By REI, Special for USDR
Outdoor co-op REI today launched a comprehensive effort to advance gender equity in the outdoors, encouraging millions of its members to embrace the outdoors as “the world’s largest level playing field.” From gear to experiences and from nonprofit partnerships to powerful women-first storytelling, Force of Nature aims to ensure that women are just as inspired and equipped as men to embrace life outside. Force of Nature features four components: a comprehensive effort to change the male-dominated imagery of people in the outdoors; a $1 million commitment in 2017 to support nonprofits that create opportunities for women in the outdoors; a stepped-up effort to develop and offer high-quality technical gear and apparel for women; and the launch of over 1,000 events designed for women, beginning May 6.
Force of Nature is a public-facing effort that builds on nearly eight decades of REI work to create more access to the outdoors for women. The co-op has a balanced leadership team. Women hold more than 40 percent of senior leadership roles, including the current chief financial officer, chief information officer, and the heads of human resources, merchandising and strategy. One third of the REI board of directors are women.
Current CEO Jerry Stritzke, who succeeded previous CEO Sally Jewell, has publicly led the effort to advance women’s leadership across the outdoor industry. One of his first acts as CEO was to launch a five-year, $1.5 million effort with Camber Outdoors that sparked women’s innovation and leadership in the outdoor industry.
REI board chair, Cheryl Scott, said:
“The leaders of REI have been pushing to change the way things are done in the outdoor industry since I got on the board 12 years ago. This moment makes me proud to serve REI because it’s not about putting women above men – it’s about creating equal opportunity and levelling-up in areas where there are still obvious gaps. I hope millions of REI members will embrace this because more balance outdoors means our kids, our families and our society will benefit.”
REI president and CEO, Jerry Stritzke, said:
“At REI, we believe a life outdoors is a life well lived for all. That means we support equality from the backcountry to the boardroom. As a man and a CEO, I believe it is important for every leader in an organization, regardless of gender, to champion equality and we are doing the hard work here at REI to make that happen. This isn’t about elevating one group above another or pivoting REI to serve one gender over another. This is about ensuring women are just as inspired and equipped as men to embrace life outside. Everyone should expect to get the same level of expert service, gear and experiences, and we need to get better as an industry at doing that.”
REI senior vice president of merchandising and board chair of Camber Outdoors, Susan Viscon, said:
“Strong women leaders have helped REI thrive since 1938. Force of Nature is rooted in that proud heritage. We’re taking an even harder run at ensuring women have access to the same high-end gear men do, which I’m particularly proud of. That’s been a consistent part of my mission here at the co-op ever since I joined 20 years ago, and it’s inspiring to see how our vendor partners have stepped up.”
Today, REI also published a national study commissioned to better understand the role the outdoors plays in women’s lives and how the outdoors is perceived today. The study revealed that 7 out of 10 women believe that women are under more pressure to conform than men, and that they also view the outdoors as an antidote to that pressure. Additionally, the study found that more than 85 percent of women see the outdoors as key to better physical and mental health, and overall well-being, and 73 percent say they would like to spend more time outdoors.
Changing the Male-Dominated Imagery of People Outdoors
The co-op has committed to putting women first and foremost in all of its storytelling for the remainder of 2017. The effort will “take over” REI’s digital marketing, social media content and media partnerships, and storytelling across member communications, REI Adventures, Outdoor School, REI Adventure Projects and internal communications. REI will host a film festival this fall focused on women in the outdoors, and partnered with Outside magazine to help them create their first ever all-women’s issue, due on newsstands April 11.
$1M to Support Community Organizations that Create Opportunities for Women Outdoors
As part of its annual commitment to create access to the outdoors for all, the co-op will invest over $1 million in community organizations that create more opportunities for women and girls to get outside in 2017. Roughly $500,000 will support organizations such as Camber Outdoors, GirlTrek and the YMCA’s BOLD/GOLD initiative. REI also unveiled a new $500,000 fund, available through an open call submission process, for additional organizations that create opportunity for women and girls in the outdoors. Up to $300,000 of this fund will be fueled by a custom-designed bandana, an artist collaborative T-shirt and member-exclusive REI Flash pack.
Outfitting Women for Outdoor Adventure
REI will continue to work with its partners to elevate and invest in companies that are creating the world’s best outdoor gear for women. For decades, REI has pushed the outdoor industry to put the “pink-it-and-shrink-it” philosophy aside and offer high performance women-specific outdoor gear. Women-specific product has improved dramatically, but in certain product categories, there remains a gap between the quality of high end men’s and women’s gear available. Several brands have stepped up as partners with an increased focus on world class women’s gear, particularly in women-specific fit and assortment, including Osprey, GHOST, Oiselle, Arc’teryx, Terry, Oboz, Darn Tough, Outdoor Research and prAna.
Over 1,000 Events Designed to Get Women Outside
Beginning today, REI opened registration to hundreds of REI Outdoor School classes and experiences across the country designed for women. On May 6, the co-op will offer a full day of Force of Nature experiences and programs hosted by its Outdoor School’s expert instructors and community partners. These events will continue throughout the summer, with more than 1,000 events, many of them happening weekly on “Force Wednesdays” in select markets.
The co-op will also host three REI Outessa retreats at breathtaking mountain settings. These immersive, three-day outdoor adventures enable women to find their outdoor community, do what they love and try something new in the country’s most beautiful outdoor playgrounds. Retreats are scheduled at Kirkwood Mountain Resort in California from July 14-16, Mt. Hood in Oregon from August 18-20 and Waterville Valley Resort in New Hampshire from September 22-24.
REI Adventures has also launched a collection of 19 Women’s Adventures in Africa, Europe, Latin America, New Zealand and North America. These extraordinary journeys are designed specifically for all-women groups and led by female guides.
REI is a specialty outdoor retailer, headquartered near Seattle. The nation’s largest consumer co-op, REI is a growing community of more than 16 million members who expect and love the best quality gear, inspiring expert classes and trips, and outstanding customer service. REI has 147 stores in 36 states. If you can’t visit a store, you can shop at REI.com, REI.com/REI-Garage or the free REI shopping app. REI isn’t just about gear. You can take the trip of a lifetime with REI Adventures, a global leader in active adventure travel that runs 170 custom-designed itineraries on every continent. REI’s Outdoor School is run by professionally-trained, expert-instructors who teach beginner- to advanced-level courses about a wide range of activities. To build on the infrastructure that makes life outside possible, REI invests millions annually in hundreds of local and national nonprofits that create access to–and steward–the outdoor places that inspire us.