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Women want to go boating

By Brianna Liestman

As a young girl I admired a number of women, but all the pop stars and TV show characters were eclipsed by how much I looked up to my aunt. Interestingly enough, my aunt is an avid boater.

My aunt cruised in the family boat, water-skied and knee boarded across the lake every weekend as much as, if not more than, my uncle did. She told me stories about how she caught the giant fish in Garrison, Minnesota when it tried to eat her brother. Her face still lights up like it’s Christmas morning when she sees a new “toy” to bring on the water.

She was the perfect role model for embracing the boating lifestyle. Certainly without her, I would never have been interested in boating. And as Peter Houseworth of InfoLink noted in our recent State of the Industry webinar, exposure to boating at a young age correlates highly with boating adoption later in life – regardless of gender.

Boating participation is at a 15-year high and new boat spending is up year-over-year in many key states. So why is it that the number of new boat purchases by women is still below 14 percent?

In our webinar, Houseworth discussed a significant lack of engagement towards women within the industry. However, unlike other challenges our industry faces, this is not due to a lack of interest - he noted that in many households the female is the adventurer of the family. He also highlighted the 42 million women who are currently of the “prime boating age,” waiting to become boaters. Imagine how many more women we could reach if we consider the young women who boated as children.

We don’t have to wait for women to reach a certain age – we simply have to appeal to their interests, particularly those who were exposed to boating early and hope to pass on this love to a new generation. Many of the challenges engaging young women in boating are more indicative of the same issues the industry faces engaging all Generation Xers and millenials, rather than a gendered disinterest in the activity. Any and all initiatives to engage women in boating should be pursued.

I encourage anyone who wants to bring women into boating to attend our session “Sell More Boats to Women” at MDCE in November. It will outline strategies dealers can utilize in selling boats to families, couples and single women. Visit MRAA.com/MDCE for more information.

In the meantime, I will be plotting my attempts to catch my own giant fish to use as a historical marker – just like my aunt.

One comment

  1. Brianna, thank you for raising the WHY question. I have started sailing when I was 14 and I was surprised how few girls were taking on sailing or boating. I was lucky to be a part of the Yacht Club in Russia that offered youth support and racing activities for free, as long as we volunteer 😉 I would love to be a part of the Sell More Boats to Women session and I hope that more and more boaters, boating businesses and association would take on Pay-it-Forward initiatives to encourage young girls and boys to become boaters for life!

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