“The mission of our association is that every woman professionally representing our industry can find her place and rise to her fullest potential!”
The fitness industry is already female dominated in many places, but women are still underrepresented in management and executive roles. How can women rise in their careers? How can they achieve what they want? The Women in Fitness Association (WIFA) is a global not for profit that supports women in the fitness industry. WIFA provides resources for them to advance in their careers. Its founder, Lindsey Rainwater is all about women supporting women. Her energy is contagious and her passion to support women is infectious. We spoke with her at FIBO USA in Miami about women's strengths, opportunities and challenges in the fitness industry.
Lindsey, please briefly explain, what WIFA is
Lindsey: The Women in Fitness Association is the global non-profit organization that supports women in the fitness industry. What that means is that we provide resources like educational series, mentorship and networking, centered around career development. Having a community of women around you all in support of lifting one another up helps enormously as you walk through you career path. Because, it is a little bit nerve-racking to approach somebody cold saying “hi, you don’t know me, but I admire what you do – could we have a cup of coffee and I learn more about you?” versus “hi I am a member of WIFA and I saw you are, too – can I learn a little bit more about what your career was like for you when you first started? I would love some insight.” The purpose of the association is to get professional women in fitness together, because there are greats groups of people in the industry focused on certain issues, but they have their own agenda and nowhere has is a specific focused group on women.
Please tell us your personal story that led you to found WIFA
Lindsey: The idea of bringing women together to support each other came to me when I was pregnant with my first son. Back then, I was at a women's event, at a conference. It was amazing. Just to sit across the table from other women, hear her perspective and just to feel the energy in the room. This was also very unique and different. I loved that event and so I looked to see when the next event was of this kind and it was not for a whole year. I started researching and found out that. there was not an association supporting women in fitness at all. So, I built the website and I got things up in running. I will never forget sitting there with my husband, seven and a half months pregnant and I am looking down at my phone and I said - “Honey, someone from Australia joined and I do not even know who they are!” It was great how many members came and I spent the whole weekend welcoming everyone. And now we have over 500 members across the world. So, it is cool to see that the need that I had is felt by others as well.
Can you please explain your mentorship program?
Lindsey: For me the biggest accelerator in my work was having a mentor that helped me realize my own potential. He would point things out to me that I wanted to be good at that he knew I was going to be good at and then he would provide me an opportunity to try that thing. I wanted to create a place where mentorship was facilitated, because it is very hard to find a good mentor. And the other thing that gets overlooked is that I think people always look for someone that is way ahead of them as a mentor, instead of being willing to be paired with someone that could even be a peer and exchange best practices. So, I created our peer mentorship program. Our members can opt in to be paired with another woman in the community four times a year. Being that WIFA is global your peer may be in another time zone or in your same area. It is all done randomly. It is so important to network internationally these days and it is a training tool for that. It is a great opportunity to connect with someone you have never met before and then see what comes of it. Each participant gets four introductions over the course of a year. The stories that I have heard come out of it are really cool. We had a woman email in to WIFA to tell us about her mentorship experience. She said that she has been in the industry for over 25 years and has always wanted to speak at a conference, but never has. She worked with her peer mentor to help her achieve that goal and she applied to speak at an industry event that same year!
What are the challenges women face in the industry?
Lindsey: A lot of clubs are run by women and owned by men. The men make the decisions. That is an old-school-model. We are already seeing a lot of progress, but the problem is, that a lot of these seats are occupied. And, how do you rotate those seats? And, how do you start to welcome fresh new talent? It is interesting where old school methods exists. You wouldn't expect it in some places. It should be more about qualification. Of course, this challenge does not only affect the fitness industry. I think we have a diversity issue at large.
Why should women support each other better?
Lindsey: I think there is an old wives' tale, that there is not enough to go around and I have to fight to get what I want. And it comes from the very old thought process like “I want that one man and I want to make babies, and he is mine, and I have to fight the other women for him.”… That seems to be part of our DNA. That want for survival. But, that is not the modern world we are living in. There is more than enough to go around. When we try to keep it all to ourselves, is where we limit our sisters and our ability to share. My vision is that by collaborating, by helping each other, by saying “oh you wanna be a speaker, I just did that and here is the person you need to talk to” you just accelerated the growth of that woman’s career and experience and opened a door for her. And, it is a new door. It is not like you won't be a speaker yourself just because you gave someone else the chance. It is changing your mentality.
Lindsey Rainwater is a experienced business advisor, executive coach and the founder of The Women in Fitness Association (WIFA). WIFA is the global association supporting women in their career trajectory helping them rise to their fullest potential in business and life. She is known for her work advising businesses on their internal processes and systems, her original published content, additionally supporting individuals in transformational change and leadership development. Lindsey is a widely published author, has been featured in many podcasts, books, facilitated keynote talks and workshops. In 2017, IHRSA (International Health, Racquet and Sports-club Association) recognized her as a “Rising Star”. Her intention is to help individuals and organizations enjoy necessary change in order to succeed. She is a mama to two dynamic little boys, her husband, doggie delta and boys live in the Colorado Rockies where you can find them enjoying the outdoors.