Opportunities: Mea Culpa, Yet Let’s Get More Women Outdoors

Chicks Sighting at Ouray Ice Fest 2011 - Photo Courtesy Amy Jurries

We’re starting out Monday morning here in Madison with an apology – and a shout-out – to our colleagues and friends out at the Ouray Ice Park.

First the shout-out: We heard great things about the 16th Annual Ouray Ice Fest. You folks work your butt off to pull off this massive event, and it’s appreciated by those who attend, and vicariously by those who don’t. Thank you, so much.

Now, the apology: We went off half-cocked late last week upset about something that we misunderstood about the Ouray Ice Fest Competition. We owe Bill Whitt and the rest of the crew in Ouray a sincere apology for not getting the facts before we dove in with both feet. We’re really sorry that we added stress, drama, and intrigue on the eve of an event that’s already stressful, drama-filled, and intriguing (in all the best ways – but that’s still challenging.) Y’all didn’t need that and we hope you’ll forgive us.

For the rest of you, here’s what happened: When the Ouray Ice Fest competition roster was posted last week we were super-excited to see our friend Scott Backes on the list, as well as Midwest hardman and friend-of-friends Matt Gambrione. The list for men contained another thirteen names, for a total of fifteen. Reading down to the women’s roster, we counted Mountain Hardwear athlete Dawn Glanc, and one, two, three other women, for a total of four competitors. Having a roster of fifteen men and only four women was concerning. It didn’t seem equitable in its own right. But then, we also know a female athlete – a good friend of ours – who was turned away because “the roster was full.” This is when we leaped instead of looking.

Dawn Glanc Powering To 1st Place at the 2011 Ouray Ice Fest - Photo courtesy Anne Hughes

FULL, at FOUR? What’s up with THAT?” That’s what I thought, anyway. (There might’ve been an expletive or two in there for good measure; but – hey – only in my head…)

We escalated things at that point through the social media channels. Here I say “WE” because I launched out from the PEMBA feed, so this was MY doing, ultimately. I want to be clear on this: This wasn’t a PEMBA initiative; rather it was my own using PEMBA’s online resources and contacts. This shouldn’t have happened, and I take full responsibility.

The next day – later the next day – we found out how things work at the competition. At Ouray this year, as with every year, there’s only twenty spots available due to the complex logistics of letting each climber have a turn. Accordingly, each year they’ve run the comp with fifteen men and five women. This year, they received thirty-two applications (twenty-five men and seven women) for the twenty slots. Five of the seven women who applied got in, and one subsequently had to back out. The other two athletes were contacted as replacements, but by then they had already made other plans. So the organizers decided to go with just the four, which makes total sense. By the math, about two-thirds of the competitors could get in, and – by the math – about two-thirds of each gender got onto the roster.

As a math problem, this seems fair enough, doesn’t it?

So, by history, by tradition, and by the math, we really can’t fault the Ouray Ice Park for running with the same roster that they always have, minus the one female athlete who dropped out. And it’s for this reason that we offer our sincere apology, today. Further, thanks – AGAIN – for all you do. We’ve been at your event many times over the years, and it’s for good reason that it’s considered to be the best ice fest in North America. To go one step more, you deserve HUGE props for all you’ve done to develop the sport of ice climbing in North America; we wouldn’t be where we are without you – and “WE” in this case means the Outdoor Industry – so thanks for that. So, between shout-outs and apologies, as far as we’re concerned with the Ouray Ice Park and the crew there, this is the end of the story.


But for the rest of us in the Outdoor Industry, we still have some challenges. Chief of these is that gender equity is not a math problem. Who says that doing what’s “fair” by the math is what’s equitable? Also: Is doing what we’ve always done the best way to correct inequity? Probably not. Correcting an inequity often means putting a thumb on the scale for a time until the scale balances itself, as witnessed by the impact that Title IX has had towards addressing gender inequity in high school and collegiate athletics. Don’t we in the Outdoor Industry want to be both fair AND equitable?

Kate Smail on "Tic Tac," Ouray Ice Fest 2011 - Photo Courtesy of Anne Hughes

Further, the opportunity to the industry represented by the women’s market is not a math problem that’s best presented as a three-to-one ratio. Or – rather – if it IS a three-to-one ratio, it might be women-to-men rather than the other way around.

Plainly put, we in the Outdoor Industry need to do more to develop women’s participation in outdoor activities. There’s something startling about the idea that women represent 51% of the US population, while only 44% of the Outdoor Industry’s active participants are women.

Why is this startling? Well, women represent our best opportunity for growth, both now and for the future. There are several reasons for this:

  • First – The opportunity is represented in the math itself: If men’s participation stayed flat and women grew to represent 51% of our market, we’d increase our market base by about 10 million participants.
  • Second – Women are more social than men, and are more likely to share what they do with others. For activities that women enjoy, they tend to bring their friends, their kids, their significant others, and anybody else who will come along. So likely we’d pick up a few more million participants there, and some of these would be the children of women who enter our ranks now. By including kids, we assure future growth in participation, also.
  • Third – Women comprise up to 75% of the active users in the social media channels, so they’d put the word out, too. If 10 million new female outdoor enthusiasts dropped into our market, the whole country would hear about it, no doubt. More people would know more people who play outside, and so the idea would spread.

There’s all kinds of anecdotal evidence to support this idea as well. We don’t even have to go too far beyond our own doors here at PEMBA for success stories, in fact. Years ago when men were 90% of the climbing market, at Boulders Climbing Gym (which I helped start here in Madison in 1996) we made a concerted effort to foster women climbers, and today they are over half of the member base. This fall, here at PEMBAserves.com we made a pointed decision to include more content by and for women, and our traffic has doubled in three months.

The message is clear: We need to do more. As an industry, for the most part we’ve already moved beyond “shrinking it and pinking it” from a product perspective. We now make high-end performance products for women enthusiasts. Now, we need to put in the effort to get more women involved in the activities that drive the Outdoor Industry. This might start by putting a focus on equity in representation at our signature events, but it could go beyond this as well.

The challenge is clear: Whatever we need to do to get more women outdoors, we need to do. It’s a huge opportunity, and – more than this – it’s the right thing to do.

28 responses to “Opportunities: Mea Culpa, Yet Let’s Get More Women Outdoors

  1. I don’t think an apology is needed, as a matter of fact I’m bummed that you are backing off on this issue.

    The number of men’s and women’s competitors should be equal whenever possible. If there aren’t enough women applicants, THEN let more men in. But to start with a goal of 15 men to only 5 women? That is pretty poor. And to turn away women applicants when there was such a disparity? Inappropriate.

    All seven female applicants should have been accepted; then the numbers would have been excuseable. Even then, the fest could have done more to promote the women’s comp and advertised for more applicants. Make it more accessible to more women, let us know women are welcome and wanted…you know the drill.

    The last place woman placed well up on the list; I think she was fifth from last. That means four dudes didn’t even climb as well as the last place woman – and the comp is turning away women applicants?

    I appreciate the response I got from people who were part of the selection process, but I don’t think that we should turn down the heat until we see some real changes in how women are welcomed to competitions like this. We’re being treated like we’re a second class sideshow and from the comp results, it’s easy to see that this is FAR from the truth.

    I’ve suggested to the Ouray folks that maybe they organize a women’s comp sometime this year or at next year’s fest, with no previous comp experience requirements. This would go a long way in promoting women’s ice climbing and women’s ice climbing competition – and who knows, maybe next year they could find those extra few “qualified” women to make it an equal-numbered comp.

  2. Yeah, we might have had it right the first time. Our method was wrong, though. I’m glad they heard about it at the event, though.

    I too would like to see them go to a format where they fill the women’s field to 50% (or as close as they can get), and then fill-in with men from there. Even a split of 8 to 12 would be more in line with the reality of outdoor participants to the OIA numbers referenced in the piece.

    On the other hand, by rights there should be 11 women and 9 men, by the US Census figures. So we got a ways to go.

    Thanks for commenting!

  3. I think getting equal women to compete in a pro comp with a M9 route and getting women and kids into ice climbing are two different points. “Participants” and those qualified to climb a M9 are apples and oranges. From my understanding there were 7 women that wanted to compete. 2 were turned away because they did not qualify. Why would you think letting in women just because they are women is doing any justice? Or quote census numbers for this?

    I think there are other reasons why women don’t feel the need to compete at this level unless they are 100% confident. I see this all the time at mountain bike races. When most women enter a serious race they committed to doing their best and know their abilities and limits. Men on the other hand sometimes think they can do better than they can(hence what you saw at the fest results this year). Look at LA RUTA DE LOS CONQUISTADORES. Less than 10% of the field were women and this is the average every year. But every single one of those women finished! Also for reference, the Leadville 100 MTB race had 161 women in a field of 1500. So instead of harping about the lack of qualified women we should be celebrating those incredible 4 women that smoked some of the men’s field. As a woman I don’t want to see this level of comp padded so the numbers look good. A ‘sideshow’ to me would be if we had women struggling on the route that had no business there.

    I like the amateur comp idea and maybe that is a better fit to encourage more women(and men) to compete vs continuing with this pro comp. I think energy is better spent to get new people into the sport vs focusing on the elite. For the record, the ice park does have women’s only clinics, supports chicks with picks, and has 4 kids only ice climbing clinics.

    If there are more qualified women out there for the pro comp please let the park board know specific ideas on how to better communicate to them for next year ,as if they are out there and want to compete, we are failing at getting to them.


  4. Jen, I actually think that getting elite women to compete is exactly related to getting amateurs and kids involved in the sport, also. My point of reference in this is in my experience putting on climbing comps in gyms (including Boulders), where many years we had to beat the bushes and call in ringers to get the Open and Advanced categories filled. Nowadays, we don’t have that problem at all.

    I’d like to think that making the Elite categories seem more accessible had something to do with this. And, also, with the resulting shift from 10% women to over 50% women in members.

    Also, one point to clarify: Contrary to what Kim Reynolds posted in her outline of the event, the women who were contacted to fill the vacant spot weren’t intimidated by M9. One had injured her shoulder since she was rejected, and the other had made plans to be elsewhere. I’ve spoken with one of these women, and they would’ve been psyched to be on M9. Likely, she would’ve done well. So, I don’t think that it would’ve been “padded.”

    Also, one question – how many women were turned away from the Leadville 100 MTB race? Did all who enter get to ride? That’s really what we’re talking about here.

    On a related note, we were looking at regional running races recently, and discovered that 60% of the finishers in regional marathons (The Chicago Marathon for instance) were women. We’ve come a long way from when women weren’t even ALLOWED to compete in marathons because they were deemed too strenuous.

    Most changes in sport are mental. They come from the athlete and they also come from public expectations. If we expect women to compete at M9, likely they will.

  5. I really enjoyed reading this post Brad. It took a lot of humility on a personal level to put it out there. Just another great example that you and your organization are doing things “right”. Yes, an assumption was made but you could have rested on your laurels knowing normally that is not what happens and that you all do well. Instead you took the highest road.

    Thanks for being such a great example for us and for owning up when things don’t go so great too ;-)

  6. One on the great ironies here is that, twice, the top woman climber would have beaten out the top male had they been competing in the same category! Now there’s some gender equality for you!

  7. Re: Jen’s comment:”From my understanding there were 7 women that wanted to compete. 2 were turned away because they did not qualify. Why would you think letting in women just because they are women is doing any justice?”

    The two who were turned away, as I understand it, weren’t turned away because they “didn’t qualify”, they were turned away because the number of women athletes was capped at five and other women were chosen OVER those two because the organizers didn’t want to have that many women in the comp. The two who were turned away weren’t bad climbers or neophytes; there just wasn’t enough space on the roster because the INTENTION was to have only five women no matter what. This is what sucks. To turn away qualified athletes because they wanted to have more men than women in the comp is really lame. I’ve said it over and over – an intended ratio of fifteen men to five women is pretty poor, ESPECIALLY because there were more than five women athletes who wanted to compete.

    Did you ever see an Olympian from a particularly disadvantaged country competing in an event they’re not even that good at? Some of them don’t have a chance in hell of even being remotely competitive. They look ridiculous at times. They stand out. It’s obvious they don’t belong but they don’t slink home and hide, they hold their heads high and do what they came to do – represent at the Olympics. I love seeing that because that is the real athletic spirit. If women are willing to try to compete at a high level even if they are hopelessly outclassed, I say more power to them.

    I think it absolutely is beneficial to “pad the numbers” by ensuring that equal numbers of men and women compete, regardless of whether all female contenders can finish or perform well. The dudes don’t worry about that, why should we? Not all men can finish or perform well either (so to speak, heheheh) but you don’t see comps and races telling those men they can’t come back next year because they sucked this year.

    The bottom four finishers are Ouray were all men. Do you think they are thinking they should have rethought even entering? Why should women? Hell, I’m no M9 climber but if I had been allowed to compete I would have given it a go. How else to get the experience? Women HAVE to start representing at comps even if the ones competing are not the best athletes, or we’ll stay invisible to comp and race organizers. That’s not relevant at Ouray – every single female athlete was competitive. Who knows how things would have turned out had all seven (minus the one with an injury) had been allowed to compete?

    Thanks to Brad and Pemba Serves for giving a crap and for standing up for the ladies.

  8. This whole incident is making me think really, really hard. Even though I’m a female climbing writer, I tend to shy away from most specifically gender-related issues… it feels scary to dip my toe in this pool!

    But, here goes.

    It says something to me, that knowing nothing about the qualifications of the women who applied to the comp; and reading Brad’s Mea Culpa this morning, my first response was that I’d rather see a comp full at four qualified women and however many men, than to see women accepted to the competition to hit an arbitrary number of female competitors. Even me — a female athlete and climber myself — didn’t jump to the correct conclusion: that qualified women applied and were turned away (for whatever reason).

    Looks like I have a thing or two to learn about the number of bad ass women there are competing at the highest echelons of ice climbing. Mea culpa, myself… and more power to you, bad ass girls.

    If 15 men / 5 women, at one point, served a purpose to ensure that there was SOME level of female participation in this comp — it sounds to me like those days are over. The most qualified competitors should get the spots without regard to gender. If that just so happens to lead to more women on the roster, then that’s awesome. It makes sense to have a floor for the number of women competing; it doesn’t make sense to treat that floor as an arbitrary ceiling.

    Disclaimer – I’m still not sure I have all the facts straight; so if I’m off the mark, it’s not meant to confuse an already confusing issue! :)

  9. I have another question – I am not clear on how athletes were chosen; the application has tons of questions ranging from descriptions of routes athletes have climbed, to “who is your hero and why?” I’m unclear on how someone can be “qualified” for a climbing competition based on a written application, so I’d like to hear more about that.

    I joked with one of the selection team, “what busy chick could find time to complete that long application anyhow?” which segued into a discussion about “how men do it” meaning, how do so many men find the means and time to do time-consuming outdoor pursuits when it’s so much harder for women to get away (or at least, that is my impression)?

    Sorry for the tangent…anyway, then I’d like to know if any of the men allowed to compete were “less qualified” based on their application than the two women who were turned away. And if so….WTF?

  10. Re: Sara’s comments above:

    I think that it is SO IMPORTANT for women to see more women competing. Seeing only a few, time and time again, just reinforces and reinforces and reinforces the idea that these sports are only for men and for just a few special women. I can’t tell you how important it is for even newbies to see that there are lots of strong, capable, confident women in this industry.

    Funny you should say that about gender based issues, Sara – most of my commentary on my site is dedicated to such issues, lol! So, if you ever need an outlet for your thoughts, you can always put them there if you’d rather not address them on your own site. But I think you should; nothing wrong with discussing issues about women on a woman’s site!

  11. Having lived in Ouray for about 8 years and being a part of the festival on several levels I wanted to comment on some of the above posts.

    I would love to see more women in the competition and in the sport in general. I know several strong female climbers that I think would be great candidates. In looking at the bigger picture, I think part of the problem is that many women, such as myself, have chosen to have children…which makes training for these events as well as big expeditions very difficult. Personally I’m not aware of any competitor, other than Ines, that is also a mother. In general I do see so many women give up climbing dreams when they have kids, which makes me sad. Ironically, my role this year, like many years past, was to support my husband and take up the slack at home so he could train. Because this isn’t a sport I’m passionate about, that works for me.

    Seeing more women this year would have been great as this years route was very technical at the bottom and arguably more suited to a womans style of climbing. Jen climbed it beautifully and I loved watching how smoothly she moved through an area where many of the men struggled. BTW the men that did fall at the bottom were very talented and qualified competitors…one of them placed second last year. Anyone who has watched this competition in past years would know that strength and ability doesn’t ensure success.

    Lastly, I want to say that there are hundreds of volunteer hours required on the part of the community to make this event happen. It takes hours to set the route (my husband did that one year), people to belay, judges and many other folks. The Ice Park board is a volunteer position….and it’s a huge amount of work and stress. I”m always amazed at how the community comes together at this event. So, I just don’t think a second route would be possible.

    I would, however, love to see more women in this event and will give some thought as to how this might happen. Maybe they should consider changing the ratio so all qualified women are accepted. Seeing more women competing each year would probably make it less intimidating for other women to sign up.

    Again…a big thanks to the Ice Park and Board for a great festival.

  12. Thanks for that post, Lisa. It’s long been my observation that women who decide to have kids end up having to put their sports on the back burner, whereas their husbands don’t seem to have to do the same. It’s nice to hear that finally being said out loud.

    If I hear one more story about a male athlete and his long-suffering, supportive wife who watches the kids and does all the home stuff while he goes out and has fun and trains for comps, I will vomit. I expect to vomit quite soon as these stories are ubiquitous. Stories in which those roles are reversed are practically non-existent.

    I mentioned somewhere on my site (or maybe on Twitter?) that it’s been hard to get newbie women out to try these sports, in large part because they tend to bring their kids out which really limits the group’s ability to try new/harder/faster/longer routes and challenges. This is a huge problem in mountain biking. I don’t know why it is that women assume that a “women’s ride” means “women’s and children’s ride.” Sorry to sound so snarky, but man, I find it so annoying when I show up to go on what I think is going to be a fun ride or climb and find that someone brought their 9 year old, without even mentioning ahead of time. What is so hard about leaving the kids with their dad? This is a real question – why? What’s the big deal – pick up the car keys, tell the husband he’s in charge of the kids, and go climb and go ride and go do what you want to do? I guarantee that your husband doesn’t think twice about it most of the time.

    As the editor of a women-oriented web site, I’m sometimes approached by kid-product manufacturers, maternity wear brands, etc. I admit this pisses me off because it’s apparent that these people have never bothered to read my site and just assume that because it’s a women’s site, it must have a kid component as well. It doesn’t and never will – that’s not what Geargals is about. I suspect, though, that I’ll be fighting that assumption for a good long while.

    Who is to blame – the women for letting things get like this, and for dropping their athletic goals when they have kids, the men for not recognizing this disparity and trying harder to make it equal, or both? Or neither?

  13. I wrote a post for Chicks with Picks a year or so ago about balancing climbing with being a mom. For me this is a continual struggle, both on a day to day level in training for my big adventures and finding care for our son so we can have two weeks or so to make them happen. But finding the time and resources is essential for me. I know that I’m a much better mother and wife if I’m able to pursue my passion and reach my goals within climbing. Luckily, I do have a husband that supports and understands this…in fact, sometimes he tells me…, “Lisa, You need to go climb.”

    I’m not sure what would need to happen to change the expectation and mindset that it’s the woman that gives up her athletic goals or job to be a mom. I believe that with some work and support you can have both…I certainly have.

  14. A thought I had this morning…

    In this whole conversation… I hope that the intention and outcome isn’t “heat” for the Ouray Park and / or Board, and rather, that this conversation leads to a whole lot of thinking and evaluation of what can be done the next time around.

    I have an idea of the kind of work and passion that goes into this type of event, and I’m excited that, perhaps, this type of conversation can help make a world class event even better in the future.


  15. avatar David Sweeney

    Emily Harrington posted a good comp report on the PETZL blog.

    Mixed Emotions at the Ouray Mixed Comp

    Another good one

    Emily Harrington finds new inspiration in ice climbing

  16. Thanks for all the comments on this. If you all have specific ideas for next year can you get them to me or someone else on the board. I am brand new to the ice park board, the only woman on the board, not a serious climber at all, and love change so any and all specific ideas are welcome!

    Jill- You gave me a great idea for an upcoming velomom post re moms. I have to think about it but that is a great topic. I have never felt a huge struggle with getting ‘me time’ as I make it a priority and tend to even sometimes get out more than my husband (except since being prego). But, it is a huge balancing act and it’s not easy.

  17. I just want to thank you all for your comments and your insights. It’s much appreciated.

    I know from my e-mail and other channels that lots of folks are reading these comments, and have some other insights and points-of-view, also. I’d like to encourage y’all to post as well! It’s a big topic! Lots of opinions and ideas, here.

    I’m hoping to go through each comment in detail and try to come up with a cohesive response. (Yeah, right!) But I will do something to address some of the things that have come up.

    Meanwhile, thanks again.

  18. Brad,

    Thank your for posting this topic. Like Sara, I tend to shy away from overt gender discussions, but as a life coach working predominantly with women who are interested in fitness, the outdoors and creating a lifestyle that makes it possible to balance it all with the other aspects of their life, I wanted to weigh in.

    In the comments, you mentioned that “Most changes in sport are mental. They come from the athlete and they also come from public expectations. If we expect women to compete at M9, likely they will.” I agree wholeheartedly. Change begins with thought.

    When we see another woman doing what we previously believed wasn’t possible (whether it’s competing in a large event, traveling the world alone or simply participating in a new sport), we begin to believe we can do it, too. When we feel confident and comfortable to take risks, we’re far more likely to go and do it.

    We’re getting there. I see it and I feel it. But posts like this; these types of conversations and discussions that elicit change need to continue. So thank you for writing. And thank you to everyone who has commented and who are taking action… it’s wonderfully refreshing to be a part of such a wonderful community.

  19. So there’s a few things that pop out at me that warrant comment, in no particular order except I’ll be working from the bottom of the string upwards:

    Jen asked us all what we’d like to see at Ouray next year, for women, in the comp, in general. Can we give her some positive suggestions?

    Jill, I really appreciate your input here. Thanks for your passion and for taking the time to contribute to this conversation. I want to respond to one thing you said: “It’s long been my observation that women who decide to have kids end up having to put their sports on the back burner, whereas their husbands don’t seem to have to do the same.” While this may sometimes be the case – generally – I’m going to call this out as an assumption that perpetuates the very stereotype that it purports to challenge.

    In my own marriage, I can say with assurance that my wife has improved as a climber each year since she’s had kids (and I’ve declined, hmmm…) But we may be atypical. Vera writes about being a mother, climbing while pregnant, and on mentoring other mothers who climb, here on PEMBAserves.com.

    But if a picture is worth a thousand words: Here is our friend Mattie Sheafor, single mother of two young boys, pulling down on an M9+ (might be harder) over this past weekend. Mattie wrote our recent review of the Petzl Nomics here on PEMBAserves.com. In this piece, she also talks about her role as a guide and taking that opportunity to empower women – not your typical gear review, eh?

    My wife Vera and Mattie are longtime friends, and contrary to the idea that bringing kids to the crags limits climbing potential, they’ve been meeting at crags all over the country since their babies (of about the same age) were infants in arms. Further, not content to waste time on the easy routes, they’ve been pulling hard. Somewhere here I have pictures of me and Karen McNeill (God rest her…) holding my daughter Misa and Mattie’s son Alex, while Mattie and Vera are taking turns climbing 5.12 sport routes in Idaho.

    Here at PEMBAserves, we’ve developed a close alliance with the Chicks Climbing programs because we believe in what they do for women. This past fall, Janice from here at PEMBA and Ruth, Vera’s sister-in-law (both mothers) decided to take up rock climbing with one of the Chicks programs. Here is their story. This experienced changed their lives.

    Jill, if you believe that women have to give it up when they have kids, I’m going to challenge you: It seems to me that you’re both accepting and perpetuating this stereotype; why is that? I can tell you with assurance that it doesn’t have to be like this, and doesn’t always end up this way. So I also challenge you to think on this, and write about it in a new light. You have the opportunity and the responsibility to reframe this idea for your readers on your blog, and I believe that this starts when you stop buying into the myth – and perpetuating it – as well.

    Meanwhile, Jill, I love your comparison of athletes in the Olympics from small countries. I also believe – however – that women have the potential to climb as hard or harder than men, so it won’t always be a case of them just showing up to represent the gender. As Malcolm notes, twice the general winner at Ouray has been a woman (a mother, no less!) While the world’s hardest rock-climbing routes right now require skillsets that favor climbers who are powerful (men, mostly), there will be routes that favor other skillsets, also (perhaps favoring women.)

    In trad climbing, many believe that Lynn Hill’s effort at freeing the Nose on El Cap in a day is one of the hardest things ever done, and – the truth is – many strong men will always be unable to do it. (If for no other reasons than their hands are too big.) Want heady alpine routes or solos? Look no further than elite alpinist Kitty Calhoun (also a mother, who did first-ascents of Himalayan peaks while she was five months pregnant), who recently wrote a piece for us about ice climbing with Dawn Glanc in Ouray, and how the sport has changed.

    Lastly, relative to Ouray, mixed climbing is the great equalizer, because everybody always has the same set of giant jugs to pull on. Because of the terrain, the routes at Ouray will always be an equal mix of thuggery and technical moves, so – in theory – no one gender should be favored. (Which begs the question again to Jen: Why NOT let all qualified women compete up to 50% of the roster?)

    So, whew! I’m about out of time. And, that’s about enough for a 1am comment session. Thanks once again for the great discussion.

  20. “I’m going to call this out as an assumption that perpetuates the very stereotype that it purports to challenge.”

    It’s not an assumption. The women watch the kids and do domestic stuff a lot more – it’s been studied a lot and it’s just a fact. Women take on more of this burden in our society.

    “It seems to me that you’re both accepting and perpetuating this stereotype; why is that?”

    Meh? I can’t control what other people do. I just don’t want to go on trips with other people’s kids.

    Just try to schedule a trip with people with kids, especially WOMEN with kids. Just try. You either have to deal with going on a “kid trip” or in most cases, just not be able to go at all. With dudes, it’s much easier. Of course one person’s experience (mine) does not a trend make, but there’s only so many times the same scenario can repeat over and over before I notice a pattern.

    My site is not for kids and people with kid issues. It’s for people with gear and with gear issues. The two things are separate! This is what I’m getting at. Women and children ARE NOT ONE AND THE SAME. Just because I have a women’s site does not at all mean that I need to devote one single word to anything about kids.

    And you misread my point – women don’t HAVE to give it up when they have kids; it’s just that so many of them choose to do so. IMO this is mostly self-imposed, though I’d imagine if the father isn’t stepping up to do his part it’s probably difficult to change the situation.

    “It doesn’t always end up this way.”

    No – not always. But a lot of the time. Hell, I even saw it in some catalog or other, featuring an athlete who used to be top of her game: “Betsy has mostly given up life on the sharp end to make sand castles and mud pies” or something like that. It just makes me cringe. That’s not my life, will never be my life, and the women who don’t have that life need a voice too. I don’t want to always be lumped into the womenandchildren group. Those groups are separate!

    Thanks again Brad & crew :)

  21. I think Jill makes a very valid point. When making plans with most of my female friends with kids, the general response is, “That sounds good, let me see if ‘Bob’ can watch the kids that day?”. Whereas with guy friends it is either “Okay” or “That’s good, let me just make sure ‘Susan’ hasn’t commited us for something else”.

    There is a clear distinction between asking the husband to watch the kids and the husbnad just making sure he wasn’t expected to be at home. I definitely don’t think this is the case in all families. However, it happens, often. I have one girlfriend that I would love to see more but she can usually only get away a couple of hours before the kids become too much for the husband. The idea of trying to plan a weekend day trip or camping trip….she would have to bargain and beg to get that time away.

    I am not really sure if I am saying anything useful or rambling. Just backing Jill up, this is what the norm is. Like it or not.

  22. Of course, I would be remiss without saying that yes, these are the terms these couples set in their marriages and in their families. There are lots of couples breaking ground and working together in a different way. Many women who are finding ways to incorporate the family into athletic experiences without it being a hinderance but an ehancement.

    I am certain that it’s not easy though. It takes a lot of work, planning, and thinking in new ways. Sometimes it’s easier to see the balck and why, this or that, rather than work hard to make it all fit together.

  23. Sadly, I have to agree with Jill….
    My kiddo will be 16 this summer and I have searched for like minded women my age to have adventures with and/or families since he was born. I’ve lived in Denver, Boulder, Ouray and now Flagtaff…all area with lots of outdoor enthusiasts. Mostly I have encountered just what Jill talks about…husbands who still get out and comment on how their wives used to climb before they had kids….and moms that lose an important part of themselves when they become mothers. While this makes me sad and sometimes angry I do think that raising your child SHOULD be the priority if you choose to have one. Most of that time, that responsibility falls on the mother. It did for me…I was just lucky enough to not have to work full time AND raise a kiddo, which left time to climb. Honestly, I can’t imagine my life with out climbing and adventure…it’s just wasn’t an option to not climb.

  24. Hey All: Sorry for my absence here. I had to move in another direction (prepping for OR) for the past few days. This has been on my mind, in my in-box, and in discussions, elsewhere.

    In all of this, I think that I’m going to back away slowly from this one. I have more to add and say, but as an XY I admittedly have a skewed perspective. And, my life is atypical – and also very typical – in this regard, also (as my wife Vera has pointed out to me.)

    We’ve asked a few women (some represented in the comments here, some from elsewhere) to address this topic more deeply in guest posts for us coming up later this winter and spring. We’ll also have similar topics regarding other “opportunities” in #OIBIZ going up in these next few months, so stay tuned.

    The comment string here seemed to focus mostly on Ouray and the comp, and on female athletes. I’d like to hear more about women in business, women in #OIBIZ, and women in outdoor activities in general (non-elite categories…) I think that Carol Roth addressed what I was trying to say in her post, today.

    Basically, where are all the ladies in #OIBIZ and outdoor sports? That’s what we need to ask ourselves, and address. Along with a few other things…

    Thanks for all the comments, and keep ’em coming!


  25. Brad, I know they’re out there. I don’t know if it’s a lack of women, we just don’t promote ourselves in the same way. Women (and some men) aren’t taught to sell ourselves in the way men are. I don’t know if it’s a question of “where are the women?” as much as “Why aren’t they talking about and promoting themselves so we know where to find them?”

    There are a ton of articles out there about how women don’t earn as much because they don’t demand their true worth or similar themes. I am sure that applies to the OI too.

  26. Hey Tali, in #OIBIZ there is a legitimate question as to “where are the women,” as the metrics show a disparity when compared to the general population both in participants and – say – in female executives.

    Carol Roth is writing about the trend in general, but it’s more pronounced for sure in our industry.

    This said, it’s better than it was. Circa 20 years ago, 90% of climbers were men. Now, in gyms at least, more women are there than men and likely this number is reflected at the crags. Or so it seems.

    But there’s a ways to go.

  27. “I don’t know if it’s a lack of women, we just don’t promote ourselves in the same way. Women (and some men) aren’t taught to sell ourselves in the way men are. I don’t know if it’s a question of “where are the women?” as much as “Why aren’t they talking about and promoting themselves so we know where to find them?””

    YES to this. Men are all about tooting their horns, or so I’ve been told. When a woman toots her own horn, people line up to tear her down because women are not SUPPOSED to be proud of their achievements. It’s all around us, on TV, in movies, in magazines, in books – women/girls are supposed to be self deprecating, insecure, in need of assistance, and even inept. It’s completely maddening.

    I also believe – and I think I said this on twitter once – that men do not like to see women’s achievements described alongside their own, because deep down men believe that if a woman can do it, it’s not as impressive. Therefore if a woman’s achievement is shown in the same light as their achievement, theirs isn’t as good as they thought. I realize this horrifies a lot of people, but I’m from a place where people speak their minds and this is in fact how a lot of men think. Hell, I had a guy tell me that women weren’t as good at catching fish as men! As if the fish knows who is holding the fishing rod. In response I went out and caught 60 fish to his 5…and that is a true story. My point is that women’s achievements and skills are suppressed, whether purposefully or not, in large part because men are not too stoked with sharing the spotlight with women.

    In my interview with Rebecca Rusch, I told her about an article in an Alaska paper in which a male racer stated that the goal for many men in Alaska races is to simply “not get chicked.” In response Reba said that maybe she should visit Alaska and do some races, which would really kick ass. Er, anyway, if you really don’t agree with my last paragraph, how do you explain this irrational fear of “getting chicked” or “beat by a girl”?

    Girls are barraged with this kind of language their entire lives. “Screamed like a little girl,” “beat by a girl,” “throw like a girl,” “granny gear” – there are no equivalent messages sent to boys. This programs both boys and girls to believe that women can’t do things to the same standard that men do.

  28. One more thing: do you realize that there was only one woman on the Ouray comp selection committee this year? ONE.