Full Throttle: A Woman’s Take On Working For Harley-Davidson

“It’s not about who you are, it’s about what you ride.”

Jess Riemsdijk’s passion for two wheels began at 16, when she hopped on her first moped in her native Holland.

After making a promise with her now-husband they’d get a Harley-Davidson when they turned 50, the dream came true a little earlier, with Jess now a bona fide Harley enthusiast.

She also happens to have worked at the company for 18 years.

Her career has taken her around the globe and on rides along some of the most famous roads in the world (one of her favourite trips being a ride from Miami Beach to Key West blasting Shania Twain’s Man, I Feel Like A Woman on the stereo).

Jess is now the National Sales Manager for Australia and New Zealand with a laser focus on one thing: ensuring all women feel confident about hopping onto a Harley and joining the community.

“Through my experience, Harley-Davidson is a very welcoming brand, and that’s one of the reasons why people tend to stick around for so long, whether you’re a customer or an employee,” she tells marie claire Australia.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter what you look like, what you wear, what your background is or what you make… at the weekend, everybody wears the same leather jacket.”

An Inclusive Community

Jess understands more than most that stepping into a Harley-Davidson dealership, or hopping onto a Harley, can seem intimidating.

“It feels like a male-dominated environment, it feels tough,” she concedes.

“But it feels that way because it’s part of the brand, it’s the brand image.”

But, she says, the brand also stands for independence, empowerment and freedom, with women some of the most highly regarded riders in the community.

What Jess loves the most about the Harley-Davidson community is that “at the weekend, everyone wears the same leather jacket.” (Credit: Supplied)

“You know what? They get on the back [of the bike] or they’ve got their own. It’s never a question of ‘who are you with’, but ‘what do you a ride,” she says.

It’s an ethos that extends into her professional life as well, with Jess maintaining that she sees herself as just another professional at a brand.

“I am not defined by my gender,” she says of her experiences in both the workplace and within the Harley-Davidson community.

“The fact that I know at least as much as my male counterparts makes me more respected… I’ve never experienced anything negative, just extra respect for the work that I do.”

A Female-First Approach

The brand—which celebrates its 120th anniversary this year—has continued its ongoing focus on welcoming riders from all walks of life, especially women, to the brand.

That’s because, Jess says, “a lot of ladies have figured out that the ergonomics are quite apt” for women.

“[Harleys] have a very low centre of gravity, so they don’t tip over easily, and they’ve got a low seat height so women, who are in general shorter than men, can put their feet down on the ground,” she explains.

Even as an experienced rider, Jess understands that comfort and confidence is something women value when choosing their bike.

“I ride big bikes, but if I rock up at a café, I want to make sure I can get away from that parking spot or not make a fool of myself by tipping the bike over,” she laughs.

“Even I, with 20 years of riding experience, still want to feel that I’m in control.”

It’s part of the reason why Harley-Davidson has actively worked to employ more women to work in its dealerships across the country, and the world.

Harley-Davidson female focused events
Harley-Davidson is working to expand the welcoming community even further with female-focused events and courses. (Credit: Supplied)

“Harley-Davidson understands what women want…. female and male customers are treated exactly the same, but the top three priorities [when choosing a bike] are different, so it’s good to have a female salesperson working with you,” she says.

Supporting female riders through community is also a huge part of Harley-Davidson’s future, with events and programs that shine a spotlight on women who make riding their own becoming more common.

The United We Ride campaign encourages women to share their stories and journeys on the road, and hopes to inspire the next generation of female riders.

“We want to make sure that we continue to create that welcoming environment and break down any barriers,” says Jess.

Jess also encourages women to take part in female-first events, like Sheilas Shakedown, an annual women’s-only motorbike ride and campout in rural Victoria.

Harley-Davidson United We Ride
There are groups, courses and mentors available for female riders to help break down any barriers to owning a Harley-Davidson, says Jess. (Credit: Supplied)

“It was an amazing experience. We rode in a group of about 10 to 15 ladies, it was so cool,” says Jess.

“We were met by many, many more [women]. The destination was nice, but it was about the journey and the bonding with the ladies.”

Women also have access to communities and mentors through Harley Owners Groups.

“One of the characteristics of Harley-Davidson is bonding and community, it comes with the brand,” she says.

“[Female mentors] will take you through first rides, or help you become a better rider by advising on courses to take, or even just go out for a coffee run with you on a Saturday morning.”

A Sense Of Freedom

Jess Harley-Davidson rider
Jess’ love of riding, and her passion for Harley-Davidson, is infectious. (Credit: Supplied)

Jess’ passion for Harleys, and riding in general, is infectious, describing her rides as freeing and mindful, and a whole lot of fun—and it’s her wish for more women to experience it.

“When I’m riding my bike, I have a 100 per cent different riding style than when I’m driving my car,” she says.

“I’m not doing my lipstick, or my lunch or my Starbucks…you’re not fluffing around with where you need to go.

“You’re looking at the road because you are aware of potholes, the tar being different, gravel…. it’s a very mindful exercise where you don’t have time to think about anything else.

“It really clears the head.”

To book a test ride, purchase a motorcycle or merchandise or to join the community, find your local Harley-Davidson dealer via the Dealership Locator.

Brought to you by Harley-Davidson.

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