REI launches national campaign to get women and girls outdoors

Photo via REI’s Facebook page

REI wants to level the playing field when it comes to gender equality and the outdoors. And to do so, the national outdoor retail co-op launched an initiative called Force of Nature.

“But when we take an honest look at the outdoor stories we tell and the heroes we typically herald, we see that as an industry, we are not championing women and men equally,” wrote Jerry Stritzke, president and CEO of REI. “A casual look at any portrayal of the outdoors—movie, magazine, catalog, store, bookshelf—shows male imagery, heroes and stories. This doesn’t honor or accurately depict the important role that women play in the outdoors. As the saying goes, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see.'”

In fact, when REI commissioned a national survey, striking results were noticed: 63 percent of women said they could not think of an outdoor female role model, and six in 10 women say that men’s interests in outdoor activities are taken more seriously than women’s.

To combat this issue, the Force of Nature campaign is set to break stereotypes and to get women outdoors. According to the website, the company is creating more content for women by partnering with Outside Magazine for its first-ever all women’s issue. On May 6, REI kicked off more than 1,000 events designed to get women outdoors by offering adventure trips, day retreats, and hundreds of classes. REI also promised a stepped-up effort to develop and help design better gear for women. The campaign doesn’t stop there. REI is also committing $1 million to support other community organizations that create opportunities for women in the outdoors.

Force of Nature “claims the outdoors as a place to opt out of cultural pressures to conform—the ‘supposed-tos’ and ‘shoulds’ that underpin outdated stereotypes—especially for women,” according to Stritzke. “To create real change right now we are putting women—of all ages, races, sizes, gender expressions—front and center in all we do.”