I wrote this article for Red Bull, please share it with your outdoorsy and adventurous friends :)
With candid guests and empowering workshops, this is an event giving female adventurers a voice. We went to this year's event in New York to hear what the people are saying...
Thousands upon thousands of women spend time adventuring every single day. For many it's something new, to others it's a longtime love. But despite a heavy female presence, recent surveys have shown that there is still a widespread gender gap in the outdoor world.
Aiming to combat this is Women In The Outdoors Week, a US-based festival inspiring, educating and empowering women to adventure. From incredible speakers to amazing films, panels and trips, they gather the best voices in female adventuring to unearth what they know. One of those speakers this year was UK podcaster and lifestyle coach Adelaide Goodeve. Here, shereports on what she learned.
1. Don’t be colourblind
The emphasis of the festival may have been to empower more women to connect with the wilderness, but as Mina Okapi, founder of Black People Who Love Outdoors And Adventure, reminded attendees, there is still much work to be done on increasing adventure participation among ethnic minorities, too.
“We need to change our mindset and breakdown the limits that either society has or ourselves have imposed,” she said, before explaining how she set up her group because she felt the black community had instilled a fear of adventuring in themselves, and now aims to promote new experiences. And with a 2000-strong community, it's clear she is already making a difference.
2. True influencers aren’t on social media
You don’t have to look for inspirational outdoors women in glossy magazines, advertisements or on social media. They are often right in front of you.
As Lauren Skonieczny, operations manager at Discover Outdoors, pointed out, “We are often well aware of the fact that there are fewer outdoors women being promoted to such high-profile levels as men. However, this doesn’t mean that we can’t find inspiration and motivation to challenge our limits in the outdoors.”
"Look around you," she encouraged her audience, and she's right. Perhaps at your local climbing centre, cycle club, within your workplace and/or among your family and friends, there is someone to seek out new opportunities with.
3. Join a community of badass women
The outdoor world is often intimidating and overwhelming to those who are brand new to outdoor sport or want to get involved. And if you’re like me and a big fan of the outdoors, making female friends who live for adventure can feel like playing a game of Where’s Wally?
But Bethany Lebewitz, founder of Brown Girls Climb, believes joining a community of like-minded women can “build confidence, ensure you have fun and help you break statistics and stereotypes together.”
"We climb over generations of oppression, injustice, abuse, rape, and self-deprecation," she says. "We climb over doubts, fears, struggles, and insults on a daily basis."
4. Dare yourself to take on new disciplines
Stuck thinking certain adventure pursuits aren’t for you? That you’ll never be able to windsurf, rock climb or skydive? Don’t worry – you can always learn new activities at indoor classes, honing your craft alongside specialised instructors within safe settings.
“You deserve to do whatever you want, the outdoors exists for everybody,” said Discover Outdoors operations manager Skonieczny.
Proving this more than most right now, Kareemah Batts, founder of the Adaptive Climbing Group, is working to help adventurers with disabilities take on whatever task they want, spreading the message that anyone can climb. In the last three years, the group has grown exponentially across the US
5. Failure is fine
It’s good to remember even Bear Grylls will have made a fool of himself at some point. There’s nothing gained from being disheartened if you don’t reach your goals.
Skonieczny echoed these sentiments, saying: “Think of failure differently; see what you can do, push your limits, learn and improve next time."
Indeed, one of the main messages from the week, was to stop seeing failure as a weakness or a shortcoming or a reason to stop trying. Instead, see failure in the outdoors as an opportunity to learn and improve in whatever discipline you prefer.
6. It’s not all about the summit
“Every rock is different, every climb is different. Nature reflects what’s inside of us and how we connect with nature and ourself is what counts,” mused Whitney Boland, ambassador for Flash Foxy, a female-led community that brings women climbers together through a variety of events across the country.
The old adage that it’s all about enjoying the journey, not focusing on the destination, is most apt when it comes to outdoor adventure. As Skonieczny said: “It’s about respecting and co-existing with nature, it’s not all about conquering the summit but asking yourself, what can I get from this experience?”
7. Stop comparing yourself to others
“It’s not us vs them,” said Boland, who was also keen to stress how women athletes have a huge potential to thrive in outdoor sports, as those pursuits tap into female strength, including our mental resilience and metabolism. Studies show women have more stamina and muscle endurance than men.
And if record-breaking adventurers such as Vanessa O'Brien [pictured above] describe women’s resilience being one of our greatest strengths, then it has to be true!
However, with social media being so prolific and everyone showing off their best adventure, climb, summit, achievement and more, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. Instead, take inspiration from the pictures and posts you see – and then focus on your own personal journey.
8. Give back
“Give encouragement to those around you, as they’re often doing it for the first time,” said Okapi.
Random acts of kindness in the outdoor world go a long way, added Boland: “If someone did something for you, then think about doing something for someone else.” Think how you can give back to your outdoor sport community, whether it’s being a mentor, offering words of encouragement or helping someone out as a one-off."