The Rising Tide of Women

To celebrate the start of winter we’re teaming up with Gearmunk to bring you 12 things that you can do this holiday season to support the women led and powered outdoor ecosystem. For Day 6, we’re looking at the rising tide of all things women.

For the past 20 years I’ve chased more powder days more than I have paychecks. I have banked some incredible experiences, from month-long river trips down the Grand Canyon to heli-skiing in Alaska, to cycling across Africa.

I don't know if it’s a natural evolution or a massive deviation from the norm that I’ve chosen the path that I’m currently on as the co-founder and CEO of Coalition Snow. How am I choosing adventure these days? By launching a capital-intensive, seasonal business in an industry that is long overdue for a paradigm shift.

To me, adventure is part seizing opportunity, part over coming obstacles, and redefining women’s position in the outdoors seemed no different to me. I saw a lot of promise in celebrating the successes of women in the outdoors and amplifying their voices. I also found it problematic that there was a dearth of high performance equipment available to women, like somehow we weren’t good enough for it. Mix one part passion with one part frustration with one part burning desire to challenge the status quo all within my context of the world as a snow globe, and you get Coalition Snow.

We just launched our sixth line, and depending on the day, you’ll find me either gasping for air because the snow sports industry is so damn difficult, or I’m high fiving everyone over shots of whiskey because we just reached some major milestone. 

As I ride this roller coaster of soul crushing lows and adrenaline filled highs, there’s a lot that I contemplate as a woman and business owner in the outdoor industry. What has been on my mind lately is this: Do we—as women—own and benefit from the exploding #femalefounder #outdoorbabe phenomenon? It’s only been over the past few years that women have received so much positive attention, which arguably is a good thing. But here are a few things that concern me within this rising tide of all things women.

First, the concept of the outdoor woman is relatively myopic—I’m pretty sure that not all women who recreate are thin and white and exist in a financial utopia where they can choose to live in a bus. Do we really want images—and the narrative that accompanies them—that represent a fraction of women to proliferate in social media and into society at large? As women, don’t we have a responsibility to one another to offer up or demand something that is more diverse and more inclusive?

Secondly, how can we ensure that we are not being commodified by this upswing? If I can borrow from bell hooks, it’s the promise of recognition that lures us into believing that we are seeing progressive political change for women, when actually our cultural expression is being sold to the dominant culture. Essentially, our essence as women is being transformed into a currency that is spent by others who benefit from this exchange. Historically, the exploitation of women, particularly as sexual objects, has been obvious. But now it’s not so easy to discern the authenticity of the woman power messages that are hurled at us. Who is responsible for creating these messages, what is their objective, what benefit do they receive, and what’s our piece of that pie?

It’s really difficult to know how this will all play out—will this upsurge in the narrative of the strong outdoor woman pay off for us—will we earn more, will we hold more executive and leadership positions, and will the landscape of the industry fundamentally look and feel differently? Or will it be the same old shit and we won’t even know it because we can’t differentiate between the number of Instagram followers and likes from real change?

It's only when we see women in leadership and executive positions, equal pay, and equal representation in the media of ALL women (not just thin white straight women), then we know we will have achieved change. Until then, we've got a lot of work to do.