Women in the Wild 2018 featured interviews with over 70 women who spend a lot of their time outside. We asked them all the same questions, and the responses to those questions will change how any one of us approaches the goal of truly promoting inclusivity in outdoor recreation. The various responses to one question in particular really jumped out at us.
The question: In a perfect world, what does the outdoors (the people, the places, the community as a whole, etc.) look like to you? And what can outdoor brands and media companies, such as Outdoor Project, do better to help us get there?
Responses to these questions focused on five key themes: showing diversity in media and sales campaigns, protecting and conserving public lands, educating those who are new to the outdoors, creating affordable options for high quality outdoor gear, and engaging with underrepresented communities.
Of the 40 individuals who responded to this question in the Women in the Wild interviews, 20 responses called for a better representation of diversity in media, nine reinforced the importance of brand participation in protecting and conserving public lands, nine highlighted the importance of education efforts, six sought more affordable options for outdoor gear, and five touched on showing up for and/or convening the right community engagement events. As the numbers show, many of the responses touched on more than one of these themes. Some of the response highlights are shared below, and many overlap multiple themes. These are just snippets of some amazingly thoughtful responses. Follow the links on each respondent to read the full interview.
On diversity in media
- Allie Kresen: "[So] that more people feel like they have the ability to dip their toes in the water...it is important to see a wide diversity in people participating in these activities - ethnicities, genders, skill levels, size, etc."
- Josie Gutierrez: "I love seeing diversity in the wild. The faces, the colors, the shapes, the sizes, the language and the cultured clothing. Outdoor brands should be more aware of changing the narrative and really become more inviting in the images that are shared and the clothing they brand."
- Claire Smallwood: "Without diverse role models from all backgrounds, races, ethnicities, and orientations, we won't be able to (honestly) tell the next generation: You can do anything you want to."
- Nailah Blades: "[The perfect outdoors] would be reflective of how our world truly is. Filled with people of all sizes, shapes, orientations, ethnicities, genders and abilities."
- Tracy Remelius: "I think media needs to show regular people of all backgrounds, races, body types, genders, (both binary and non-binary) and ages, enjoying the simple beauties of nature. It doesn't always have to be epic."
- Rebecca Ross: "[It's important] to start representing a variety of people doing a variety of activities. When only one type of person is depicted, usually attractive, white, and physically fit individuals doing insane things, it starts to mess with people's psyche when they can't relate."
- Sarah Smith: "In a perfect world, the outdoors would be a more inclusive, accessible place. Companies and brands in the outdoor industry can help make that reality come to life sooner by embracing representation now in their marketing, in who their products are designed for, and by reducing existing barriers to marginalized people getting outside. Inclusion shouldn't be a 'someday' prospect. Show people what a diverse outdoor industry looks like."
- Danielle Nolan: "Many people literally can't see people like them outside, which makes it hard to imagine what it would be like for them to go outdoors, especially if they are already trying something for the first time."
- Faith E. Briggs: "Words matter, and what you say about yourself matters, and if everyone in the room making those decisions looks the same and comes from similar shared experiences, then there's a chance you're going to accidentally exclude the people who aren't represented in that decision making process."
And don't miss the additional perspectives provided by Shanti Hodges, Georgina Miranda, Ashley Scheider, Gloria Hwang, Adriana Garcia, Kaysee Armstrong and Justine Nobbe.
On protecting and conserving public lands
- Serena Bishop Gordon: "It's time for businesses to take a stance and be political, to go Washington D.C., visit their state capitals, write letters, make phone calls, put themselves out there."
- Georgina Miranda: "In a perfect world the outdoors and nature is a place everyone can enjoy in our own way. It does not look a specific way, it's not our job to prescribe that. This space remains fun, life-changing, and we all keep our hearts invested in making sure our planet and places at risk are protected. It's all of our responsibility."
- Kelsie DiPerna: "Outdoor brands, out of respect for the lifestyle they encourage, should use the best natural resources available and use sources that respect proper treatment of workers and the land. Many brands are donating part of their proceeds toward reforestation, conservation alliances, and sustainable development. That's a fabulous way to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak."
- Kimi Werner: "We [should] all be trying to work together and live with the belief that if we all strive to take care of the Earth, there will be enough for all of us. It would be great if brands could get inspired by one another and collaborate more towards shared goals..."
- Mariko Strickland Lum: "Outdoor brands can help by making a shift to sustainable business operations and more eco-friendly standards. Media companies can help by positively supporting brands who support the outdoors and expose those who do not."
Thoughtful perspectives on the outdoor industry's role in conservation were also shared by Lisa Heaton, Kimmy Fasani, Amy Schweim and Sensi Graves.
On educational efforts
- Lisa Land: "I believe that outdoor brands and media companies should...provide resources to learn and understand the history of our lands and how to preserve them."
- Kimmy Fasani: "If we keep instilling the importance of nature in the youth there will be a bigger army out there to care for our outdoors and public lands."
- Emily Downing: "Outdoor brands and media companies need to stop romanticizing the idea of 'one man alone in the wilderness.' Unfortunately, that ideal is no longer realistic or sustainable with the current population and popularity of outdoor recreation. Instead, we need to start educating people on things like Leave No Trace principles and how to share our resources in a sustainable way."
- Sirena Rana Dufault: "In a perfect world...visitors are taught about the indigenous people of the land and well-versed in Leave No Trace principles."
And read more from Adriana Garcia, Emily Nielson and Tara Sou.
- Laura Hughes: "People of all different colors and genders belong [outdoors]. People who can't afford the best gear belong here. Showcasing a wider variety of representation on larger platforms can help drive home that message."
- Mai-Yan Kwan: "There's a base level of knowledge and logistics that needs to be in place in order for [outdoor recreation] experiences to happen. I would advocate for more access to guided outdoor experiences in our local mountains, deserts and beaches, basic gear lending/rental libraries to provide hands-on opportunities for novices and low-income families to wet their feet, and more cross pollination across organizations to reduce cliques based on sport, gender or skin color."
- Naomi Grevemberg: "The outdoor industry can do more to embrace diversity and promote equality by sharing more stories of diversity in the outdoors and by making quality gear more affordable."
- Lindsay MacNevin: "It's expensive to get outside and try a new sport, visit a new place. We need to be dedicated to getting everyone out, affordably."
On community participation
- Elyse Rylander: "To me, any place, whether it's inside or out, looks perfect when it embodies true inclusion. For me that means not just opening the doors and saying 'c'mon in/out!' but rather intentionally creating a space and culture that recognizes and honors systemic injustice and lived oppression/trauma to the point that everyone can show up as their authentic self and be seen, heard, valued and respected."
- Kate Nolan: "It would be great to see more programming in education to get more people outside. It would be great to see more organizations getting involved in community events for the minorities, underserved communities, and of course the LGBTQ community."
- Summer Winston: "Diversity and inclusion aren't ad campaigns, an article, or a speaker series. Brands need to sincerely invest in the communities behind the faces; after school programs, summer camps, free to low cost outdoor education programs, and gear lending programs."