It’s a man’s world. Except it’s not.
Take a look at the outdoors industries—in our stores, our ads, our conferences and our competitions—and you’d think they were the realm of men alone. The predominant face of our sales force and our marketing campaigns alike is a masculine one. But that’s not an accurate representation of our industries.
It’s that discrepancy that inspired two Boulderites, writers Kassondra Cloos and Abigail Wise, to found Adventures in Wikipedia. The writers host regular edit-athons to pen and expand Wikipedia pages on famous women in the outdoors industries, like ultra-runner Junk Kazukawa and former CamelBak CEO Sally McCoy.
“Historically speaking, the outdoor industry—like a lot of industries out there—is very male dominated, which is not news to any of us who work or play in it,” says Wise. But that’s changing. “2017 sort of seems to be the year of the woman for the outdoor industry. We’re seeing more and more branding campaigns geared toward women, more media coverage of women, and there is no time like the present.”
Though times are a’changing, both Cloos and Wise recognize that these changes are based in history. “Our efforts have really been to rewrite history in a way that’s really female-focused, an homage to the women who came before us and paved the way,” says Cloos. They’re not actually re-writing history but retelling it, ensuring the women who have helped shape our industries get the attention they deserve.
Take, for example, Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia. “She was the first person I googled when I saw the event happening in New York City,” says Cloos, referencing the event that precipitated Adventures in Wikipedia. “She didn’t have a Wikipedia page, and she’s one of the most recognizable women in the outdoors industry; she’s CEO of one of the most influential companies in or outside of the outdoors, not to mention in politics. She wasn’t even on the Wiki page for Patagonia as current CEO.”
By leaving women like Marcario out of the outdoors narrative, we falsify the reality that is our industry—the reality that women are as important to our past as men, and that they will be just as important to our future. That’s why Wise, Cloos and passionate writers across the country are editing and adding figures like Marcario to Wikipedia. They’re actually closing the gap in two male-dominated arenas with their project, since Wikipedia’s editors are 90% male. By recruiting fellow writers and fans of the female to dive into Wikipedia pages, they’re debunking masculine narratives twofold.
So how else can outdoors retailers and manufacturers make a difference for women? How can you help retell the narrative? Start small, by intentionally incorporating more inclusive events into your itinerary. “Retailers should host women-specific clinics,” says Cloos, noting that it’s important to make the outdoors seem approachable to novices regardless of gender.
Next, grow your feminine reach. “In their shop, too, they should hire women—women buyers, women sales associates,” Cloos continues. “If I’m going to go to a store to buy a sports bra or anything woman-specific, I want someone who actually has experience with that product.” Retailers who cater to women can tap into a whole new market and potentially double their sales potential.
The same is true of manufacturers. Products geared toward women—not necessarily in shades of neon pink, but not bulkily masculine, either—could reel in more women than ever. Even something as broad as an ad campaign, Wise points out, should feature both men and women; often women are exclusivel represented in ads geared only toward women, but why is it either-or? We’re sharing the outdoors—we should be equally represented in our depictions of it as well.
Cloos and Wise also recognize this intentionality can veer too far. Defining women in the outdoors as a qualifier—The Women’s Issue of a popular magazine, for example, or describing a leader as a “woman CEO” rather than just a “CEO”—seems trite. Rather, we should speak of and market to women as members of the group, rather than special members who are intentionally and blatantly included.
Once we integrate women into all aspects of our industries, their roles and populations will only grow. With women in leadership positions, mentorship can take place. “It’s more inspiring if you see a woman who is above you and you can talk to her about any struggles you may be having in your career path, have her share her own knowledge and experience with you, which is more inspiring and attainable,” Wise points out. It’s a trickle-down effect that inspires not only leaders and their proteges, but the women who look into these industries from the perspective of customer or client or kid.
And why is that important? It helps shape the industry for women moving forward. “If we change things in the outdoor industry—better gear for women, for example—it can impact the younger generation, the current generation, the bikes we ride, the opportunities we’re given,” Wise notes. As the outdoors industries shift and expand to include more and more women—in positions from CEO to salesperson to sports hobbyist—everyone benefits.
“It’s not that there are too many men, it’s that there aren’t enough women,” Wise says. “We’re trying to level the playing field and bring women to the forefront. We’re here, adventuring, doing incredible things, and we want to show that so that younger women can see there are women they can aspire to be.”