistant Commissioner for Public Affairs at the Utah System of Higher Education from 2005 to 2008. She also served as the Deputy for Communications and spokesperson for Utah Governor Olene S. Walker from 2003 to 2004. Before joining the Governor’s Office, Amanda was the Director of Communications for the Utah Department of Transportation, leading communications campaigns for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, I-15 Reconstruction, and Legacy Parkway.