The recipient of the 2014 Darlene Briggs Woman of the Year Award was energetic and thoughtful as she reflected on the state of women’s involvement in the recreation of boating and in the boating business.
“The industry has an increasing appeal to women consumers,” BoatUS president Margaret Podlich said a few hours after she received the honor at the 2014 Marine Dealer Conference & Expo in Orlando, Fla., in November.
“The appeal in the product is greater. What I am saying is there is significant opportunity within the women demographic to sell boating to women consumers. I think women in the industry are going to help that happen. It is not just a nicer galley in a boat. It is about better safety; it’s about having more choices; it’s about making boating easier to fit into lives.”
“We are grateful that we have a woman like Margaret in the boating industry,” says Regulator Marine president Joan Maxwell, who won the award in 2003. “She is a friend and a smart advocate for the industry and it is because she loves boating so much.”
Referring to Maxwell and other past recipients, Podlich called it an honor to be included in a group of such “wonder women.”
“I am very humbled, considering the winners from years past,” Podlich says. “It is an honor to be singled out and join such a group of women.”
Podlich, 50, has held several positions at BoatUS during the past 20 years. She worked her way up to become president in 2011.
In 1994 BoatUS recruited Podlich to run its then new non-profit BoatUS Clean Water Trust. In 2005 the association promoted her to vice president of government affairs. As the group’s president she has been overseeing membership activities, recruitment and retention efforts, government affairs and lobbying responsibilities and consumer and public affairs, among other duties.
The recipient of the Briggs award demonstrates leadership and commitment to the boating business. Recipients also must show a willingness to volunteer time and effort in their communities and social organizations.
Established in 1987, the award is named after the late Darlene Briggs of Wayzata Marine in Wayzata, Minn., who exemplified these qualities. She was the first retail marine saleswoman in Minnesota and the first female member of her state marine trades association.
Podlich was raised in a sailing family. She raced collegiately at Tulane University and then competed in such national and international events as the 2011 Rolex Women’s International Keelboat Regatta, finishing fourth. She also was a member in 2006 of the three-woman Yuengling Team Cronin sailing crew, which competed for a place on the U.S. Olympic sailing team for the 2008 Beijing Summer Games.
“Having grown up on the water, I know I am lucky to get to go to work to create other people’s fun,” Podlich says. “Sure, some days it feels like work, but it makes a difference if you have that passion for the water and you can feel that relaxation and the joy it brings. That break from the rest of our crazy worlds is found on the water, and we need to share that with others.”
She recognized the efforts of the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas — a co-producer of the MDCE — to attract a more diverse group of people to the industry.
“At this particular conference I have been impressed by how many women are involved at the dealer level,” she says. “One of my takeaways is that [MRAA] perhaps is doing a better job of getting women involved than the rest of us. The other fun thing about this crowd is that there are some younger people here. To me, that is brilliant. They have cracked the code. Maybe we need to learn from them about how to permeate the rest of the industry with some of this younger demographic.”
Former winner Marcia Kull, vice president of marine sales at Volvo Penta, presented the award to Podlich. a friend.
“Under her leadership, BoatUS moved from a staid consumer organization to a powerful lobbying partner of both the NMMA and MRAA, harnessing the energy and advocacy of its half a million members to ensure that boating remains affordable, accessible, safe and fun,” Kull told the audience, saying her passion for the boating lifestyle “forms the very root of her effectiveness as a leader.”
Kull also said Podlich has “practically single-handedly persuaded boaters to embrace green boating,” implored the Coast Guard to adopt intuitive life jacket descriptions and boater-friendly designs, encouraged regulators to keep waters and ramps open and helped the industry improve its skill at working proactively with aggrieved consumers.”
Besides Kull and Maxwell, past recipients include Rallee Chupich of Gordy’s Lakefront Marine; Debbie Meigs of Cobalt Boats; Jewell “Julie” Crowe of Crowe Marine; Barbara Woodard of Woodard Marine; Nancy Smith of Colorado Boat Center; Ann Baldree of Marine Products Corp.; Kris Carroll of Grady-White Boats; Lynn Fiorenzano of Silver Spring Marine; and Maureen Dickson of Cap Sante Marine.
This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue.