Women of Inspiration

Shoot Like A Girl is reinvigorating our “Women of Inspiration” Article Series.  As we continue to empower women to participate in shooting sports with confidence, we want to highlight ladies who have and continue to push through glass ceilings in the shooting sports industry so that others may follow!   We hope you are inspired!
Recently, at the National Rifle Associations’ Women’s Leadership Forum Luncheon, I ran into our friend Liz Sharp, Vice President of Investor Relations at Smith & Wesson.  I was very impressed when she introduced two other women who were also corporate executives from Smith & Wesson: Deana McPherson, Vice President and Corporate Controller; and Anne Bruce, Vice President of Human Relations.  It was an honor to meet these three accomplished women, and a privilege to introduce them to you through Shoot Like A Girl’s “Women of Inspiration”article series.  We hope you find inspiration in their words and accomplishments!
Women of Inspiration with Governor Bobby Jindal
From left: Deana McPherson, Liz Sharp, Gov. Jindal, Anne Bruce

Elizabeth Sharp, Vice President of Investor Relations, Smith & Wesson

SLG:  How long have you worked in the industry?
ES:  10 Years
SLG:  What made you decide to work in the gun industry?
ES:  I was unfamiliar with guns or the gun industry in general. But as I was doing some independent consulting in investor relations, a friend told me about a new public firearm company (Smith & Wesson) that had an opening.  I thought it was intriguing so I pursued.  Long story short, I signed up full time, and began to learn a lot of wonderful things about our industry and I’ve been hooked ever since. Now I shoot every chance I get and I love bringing other newcomers, particularly ladies, into the sport.
SLG:  Why do you think it is important to encourage women to participate in shooting sports? 
ES:I think the shooting sports are very well suited for women.  There is obviously a self-protection element that I think is important for every woman to master.  But beyond that, it’s a sport where women can rally explore a new skill set, excel, and develop wonderful comradery with other women shooters.
SLG:  If you could tell ladies one thing about the key to your success, what would it be? 
ES:  Remain open minded to new opportunities and never stop learning new things.
SLG:  Would you please make a comment about shooting safety? 
ES:  There is absolutely nothing more important in the world of sport shooting than the element of safety.  It must permeate every situation where a firearm is present. I strongly recommend availing oneself of every opportunity to take any and all classes available to help keep safety concepts fresh and  “front of mind” when shooting.
Deana L. McPherson, Vice President and Corporate Controller,  Smith & Wesson
SLG:  How long have you worked in the industry? 
DM:  8 years
SLG:  What made you decide to work in the gun industry?
DM: For me, it wasn’t a decision to work in the gun industry. It was a decision to work in a dynamic, strong, fast-paced environment, in a publicly traded company with other hard working and fun people. I just took for granted that the company made a constitutionally protected product and didn’t think much more about it than that.
SLG:  Why do you think it is important to encourage women to participate in shooting sports?
DM: The sporting aspect of our second amendment rights is a great way to enable women to become more comfortable with the operation and safety regarding their weapons.  We all want women to become more empowered to protect themselves and this goal is really furthered when they feel confident that they know how to handle their firearm of choice.  And, besides, once we get a handgun in their hands, they realize how fun it really is!
SLG:  How did you get introduced to shooting sports?
DM: I was lucky enough to not only work for a firearm company, I also had a great co-worker who really wanted the other women in the company to participate in shooting.  She made it a priority to schedule range time with the other female executives and gave us an opportunity to learn in a low-key, safe, a non-judgmental environment.  We didn’t have to feel like “silly girls” in a man’s environment.  I will always credit her with taking the time to show me how fun shooting can be.
SLG:  If you could tell ladies one thing about the key to your success, what would it be?
DM: I think, to be successful, you have to play on the same field as the men do. You can’t make excuses or expect to be given anything. You have to work just as hard (and sometimes twice as hard). There will always be something to prove and someone that doesn’t think that a woman can measure up. I have the confidence to believe that I more than measure up. 
SLG: Would you please make a comment about shooting safety? 
DM:  Safety is so important.  To pull out my inner Star Wars geek, Yoda says, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”  You cannot try to be safe. You must be safe.
Anne Bruce, Vice President of Human Relations, Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation
SLG:  How long have you worked in the industry: 
AB: 2.5 years
SLG:  What made you decide to work in the gun industry?
AB: From a career perspective, I have always chosen to work for companies with strong, highly recognizable brands.  Additionally, when I met the leadership team here at Smith & Wesson and learned about the strategy and the business, and I was hooked.  To work for a company that has meaning and makes a difference is very important to me.  From a personal standpoint, I grew up on a ranch, and have been around firearms my whole life, whether it was hunting or other activities. Additionally, my family is heavily military – my grandfather was a Rear Admiral in the Pacific during World War II, my Uncle was a Captain in the Navy, and my father was a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy as well.  The importance of firearms was always stressed from a standpoint of maintaining individual liberties but also for shooting sports.  It was always communicated to me in the context of history, learn from past mistakes. 
SLG:  Why do you think it is important to encourage women to participate in shooting sports?
AB: As the mother of two teenage daughters and as the daughter of parents who always encouraged me to break barriers – it is really important to me that women feel empowered to participate in activities that they choose to or pursue opportunities that are interesting and fulfilling.  Shooting sports is fun – it’s a lifestyle sport much like tennis or golf. It also takes skill and to master a skill is definitely empowering.  From a personal safety standpoint, knowing that you can take care of yourself and not have to rely on another person is a very empowering feeling.  Being able to be independent in today’s world is very important, knowing you can go places and do things because you CAN is a phenomenal feeling.
SLG:  How did you get introduced to shooting sports?
AB: I was introduced as a child, I think I received my first gun – a pellet gun when I was about 5 or 6.  After several lessons and a stern talking to by both parents, we were allowed to target shoot and take guns out with limited supervision.  Target shooting was acceptable, but we were also told never kill anything unless you were going to eat it!  With several older siblings who liked to hunt as well as, parents firearms were fairly common in our household.  Safety was a priority.  While I don’t shoot enough – my husband still hunts often to this day and our girls shoot when they have time.  I am not interested at this point in formal competitions but it’s a great family activity and I really enjoy introducing people to the shooting sports.
SLG:  If you could tell ladies one thing about the key to your success, what would it be?
AB: I don’t know that there is one thing that would make any one person successful.  I can tell you I have always given this advice to men and women alike:
·      There is no such thing as “normal” – do not subscribe to stereotypes, do not subject yourself to stereo types.
·      Life is a series of balancing acts – having it “all” is a myth, realize that sometimes you will short your family and sometimes it will be your career, but be aware of where you are at.
·      You will find opportunities and help where you least expect it – take the jobs others don’t want, ask for advice from the people who are hardest on you, opt them into your solutions.
·      The right thing to do is rarely the easy thing to do – learn how to and be comfortable making hard decisions, that in and of itself will distinguish you from others.
·      Keep a sense of humor and keep things in context.
SLG:  Would you please make a comment about shooting safety?
AB:  Can you ever say enough about safety!  There really is no in between.  You are or you are not, take it seriously and be comfortable ensuring others take it just as seriously.

Shoot Like A Girl will continue to highlight Women of Inspiration like Liz, Deana, and Anne!  I know I’m inspired, and I hope you are.  We are all capable of achieving any goal we set for ourselves! 

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