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Welcome to HER Voice

A new column examining gender bias and its impact within the outdoor industry

Alison Hill

The outdoor industry is a progressive one. It is filled with idealists, people in search of no less than a better world. We publicly take stands for environmental conservation, for clean water, and social justice. We risk our reputations, we speak out, and we moved our biggest retail show, based on these values.

Every day I am honored to be a part of this community, working toward our shared future.

But there are times when our industry doesn’t live up to our own progressive ideals.

We need to be more inclusive. We need to make access to the outdoors more equitable. And we need to hear from those people we’ve sidelined and underestimated—including the strong women leaders in our industry.

With that goal in mind, I am proud to announce a partnership between Outside Business Journal and LifeStraw to bring the industry HER Voice: a monthly column that will focus on women’s issues in the outdoor industry.

Our goal for this column is to continue adding to the rich conversation that already exists, to highlight new women leaders—engineers, activists, and change makers in the industry—and to continue to make progress on elevating women, and their collective voices, across the outdoor industry.

As a watchdog of our industry, The Voice continues to tackle relevant subject matter, much of which reveals disturbing gaps between perception and reality. In January, The Voice and #SafeOutside issued results of a landmark survey about sexual misconduct, power and gender bias in the outdoor industry. One of the statistics I found most telling was that while 65 percent of women believe gender bias exists in the outdoor industry, only 10 percent of men do.

I wish I could say this was surprising, but it’s in line with my own experience. As managing director of LifeStraw, I have attended numerous trade shows, have been a guest speaker at conferences, and participated in meetings at which I was mistaken for the administrative assistant of a male staffer. At a recent OR show, our head of brand, Tara Lundy received a compliment for being more knowledgeable than the traditional “booth babe.” In subtle ways, every day, women are put down, assumed to be junior and expected to be less knowledgeable than the men in the room.

This isn’t unique to the outdoor industry, I know that.

But it stands in direct opposition to our values. We should all do better and do more.

What we aspire to do with this column, HER Voice, is raise the profile of women in the industry. So that next time you meet someone at a conference or out on the trail, you don’t assume she’s there as a sidekick to someone else. She’s likely there kicking ass, blazing her own trail.

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