Bonnie Sherman Weber is Park President, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor, in Santa Clarita, California. She is an active member of IAAPA and currently serves on the Branding Task Force. Her full interview will be available in the March 2017 issue of Funworld.

Thoughts on Women in the Industry

What is the most pressing issue facing women in the workplace today, and how can the attractions industry influence positive change?

I recently began binge-watching “Mad Men,” and it’s startling just how far women have come, yet sadly, are not yet where we need to be. Over time, I believe the “work/life” balance continues to be one of the most broad-based issues women consistently face—balancing career aspirations with the “gender-specific” mommy role.

Speaking from personal experience, I passed up several growth opportunities in my career while I was raising my two girls. Because of stereotypical gender roles, women have felt a deeper sense of responsibility and onus toward the home and raising children, just as men are considered primary breadwinners. Thus, a career-minded woman faces a much greater challenge to balance a successful home life with career aspirations. Not that I’d ever change my decisions; I’m fortunately blessed with two amazing, independent, and thriving daughters, but I do wonder where I might be today if those issues hadn’t entered my thinking.

I strive in my work environment to make sure every employee (man or woman) knows they do not have to compromise their career aspirations to raise a family … and, that young women today are not as burdened with having to face the choice dilemma. I’m a firm believer in work/life balance and stress this to my team. Not only does it help level the playing field, but also produces more productive and effective leaders.

How have you seen the industry evolve in regard to gender roles?

Like many once “all-male dominated” industries, the attractions industry has evolved considerably but still has a ways to go in terms of women in executive and senior leadership roles. Fortunately, the “good old boys” industry reputation has greatly diminished; it is encouraging to see growing awareness and legitimate efforts toward addressing gender equality and leveling the playing field. That said, this is a difficult dilemma for me, personally, because, yes, I’ve worked hard to overcome the “woman bias” and am honored and very proud to represent women in our industry in a leadership role. However, I look forward to the day when I’m not defined by my gender, but rather solely by my merits.

How have you built your network of women in the industry?
It’s funny … I have never thought of a “network of women” before. My support system is and has always been comprised of both men and women. I have found gender diversity to be a great asset, providing me different perspectives both professionally and personally. I guess growing up with all brothers and known to be a tomboy in my day, I had a leg up and was preconditioned one might say!

What is one piece of advice you’d like to convey to women starting their attractions careers?
Dream big and believe in yourself! Like I tell my own girls, you can do or be whatever you put your mind to. Find your calling, what makes you happy … then confidently and passionately pursue your goals and your accomplishments will speak for themselves.

Creating Careers of Distinction

How do you invest in yourself as a leader?
First and foremost, I take myself and my career very seriously and put in the time and effort necessary to ensure I’m confident and always feel like I’m giving it my best effort. My parents would say, if you are going to do something, always give 100 percent or don’t do it at all.

I’m also a big believer in continued learning—formal and informal. I’m intentional about ensuring the ritual of learning is habitual, part of my day-to-day activities, from reading the latest leadership book, surfing the web, listening to podcasts, or simply listening and engaging in great conversations with smart and unique people. I’m always in pursuit of new insights to keep my thinking fresh and relevant.  

What is your most cherished work principle?

I actually have two core principles I hold near and dear. First, it’s all about creating the environment for teams and individuals to excel. Surround yourself with the best, and then empower them to deliver. I’m so fortunate to have an amazing team at Six Flags—truly one of the best in our industry. It gives me the greatest sense of pride to see the collaboration and teamwork, the concept of more minds and transparent opinions leading to greater outcomes.

Second is a very simple principle most of us learned at a very young age, the Golden Rule, treating others as one would wish to be treated. Imagine our world today if everyone on Earth was a steadfast practitioner.

What do you consider your most significant career accomplishment?

Although I am extremely proud of the park’s significant transformation over the past seven years, now a real SoCal powerhouse recognized as the “Thrill Capital of the World” and entering our next chapter launching 365-day year-round operation, to me it is all about the team. Working together to achieve goals...and most importantly, to see the growth and development of team members who in turn, have emerged as amazing and accomplished leaders themselves. Just knowing I may have had a small part in someone fulfilling his or her career dreams is what I’d call my greatest accomplishment.  

What has had the greatest impact on your career?

This may sound odd, but the greatest impact on my career came Election Day 2016 with the sudden passing of my life, career, and industry partner–my beloved husband, Al Weber. His passing not only rocked my world to its core, but also surprisingly had a profound impact on changing my perspectives on life and career. We shared similar passions for an industry we love and cherish, thus to face it alone has been daunting and has forced me to reevaluate and refocus my goals and how I approach every day. This past year has been overwhelming and sometimes unbearable, but I am now trying to carry on his legacy of living with authentic intentionality and a renewed sense of purpose … not just go through the motions, but make a real difference.

What has been the greatest challenge of your career?
Probably the greatest challenge thus far in my career would probably be ...

Bonnie's full interview can be read in the upcoming March 2017 issue of Funworld.

​​Know a professional we should talk to? E-mail Prasana William, IAAPA manager, digital content and strategy.


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