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Women in Adventure Network

Monday, 21 March 2016

We attended the BMC's Women in Adventure Network at ShAFF last week in a room brimming with female (and male) talent discussing the future of women in adventure sport and the outdoor trade.  

Gender bias has been a lively discussion topic over recent months. Only yesterday, the Chief Executive of the Indian Wells tournament, Raymond Moore, was reported saying that women tennis players 'ride on the coattails of men' – a comment, that has since resulted in his resignation. 

Now in its second year, the Network aims to bring together members of the outdoor industry to celebrate the achievements of women during the past year. Here is a breakdown of the evening's itinerary and some of the key points addressed. 

Organiser: Claire Carter (on behalf of the BMC)

1. To identify a plan to resolve issues experienced in women’s participation and careers in the outdoor industry.
2. Who do women look to for inspiration?
3. The successes of some of the adventure women in the audience.
4. Women’s adventure stories in the press.

Award for the Best Women in Adventure Film

Of all sports media coverage in the UK, only 7% is dedicated to women's sports. In 2015, the Women in Adventure Film competition was launched to realign this balance. The winning film was 'Kosmos: There and back again' by Heather Swift, which saw Emily Ward and friends travel across Kyrgyzstan. You can watch all the entries on BMC TV HERE.

Speaker: Kaye Richards (Senior Lecturer in Outdoor Education and Programme Leader for BSc Outdoor Education at Liverpool John Moores University)

Kaye highlighted the challenges women face when undertaking a life of adventure and noted some interesting statistics:

Kaye Richards

Only 7% of adventure film directors are women, only 15% of professional climbing guides are female and only 7% of senior positions in the outdoor trade are occupied by women.

Speaker: Hazel Findlay (BMC Ambassador and professional climber)

Contrary to the opinion that it is perhaps difficult for women to progress in the climbing world, Hazel said that she never felt held back and found inspiration in her male climbing partners. In fact, she felt that being a woman gave her more recognition than a man might have received climbing at the same level.

Hazel noted that the imbalance between the number of elite male and female climbers could be attributed to intrinsic thought processes resulting from thousands of years of evolution. She cited THIS study and asked whether boys are encouraged to aim higher than girls from a very young age.      

Panel: Anna C Clarke (Graphic Designer within the Outdoor Industry), Ian Parnell (Associate Editor of Climb Magazine), Jessica More (Founder of 3rd Rock), Katherine Schirrmacher (current holder of the Mountain Instructor Award) and Dave Turnbull (Chief Executive of the BMC)

The panel discussed the impacts of campaigns such as This Girl Can, how we ensure inspiring stories about women adventurers receive media exposure, how women can stay in the adventure industry for life and to whom they can look for inspiration.

Ian Parnell drew attention to covers of Outside magazine (pictured below) that feature women – almost all of which don’t represent how real women look and dress in the sporting world and endorse the message that not only are its magazines published with men in mind but that sport isn’t for every woman – only those who are young and attractive.  

Outside magazineOutside magazineOutside magazine

This is an issue of which Climb is very aware and the magazine aims to publish stories with the hope of inspiring female adventurers, even if there are currently fewer such stories to be shared.

Climb magazineClimb magazine

With this topic in mind, our ‘Mountaineering Legends’ article in the next issue of Climber magazine will celebrate the achievements of Wanda Rutkiewicz who was the first European woman (and third woman ever) to climb Everest. You can read about her story and those of other extraordinary Polish adventurers, who emerged from the blanket of oppression following the Second World War, in Bernadette McDonald’s Freedom Climbers.  

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