Why Now Is a Great Time to Be an Outdoor Woman

©istockphoto/DOUGBERRY

There could­n’t be a bet­ter time to be a woman involved in the out­door indus­try.  Whether it’s ath­letes or busi­ness­women, females every­where are push­ing the bound­aries of what is capa­ble left and right. We are mobi­liz­ing wom­en’s out­door orga­ni­za­tions across the coun­try and tak­ing own­er­ship of our own per­for­mance by man­u­fac­tur­ing our own gear and expect­ing high qual­i­ty. We are build­ing each oth­er up and break­ing down bar­ri­ers so that more girls can reap the many rewards of the out­door industry.

A lot of these awe­some women com­ing onto the scene, myself includ­ed, were raised in the 90’s to the tune of girl pow­er, with ladies like Mia Hamm telling Michael Jor­dan, “any­thing you can do I can do bet­ter.” Many of us grew up in a world where the effects of Title IX (the law that pro­hibits dis­crim­i­na­tion on the basis of sex in schools and fed­er­al­ly fund­ed pro­grams, pro­vid­ing girls with the same oppor­tu­ni­ties in sports as boys) were already in full fledge . This means that most mil­len­ni­als were raised by women who had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to be active. We grew up with pro­fes­sion­al female ath­letes as role mod­els. We played sports and went hik­ing with our dads and broth­ers. Life wasn’t always like this for girls, but slow­ly, the norm has shift­ed and women are allowed, even encour­aged, to be active par­tic­i­pants in all things athletic. 

The Guys Get It
Whether or not they real­ize it, they were raised in this time too. All the men I know are impressed by girls who are strong, can rival their pas­sion for adven­ture, and can push men to raise their own stan­dards. My guy friends usu­al­ly real­ize that I learn things dif­fer­ent­ly, but they aren’t sur­prised to see me or anoth­er girl push­ing the boundaries.

There are tons of women’s sports orga­ni­za­tions that con­tin­ue to encour­age more and more females to get out­side and stay active. A lot of women have been intro­duced to extreme sports through the men in their lives, but more and more are get­ting the oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn from each oth­er. This shift is mak­ing space for more women in the out­door industry.

Mak­ing the Out­doors Inviting
Girls are cre­at­ing sup­port­ive rather than intim­i­dat­ing envi­ron­ments because they know how hard it is for oth­er women to break into some of the more spe­cial­ized sports. Ski­ing or rid­ing, climb­ing, kayaking—all of these sports require not only a lot of expen­sive and spe­cif­ic gear, but the abil­i­ty to man­age and over­come fear, and it’s impor­tant for women to be sup­port­ive towards oth­er women, rather than polarizing.

Here are just a few orga­ni­za­tions and com­pa­nies that I have direct­ly ben­e­fit­ed from, espe­cial­ly as a woman who some­times strug­gles with putting her­self out there in the world of extreme sports, both phys­i­cal­ly and men­tal­ly. These are clubs, groups, and non­prof­its that get women out­side. Click each link to find the region­al meet up near you.

©istockphoto/AleksandarNakic

Out­door Women’s Alliance
OWA works to pro­mote strength over sex­u­al­i­ty and abil­i­ty over aes­thet­ics. Their goal is to pro­vide an alter­nate mes­sage to the one put forth by main­stream media, which more often than not show­cas­es a pro female ath­lete in a sex­u­al light instead of for her achieve­ments. They focus on female-pow­ered adven­ture in nat­ur­al set­tings such as beach­es, moun­tains, rivers, and woods. Their grass­roots teams also plan and host events, work­shops, and trips to help devel­op lead­er­ship and con­fi­dence through out­door adven­tures and skill build­ing. OWA is work­ing on start­ing a pro­gram for teen girls to pro­mote those same lead­er­ship and con­fi­dence qual­i­ties in the younger gen­er­a­tion by giv­ing them the resources and skills to lead out­ings and trips. They con­nect more than 52,000 women in North Amer­i­ca, the UK, Japan, Aus­tralia, and the Mid­dle East in both online and offline communities.

She­Jumps
Found­ed in Salt Lake City, She­Jumps has been inspir­ing ladies to get out­side and par­tic­i­pate in out­door activ­i­ties since 2007. The year of 2014 saw the debut of “Pret­ty Faces: the Sto­ry of a Ski­er Girl,” a doc­u­men­tary by co-founder Lyn­d­sey Dry­er, which launched the already inspir­ing orga­ni­za­tion to new audi­ences. They reach out to ladies of all back­grounds and ages and work to cre­ate a sense of com­mu­ni­ty with events like “Get the Girls Out!,” as well as through their Youth Ini­tia­tives, Out­door Edu­ca­tion pro­grams and grass­roots recre­ation­al out­ings. Events are designed to be high­ly vis­i­ble and encour­age females to learn to love the out­doors with oth­er like-mind­ed women, set­ting each par­tic­i­pant up to achieve her full potential.

Out­door Indus­tries Women’s Coalition
OIWC is the only orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cat­ed to work­place equi­ty, diver­si­ty and inclu­sion in the Out­door, Bike and Snow indus­tries. It is an impor­tant orga­ni­za­tion for any female who is not only pur­su­ing a posi­tion in this career path, but also for those of us inter­est­ed in being ade­quate­ly under­stood and rep­re­sent­ed by the peo­ple who make, sell, and mar­ket our gear. The coali­tion facil­i­tates net­work­ing events, men­tor­ships, pro­fes­sion­al advice and much more.

Girls on the Run
This non­prof­it is an after­school pro­gram for girls in grades 3 through 8. The girls meet in small teams of 8–20 kids and learn life skills from their coach­es through inter­ac­tive lessons and run­ning games. The three main com­po­nents the girls talk about are under­stand­ing them­selves, valu­ing rela­tion­ships and team­work, and under­stand­ing how they have the pow­er to shape the world around them. The runs the girls go on help them build life­long fit­ness, con­fi­dence, and inspi­ra­tion. As an adult, you can vol­un­teer to be a coach or par­tic­i­pate as a run­ning bud­dy, which is a small com­mit­ment in terms of hours, but huge­ly influ­en­tial to both you and your young bud­dy. You are paired off with one girl and com­plete a 5k with her at the end of the sea­son, sup­port­ing her as she runs, walks, or skips to fin­ish a major accom­plish­ment in her young life.