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.
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.
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.