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Women in the Outdoor Industry

March 9, 2016

written by Mariah Herring

There has been a steady increase in the past few years of recruiting women to have more active roles in outdoor recreation. This isn’t just about “girl power” or gender equality in the workplace. Working in the outdoor industry teaches you strong leadership, communication, and decision making skills, all of which are important regardless of gender. Women have the ability to gain skills and attributes that they can carry throughout all areas of their lives by working in outdoor recreation. Not only that, it is good for a company’s business. According to Tori Barnett, marketing director for Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition (OIWC), “Studies show that companies with a higher portion of women in their leadership teams are also the companies that have the best financial performance.”

Yet, it is difficult to find women working in outdoor recreation jobs. Most women may be hesitant and intimidated to apply for positions in outdoor recreation because it’s so saturated by male employment. In a nationwide survey conducted in 2015 by The Outdoor Foundation, they found that over the past five years women have statistically made up only 48 percent of those that participate in outdoor activities. The fact that there are so few women leaders in the outdoor industry can be intimidating and I’ve definitely felt this first hand. I’m not strong enough, I don’t know how to do that, I’ve never worked with power tools before, I don’t know if I can keep up with them…these are just a few of the personal doubts I’ve had working in the outdoor recreation field. These doubts didn’t go away quickly. It wasn’t until I fully realized that I just needed to get over myself and my doubts and embrace the fact that I do have something meaningful and of value to add to a team made mostly of men.

Over the past three years I have accomplished and done things I never thought I would ever do. You can be successful and have a purposeful place in the industry without being a typical outdoorsy person. You don’t need to be a Patagonia or Chaco wearing girl with a Kavu backpack. These brands are great, but it’s not the brand that makes you a great leader. It’s the lessons you learn through experience and training that transform you into the effective female leader that outdoor recreation needs.  

Women do have a place and a purpose in this industry. There are groups and organizations out there that promote this initiative. If you’re interested, check out Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition (OIWC), SheJumps, and Girls on the Run for local groups that you can get plugged in to and volunteer with. There are also articles and other resources on these websites that inspire, promote, and teach women how to be effective leaders. Furthermore, I would love to talk with you personally if you have any questions or concerns relating to this topic. Please feel free to email me at