Why We Need Women Specific Campaigns

Reflecting on my 'She Went Wild' Feature

I am passionate about encouraging everyone to seek out their own adventures, but in particular I would love to inspire more women and girls to develop their skills and confidence to get outside and explore, so I was delighted when She Went Wild asked me to write a feature on my recent cycle-touring adventure. 

Cycling through Torridon on the NC500.

Cycling through Torridon on the NC500.

In a sector (and society) where women are still underrepresented and often face considerable barriers to participation, we need organisations like She Went Wild that champion women's adventure and achievement in the outdoors and here's a few reasons why.

Many of you will have read about the latest Billabong ads, that failed to use women athletes in their advertising and I am furious (yes furious) when I open certain magazines that still fail to feature a single female contributor.  Nikon recently held a launch event for their new D850 camera, they invited 32 photographers, and not one woman.

We need women and men to stand up and be heard, to demand change and to encourage inspiring stories to empower more young girls to seek out adventure.  Karen Knowlton wrote a powerful response to Billabong's ad that went viral and eventually caused them to change their site to include women and men surfing. In contrast, Nikon's response was flacid, they simply said:

“Unfortunately, the female photographers we had invited for this meet were unable to attend, and we acknowledge we have not put enough of a focus in this area.”

Acknowledgement is not enough, Nikon need to take action.  An even bigger sign of how embedded everyday sexism is in our society can be found by reading the responses, mostly by men, usually along the lines of "if Nikon only want to invite male photographers that's their choice." or for Billabong "Sex sells, if you don't like it don't buy it." and of course the ever original "Here come the feminists, watch out!".  And we should watch out, we all need to challenge businesses, organisations and governments that fail to represent women to change their practices.

Katherine Young recently redesigned the cover of Girls' Life magazine when she saw the stark contrast with the partnered Boys' Life magazine that encouraged boys to "Explore your future" and girls to "discover your dream hair". Of course re-styling your hair can be fun for girls and boys, but the contrast keeps going, nowhere on the cover are girls encouraged to think about anything other than how they look and what other people think of them.  The editors issued a statement in support of their content but refused to apologise or offer a promise of change.

The evidence is there to show that campaigns such as She Went Wild, This Girl Can and the Women in Mountain Training group are essential for women and men, campaigning, supporting, inspiring and encouraging women and girls of all ages and abilities to be active, share stories and get outside.  Events such as Glenmore Lodge's Women in Adventure Sport Conference as well as the women's week run by Glenmore and Plas Y Brenin are all important developments, which I hope to attend next year, as is the BMC's Women in Adventure Film Competition, although I would love to see a photography category opened up as part of this comp!

So, there is a lot to be encouraged by, but still a lot of work to be done.  My article is just about my experiences exploring the Scottish Highlands, but it means something to have it published in a space whose goal it is to inspire more women to get out and be active!


And if you feel like some inspiration, here is a video by Krystle J Wright for Outdoor Research about women being awesome in the outdoors: