Virtual Panel: Defining Success and Empowering the Rise

Panel Recap

In honor of Women’s History Month 2024, the RV Women’s Alliance hosted a virtual panel discussion called “Defining Success and Empowering the Rise: Women Supporting Women on Their Path to Success.” The session brought together RVWA members to listen to a diverse panel of industry members and leaders who shared their insights on what it means to RISE, not just in our careers but also beyond.

The panel was moderated by Ashton Belk, President of Huebner Marketing, and featured three remarkable women who have made a significant impact in the RV industry:

  • Donna Warr, Director of Sales, Valterra | Dometic
  • Brenda Wintrow, EVP, Operations, Camping World | Good Sam | RVs.com
  • Toby O’Rourke, President & CEO, Kampgrounds of America

In their hour-long conversation, the panelists dug deep into their own definitions of success and shared with one another and their audience their biggest lessons learned from their time in the RV industry.

The conversation was rich with valuable takeaways, and we’d encourage you to watch the full recording when possible. As a preview, here are just a few key themes the panel explored:

Rethinking the Concept of Rising

The panelists highlighted the importance of redefining what it means to rise in the industry. They emphasized that rising is not limited to climbing the corporate ladder or obtaining a higher position but also includes personal growth, learning new skills, and reaching individual potential. Rising encompasses utilizing available resources and the support of others to explore opportunities for advancement.

Brenda shared the many ways the people around her have helped her rise. “When you have the support of those around you,” she said, “I think the sky’s the limit. We’re not limited to what we can do. Sometimes we put limitations on our minds that even folks around us aren’t feeling.”

For Donna, that meant growing and nurturing her family at work alongside her family at home. “I decided we’ve got to like where we’re working because we spend a lot of time there. It’s got to be more than a job; it’s got to be a career and something we really believe in. And that’s where I feel like it’s family.”

Mentorship and Support

Mentorship also played a crucial role in the discussion, with the panelists stressing the significance of supporting and mentoring fellow women in the industry. They discussed the value of having mentors—both male and female—who can guide and inspire others on their path to success. The panelists encouraged attendees to seek out mentors and be open to offering mentorship themselves, fostering a spirit of support and growth within the community.

Brenda shared a pivotal moment when a mentor encouraged her to stop questioning her place in the room. “He just told me to get out of my own way,” she said. “And it’s probably the best career advice I ever had. Just go forth and conquer.”

Toby added the idea of advocates as an important member of your mentorship team. “An advocate is someone that’ll speak up for you when you’re not in the room,” she said. “They’re creating opportunities for you; they’re getting you in front of the people you need to and helping create those pathways.”

Representation and Diversity

The importance of representation and diversity within the RV industry was also a central theme of the conversation. The panelists emphasized the need for inclusive leadership and its positive impact on the industry as a whole. They stressed the significance of having more women leaders and diverse voices at all levels of the organizations, encouraging young professionals to see role models who have succeeded in the industry.

“When you’re given a seat at the table,” Toby encouraged the audience, “you have and use your voice.”

Ashton added, “I think it’s really important for anybody listening to think about what you’re doing to bring the right people to the table, bring them to the table with purpose and intention, and give them space to let their voices be heard.”

Personal Growth and Work-Life Balance

The panelists shared personal experiences of overcoming challenges and provided insights on managing stress and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. They acknowledged many women’s struggle to balance career aspirations and familial responsibilities. The discussion emphasized the importance of self-care, setting boundaries, and modeling positive work-life integration. The panelists encouraged attendees to prioritize personal growth and well-being, demonstrating that success is not just measured by professional achievements but also by personal satisfaction.

All the panelists agreed that finding that balance is a lifelong mission. Toby shared a helpful message she’s been trying to internalize.

“It’s important to learn what to say no to and to really choose because you can’t do everything,” she said. “I read once, ‘Unless it’s a hell yes, it’s a no.’ And I’ve been trying to be better about that, and it has actually helped a lot in achieving more balance at home and here.”

The Defining Success and Empowering the Rise: Women Supporting Women on Their Path to Success virtual panel provided an excellent platform for industry leaders to share their experiences, insights, and advice for other RV professionals, particularly women. The panelists challenged attendees to think differently about the concept of rising and emphasized the importance of representation and support within the RV industry. The conversation was inspiring, informative, and empowering for all those who attended.