According to a national survey conducted by outdoor retailer REI, 85 percent of women in the United States believe the outdoors positively affect mental and physical health, happiness, and overall well-being, yet 63 percent of women cannot think of an outdoor female role model. Additionally, women are consistently underrepresented in leadership of the outdoor industry despite participating in outdoor recreation at a rate almost equal to that of men.
These examples of a lack of female representation are perplexing, given that outdoor recreation could be one of the most level playing fields – women have the same rights to public lands, interest in recreation, and experience the same health and emotional benefits that the outdoors promote. For this reason, it is important to help foster greater awareness of the women participating in and serving as leaders in the outdoor industry in our region.
On March 19th, the Pikes Peak Heritage Series hosted Women in the Backcountry and the Boardroom, a discussion about women’s opportunities, contributions and engagement in the outdoors. Seven female industry leaders shared their perspectives shaped by working on public policy, guiding trips, and pursuing their favorite outdoor recreation activities. As conversations progressed, they expanded beyond women’s participation in the outdoors toward the importance of efforts to increase inclusion and participation for all.
Some participants took the time to share their thoughts from this event:
“The Heritage Series event opened my eyes to all of the barriers to the outdoors, and some potential solutions to eliminate those. I am thankful for my ability to be in the outdoors from a young age, and this event inspired me to help others have a similar experience.”
“I was most struck by how diverse the outdoor industry is. In some cases, different groups who use or value the outdoors can experience tension with one another - conservation vs. recreation vs. education. For me, it catalyzed some reflection about how we make sure everyone is welcome in the outdoors and ensure we aren't overusing our outdoor resources.”
“Conversations revolved, at least in part, around access and non-traditional users in the outdoors. I also appreciated discussing how increased access may relate to women becoming more vocal supporters in this realm.”
“I was inspired by the shared passion of promoting diversity in every sense – this event drove home the amount of work that goes into promoting equity and challenging intangible cultural barriers. I am glad people are involved in this work and I feel grateful to learn about it! “
“The event sparked my awareness and interest that we are the generation who must answer how we’re going to fund the protection of our environmental assets (e.g. national parks). As a millennial and a woman, the tenacity of these female leaders in the industry inspired me to charge forward.”
By Erin Kerr
Learn more about Pikes Peak Heritage Series