As long as the outdoors have been an industry, women have been part of it. But you wouldn’t know it since most of the attention has been on men. That isn’t true anymore, as women in the industry are finally claiming a share of the spotlight.
Women have always been forces of nature. But some women ascend, setting a standard of excellence for all genders. While we could go on forever listing the incredible women who have helped pave the way to where we are now, we won't.
Here are 10 examples of those women.
The executive director of Camber Outdoors. She brought her advocacy for conservation with her. Deanne is no stranger to the challenges women in this industry face. Camber supports female advancement through mentorship, webinars, and their annual entrepreneur Pitchfest. They empower women with a network of leaders. They offer regional meetups, education, and career opportunities. And they award recognition with their "Pioneering Woman" award and "First Ascent" award. With Deanne’s help, they’ve gained the support of their mission from 300 top industry brands. Camber’s goal is to guide future leaders of the industry, one successful step at a time.
The one-time chief executive officer (CEO) of Patagonia. During her tenure as CEO, the sales increased 4000%. Go, girl. But her real passion is conservation. The philanthropic efforts that Kris and her late husband, Doug, have made have resulted in immeasurable improvements in land and wildlife protection. They helped create six national and two provincial parks in South America. They also helped construct the largest private wildlife sanctuary opened to the public. And they're known for the reintroduction and protection of endangered species. They've donated over $100 million to help humanity’s relationship with the wild.
The founder and editor-in-chief of the Outdoor Women’s Alliance (OWA). After seeing the struggles girls face in the absence of community, she started OWA as a system of support. It’s the first non-profit of its kind to enter the outdoor industry. OWA offers guidance, support, education, leadership, and opportunities. Regardless of age, women across the world can share their love for adventure and form lasting connections. Gina has created a safe space where women in the outdoors can build confidence without judgment.
The chairman of the board, and one-time president of Columbia Sportswear. Gert fled Nazi Germany when she was only 13. The family started what would be Columbia Sportswear. She pulled the company from the brink of bankruptcy and increased sales by over 53,000%. Unbelievable. She was the first woman inducted into the Sporting Goods Association Hall of Fame. She’s also a passionate supporter of the Special Olympics and cancer research. A few years ago, someone broke into her home and tried to rob her at gunpoint. Their plan failed when she secretly triggered an alarm and the police came. Nobody messes with Ma Boyle.
The one-time CEO of REI and 51st secretary of the interior. She’s only the second woman to hold position, and she's the first to do so without previously holding an elected office. During her tenure as CEO, sales increased over 233%, and they doubled store locations. Sally is a crusader of conservation. She sat on the board of the National Parks Conservation Association. She also co-founded the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and earned the National Audubon Society's "Rachel Carson" award for her leadership in conservation. As secretary, Sally focused many of her efforts on promoting access to national parks.
Co-founder of SheJumps, professional skier, and filmmaker. SheJumps teaches girls to overcome intimidation through education and community. They’re encouraged to “jump in, jump up, and jump out.” They offer classes, camps, and day trips where girls learn to push themselves in a fun environment. Lynsey was the first woman featured on the cover of Freeskier Magazine. She earned the "Female Skier of the Year" award by Powder Magazine. She was also the 2004 International Freeskiers Association North American tour champion. Her recent film, Pretty Faces: The Story of a SkierGirl has received global praise.
The co-founder of REI. As Mary was building one of the largest outdoor retailers in the world, she was also educating people about nature. She was an instructor for The Mountaineers and penned one of the first climbing manuals written in the United States. REI funds a "Mary Anderson" award for exceptional employees. The "Mary Anderson Legacy Grant" funds organizations that acquaint youngsters with the outdoors. She even has her own holiday. In the Pacific Northwest, December 7 is Mary Anderson Day. If only we could all leave such a lasting impression on the world.
The oldest active U.S. National Park Ranger. Betty is a natural fighter. Her family survived a hurricane. She went on to become a member of the working class during World War II. Facing considerable racism, she became a songwriter for the Civil Rights movement. From there she became a congressional field representative in California. Betty’s choices cemented her reputation as an activist and role model. At a youthful 95, she's back where she started and assigned to a park she helped develop on the land that hosted her first job: the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park, in Richmond, California.
The one-time CEO of CamelBak, co-founder and former chair of the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), and co-founder of Silver Steep Partners (a financial practice for companies in outdoor markets). During her tenure as CEO of Camelbak sales increased over 61%. She has also been president of Sierra Designs, Ultimate Direction, and vice president of The North Face. An accomplished lady indeed. She earned OIAs "Outdoor Industry Leadership" award, as well as two from Camber Outdoors: the "Outdoor Industry Pioneering Woman" award and the "Lifetime Achievement" award. She's one of Outside Magazine's "Top Innovators of the Last 25 Years."
Without the women, there would be no pioneers, no leaders, no community. There would be no strength of perseverance. No overcoming adversity. No triumph of fortitude. The women bring their A game, with every shred, step, reach, rappel pivot, and row. There's no I in women. There's only us. The friends you’ve made, and the one’s you’ve yet to make.
All the volunteers and staff at Camber Outdoors, OWA, SheJumps and similar organizations are forces of nature. They deserve due recognition for their hard work in encouraging and supporting females to get outside - don't forget to say a big thank you the next time you meet or adventure with them!