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Life Advice from Columbia’s 93-Year-Old Chairwoman Gert Boyle

Gert Boyle is going strong. After her husband’s death in 1970, she and her son Tim took over the company. In 1984, they launched the hugely successful One Tough Mother ad campaign, featuring the finger-wagging Ma Boyle. Three decades later, the German immigrant, who moved to Oregon during Hitler’s rise, is as opinionated as ever.

Gert with her soon-to-be-husband, Neal, in 1947 (Courtesy of Columbia Sportswear)
gert boyle

“For my father to start a new company in 1938, the year after we arrived in Portland, took guts and real vision. That’s part of the reason I still come to work every day. And my son and my grandkids are down the hall. Besides, the alternative is to stay home and hang out with a bunch of old people. Who wants to do that?!”

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“My husband, Neal, was much more comfortable in the outdoors. But raising three kids in Portland? You better believe that we did all sorts of hiking and spent plenty of nights under the stars. The best thing we did with our kids was to send them outside. The one part I hated was the cooking. I never figured out how to love washing pots and pans at a campsite.”


The Bugaboo put Columbia on the map for skiwear. It was inspired by the success of one of our hunting jackets. When you’re hunting, you need a really warm coat, but after walking a mile or two, you get hot. By combining two jackets into one, we were able to offer versatility to tackle any conditions. Why not bring it over to the ski industry? I still think the funny name has something to do with its success. It’s Tim’s favorite mountain range.”


“I don’t think there is a big difference between women and men in the workplace. The focus should be on hard work and dedication regardless of your gender. I’ve always found that the colleagues that you want to spend your time with aren’t paying attention to your gender. They are paying attention to what you bring to the table.” 


“A lot of women are afraid to speak. So speak up!


“The One Tough Mother ads were designed to make you laugh. Traditionally, the outdoor industry has always been very serious. Tim and I drew upon our real experiences and emotions, and that seemed to relate to people all over the world. I mean, who can’t relate to a nagging mother? We ruffled some feathers over the years, but I never worry about those sensitive types.”


There are some serious environmental issues to overcome at the moment. But the reality is that we’ve overcome bigger issues, and we will make it through this as well.”


“Take it from a 93-year-old woman, patience is key.”

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Big. Crazy. Opinionated.

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