In celebration of all female riders no matter the motorcycle brand, Harley-Davidson declared May as Women Riders Month. For the Motor Company, this is an exciting time for women of all ages and backgrounds to learn to ride motorcycles and to offer them support throughout the experience and on the road. We thought this was the perfect opportunity to commemorate some industry ladies and riders who are helping make significant contributions to women and motorcycling and who have helped shape Harley's women outreach efforts.
First off, piloting the ladies riding movement at H-D is Women's Outreach Manager Leslie Prevish. Helping other females see and feel the passion for motorcycling for the past 20 years, Leslie was introduced to two wheels back in her childhood. "My dad was a rider and I remember one short but exhilarating ride with him when I was 8 years old before he passed away and my mom sold the bike," Leslie recalled. While Leslie was living with her brother during college, in which she received a bachelor's degree in Journalism, and a master's degree in Italian, and a master's in business administration, her brother encouraged her to get her motorcycle license. "I hadn't really thought about it before that," Leslie said, "since there were so few women riders--around 3 percent--so I'm glad he suggested it!"
After Leslie finished her master's in Italian, she worked as the promotions coordinator and later a Buell salesperson at A.D. Farrow Harley-Davidson in Columbus, Ohio, from 1995-'98. From there, it was off to Milwaukee to H-D where Leslie has worked the past 11 years and has enjoyed several roles in public relations. "I also managed Buell Riders Adventure Group and was the editor of Enthusiast," Leslie said. "Then I lobbied for the [Motor] Company to create a women's outreach manager position, and a year and a half ago, I started in my dream job working full time to promote women and motorcycling." Leslie humorously added, "In college a boyfriend asked what my dream job would be, and when I said I'd love to market motorcycles to women, he laughed and said, `No one will ever pay you for that.' Guess he was wrong!"
In Leslie's role, she works with many departments in marketing and also throughout H-D to implement its initiatives to encourage women to ride and promote stronger bonds with existing female riders. This year has been the greatest for outreach efforts, from a fully redesigned website dedicated to female riders () to events, rides, mentoring programs, and much more. Outreach initiatives include H-D Garage Party events, where dealerships across the country host free women-only shows that are targeted toward new or inexperienced riders, as well as Share Your Spark, a mentoring DVD for both current riders and aspiring riders looking to help one another. A first in the industry to encourage women to ride is H-D's We Ride, a guide that provides inspirational stories and educational materials to help women understand what motorcycling is all about. "We have heard many dealers say that women have been inspired after reading the guide to take the rider course and buy a motorcycle," Leslie said. "And that is why I love my job, because I know that each of those women is starting her own adventure on two wheels and hopefully someday will help encourage others to ride as well."
From participating in numerous women rides throughout this year alone to the
09 International Women & Motorcycling Conference with H-D and Buell as the presenting sponsors, Leslie has her hands quite full these days with the growth of the women's market. "I'm proud to work for a company that has had the vision to encourage women to ride for decades," Leslie said. "And just about every day I read over the 1920 ad the Motor Company produced to encourage women to enjoy thegit and go' of motorcycles." Leslie continued, "We know from our research that there are millions of women who are interested in riding, and I am confident that our efforts will help spark the passion among those who have the `adventure gene' to take control and ride their own motorcycles."
Joining Leslie in the ladies riding movement is Women's Outreach Project Manager Laura Scherr. Since Laura has only been riding motorcycles for five years versus Leslie's experience, Laura offers a younger rider perspective, which is great for the new or aspiring rider reading this. Growing up as a tomboy on a family horse farm in Wisconsin, Laura was always seeking something adventurous. "If I wasn't riding horses, I was on someone's dirt bike, ATV or doing something outdoors," Laura recalled. After obtaining a journalism degree, Laura worked in advertising and marketing settings in a couple cities before joining H-D in 2004 in the electronic communications department. "During my three years in that role, I signed up for the Rider's Edge New Rider course, got my license, and immediately bought my first Harley, a 1200 Sportster Roadster," Laura said. "My sense of adventure is something that's inherent and riding my Harley gives me that feeling like nothing else out there can."
While managing the website content for global Buell websites, Laura also worked on the launch of H-D's Women & Motorcycling section of the website, as well as helped format and pilot the first Garage Party event. After moving over to Buell Marketing for a year, Laura then went on in October 2008 to the Women's Outreach department to work with Leslie. Such projects they have embarked on together to promote women's interest in riding include the website redesign, participation in the women rides throughout this year, and the Share Your Spark program. Laura is also helping to align strategy for ergonomic customization with H-D's Fit Shop program, which will show ladies that they can ride almost any Harley. "We worked with the P&A; group on getting the word out to women that they can customize any bike to fit them," Laura said. "Women can go to their local [H-D] dealer, and the dealership will have easy reference tools to help determine the P&A; to make their dream bike fit them better."
As the women's riding market continues to increase and new or inexperienced riders are looking for more options for support, Laura is pleased to be part of it and excited to watch the growth of female riders in years to come. "I look forward to the future strides we'll make in helping to grow the number of women riders," Laura said. "The women Harley riders out there may not be who you expect them to be. It's inspiring to see so many different women riding--all with their own reasons for why they ride, but yet sharing the same passion. I love that!"
With their team efforts, Leslie and Laura are influential figures in promoting and preserving women outreach efforts in motorcycling. "We're very proud that H-D sees the value and potential in the women's market," Leslie said. "The more women that are out there riding, the better the products and services will be. Our voices will be heard by all manufacturers; H-D is listening!"