Angel Collinson and Hadley Hammer hanging out at the top of the tram at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
REI says it wants to make 2017 a landmark for gender equality in the outdoors
This morning, REI President and CEO Jerry Stritzke published an article on the site’s blog saying, “I’m writing to you today because we believe the outdoors is—and should always be—the world’s largest level playing field.”
Stritzke went on to say that if we take an honest look at the majority of stories we tell about people in the outdoors, the celebrated heroes always seem to be men. He writes, “We are not championing women and men equally.” (A-f-ing-men!)
So, the Co-op commissioned a national study that showed some aspects of the outdoor space we have all speculated to be true.
Hadley Hammer sending a massive cliff in the Jackson backcountry.
It showed that, yes, so many women—73% to be exact—love the outdoors and find it liberating. But it also showed that 63% of women say they cannot think of an outdoor female role model. As a woman who has lived and worked in the outdoor industry and has so many female role models, this is so damn sad. I have access to so many rad women because I work at TGR and live in Jackson, Wyoming, where the Tetons bring all of the badass ladies. But a woman who wants to get into climbing but lives in Phoenix doesn't have that luxury.
Also, 6 of 10 women who took the study said that men’s interests are taken more seriously than women’s. Those are some serious numbers.
(REI surveyed over 2,000 women for the study.)
So to combat this, REI has launched a public effort called Force of Nature. “It is a disruption of the status quo,” writes Stritzke. “It claims the outdoors as a place to opt out of cultural pressures to conform—the “supposed-tos” and “shoulds” that underpin outdated stereotypes—especially for women. To create real change right now we are putting women—of all ages, races, sizes, gender expressions—front and center in all we do.”
So here’s the plan; here’s how REI—a company founded by and dedicated to women—is going to fix the problem.
1. Changing the Narrative
Angel Collinson is stoked at the end of a run.
We’re putting women first for the rest of the year. We’re starting with the stories we tell. In May, we’re partnering with Outside magazine on their first-ever all-women’s issue, and in the fall, we’re hosting a film festival focused on women in the outdoors.
Look for stories about women adventurers, makers and rule breakers in our marketing, social media content and on the Co-op Journal.
2. Creating Community
Hadley Hammer is pumped for a big pow day.
You’re looking for a crew. On May 6, we’re kicking off more than 1,000 events designed to get women outside. We’re also offering hundreds of REI Outdoor School classes, 19 new REI Adventures trips and three REI Outessa retreats—immersive, three-day outdoor adventures that connect the outdoor community—all designed for women and girls.
3. Closing the Gear Gaps
Angel Collinson pushes her gear to the limits in Alaska.
We hear you. Through the years, gear designed for women has improved, but there is still a gap between the quality of men’s and women’s gear. We are partnering with brands to increase focus on building world-class gear designed for women. We’re also working hard inside our own co-op brands and with vendors to offer expanded extended sizing options.
4. Investing in Communities
Dash Longe and Angel Collinson know all about what it means to be a part of a community.
We can’t do it alone. That’s why we’re committing $1 million to support community organizations that are already doing great work to create opportunities for women and girls in the outdoors. Roughly $500,000 will support organizations like Camber Outdoors, GirlTrek and the YMCA’s BOLD/GOLD initiative. In May, we’ll be launching a new $500,000 “Force of Nature” fund, available through an open-call submission process, for organizations that join us in our commitment to make outdoors the world’s largest level playing field.
Today is a milestone in our decades-long journey creating access to life outdoors for all.
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