This summer, in a small conference room in downtown Salt Lake City, the Outdoor Industry Association’s social media coordinator, Katie Boué, scribbled “diversity” in big, looping letters onto a whiteboard.
Watching her from a standing-room-only crowd was a who’s-who gathering of outdoor-industry professionals, influencers and pro athletes. They’d joined there to discuss how they could collectively use social media to provoke real change in the industry — increase diversity, inspire conservation efforts, educate the public about Leave No Trace principles.
Around the same time, Yeti Cycles ambassador Nicole Baker decided to start Path of Logic, a project that uses her sponsorships as a mountain biker to fund volunteer efforts at pathology labs in countries like Uganda and Haiti.
The ideas for these grassroots movements had taken shape just a few weekends before, deep in Colorado’s Durango mountains during the inaugural Wild Women’s Project (WWP) retreat. The invitation-only gathering of influential women from all sectors of the outdoor industry had a singular goal: to pinpoint the issues outdoor women really care about.
“[The trip] provided such a valuable perspective on the fact that I’m not the only one who stays up at night thinking about outdoor issues like diversity and education,” says Boué, who joined other outdoor-industry professionals like pro skier Caroline Gleich, Wylder co-founders Jainee Dial and Lindsey Elliott, freelance writer Heather Balogh Rochfort and conservationist Maddie Carey on the “no cell service here”-style escape in Colorado.
“We wanted to give women a space to have these organic interactions and talk about the issues they are passionate about,” says the event’s creator, BoldBrew co-founder Amanda Goad.
“So we didn’t just want to invite a bunch of pro athletes or a bunch of writers. [We wanted] diversity in what these women were doing; these are people who are having real impact on the industry, whether on a global scale or in their small mountain town.”
Outdoor women are increasingly vocal about the issues they actually care about. (Hint: How to do your makeup with a mirror at the campground was never on the list.) “Shrink it and pink it” product design is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. And outdoor retreats designed by and for women are part of a booming trend. There’s Trail Mavens’ weekend adventures for urban women, She Explores‘ social-media-driven gatherings and, new this year, REI’s Outessa Summit.
But Goad saw the need for a women-only gathering that focused less on helping women learn new skills and more on inspiring conversations that could have widespread applications in the industry.
“Women are disillusioned with the competition in the industry,” Goad explains. “It’s still always the same story: ski films, pro teams, conference panels, management roles — they always have that token spot for a woman, and rarely any more room.
“Women want to join forces to truly change the mindset.”
Goad is careful to mention that the format of the retreat may eventually change to include men. So that decision to have a women-only format? It was strategic — and one of the only ways they could narrow down the giant list of potential invitees.
“In order for women to have complete equality in our community, there can’t be complete division,” Goad says. “A ski film shouldn’t be revered because it has an all-women cast, but for the quality and accomplishments of its participants.”
The next four 2017 Wild Women’s Project weekends will continue to focus on industry voices (“Summit” weekends), but also open the door for anyone interested in participating (“Camp” weekends).
“[We want to give] creative minds the strength to move forward, new moms the courage to find time for themselves again and give aspiring activists a place to learn more about current issues,” says Goad.
“We want to take advantage of these conversations and make them something more powerful.”
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