By Brand Ambassador Sirena Dufault

Summer Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City had a number of events for and about women and diversity and I attended them with great interest. Encouraging women to experience the outdoors is one of my life's passions. As a half East Indian, half Italian brown woman, it is great that companies are realizing the importance of diversifying their messaging to integrate communities that are not usually included in advertising.

You see, I wasn't always comfortable in the wild. I come from the Chicago suburbs, known more for mall-walking than epic trail adventures. Backpacking and outdoor recreation has empowered me and gives me so much in return - I want to share that feeling with all who will listen.

When Women Lead Panel Discussion

The first event was a panel discussion called "When Women Lead". put on by Jen Gorecki, CEO of Coalition Snow and Amanda Goad, co-founder of the Wild Women's Project. It featured:

Georgina Miranda - CEO, Altitude Seven

Haley Robison - CEO, Kammok

Heather Rochfort, Founder,

Jennifer Vierling - Co-founder, Tailwind Nutrition

Tsedo Sherpa-Ednalino - COO, Sherpa Adventure Gear

Topics of discussion included the unique challenges of being a woman in the outdoor industry, how to have a productive dialogue when standing up for yourself, and mentorship. It was particularly relevant for me as I recently started my own consulting company, Trails Inspire and am working on a contract to create a trails master plan for the town of Tusayan, gateway community to the Grand Canyon.

Here are some quotes that stood out:

"Find your passion and work it. Don't be afraid to ask for what you want". -Jennifer Vierling

"Sometimes you have to stand up for yourself and have the awkward conversations to combat assumptions". -Heather Rochfort

"For leaders, fear and self-doubt manifest into retreat. Show up and engage despite your fears". -Haley Robison

"Never marginalize yourself, set your own value and stick to it". -Georgina Miranda

When Women Lead was standing room only!

The one women's event I was not able to attend was Pitchfest 2017. Camber Outdoors' Pitchfest drives innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship among women with a passion for the outdoors. This year's finalists received eight months of business mentorship leading up to the event as well as coaching to help refine their pitches.

"Pitchfest gives women entrepreneurs the visibility and platform to bring their fresh thinking, innovative, ideas, and passion for the outdoor to market," said Deanne Buck, executive director of Camber Outdoors. "This year's finalists really delivered. We hope their Pitchfest experience catapults them forward and inspires more women to start companies in our industries."

Pitchfest 2017 finalists take the stage with emcee Jenn Dice (far left) and Camber Outdoors executive director Deanne Buck. Photo credit: John Evans

The next morning, there was a networking breakfast and I got to meet bloggers, photographers, and leaders of women-based outdoor groups. It was a great event in a casual setting that fostered new relationships.

Women's Networking Breakfast

I was also invited to an Inclusivity Luncheon put on by Kenji Haroutunian and sponsored by Camber Outdoors. There were representatives from The Access Fund, Brothers of Climbing, Latino Outdoors, Outdoor Afro, and other groups promoting inclusivity for people of color as well as differently abled individuals. Speakers were Moroni Benally from the Navajo Nation and Robert Lucero from the Ute tribe. They introduced their new Indian Lands and Public Lands Action Committee and we had a great discussion about the current state of affairs concerning Bears Ears, Grand Staircase Escalante and the monument review.

Inclusivity Luncheon

The workshop (Re) Defining the Outdoors was billed as such:

"We will create a working manifesto designed to support women in navigating toward their true north in a sea of dude soup, as well as supporting the industry in developing a stronger path of inclusivity and diversity".

(Re)Defining the Outdoors

We broke into small groups and discussed what we felt needed to change in the industry and thoughts about inclusion of people of diverse backgrounds. Then we shared our ideas and challenges we have faced as well as plans to help us move forward. It was a great exercise and ended with socializing for happy hour.

I hope that companies that were part of these events or that see the coverage will be inspired to become more inclusive. People of all colors, shapes, sizes and abilities deserve representation in the outdoors and in advertising. There's plenty of room for everyone and targeting markets that are classically under served can also improve a company's bottom line. If there's a company you like and you see that there is room for improvement regarding diversity, reach out and let them know! If you're looking for some great Instagram accounts to follow, @brownpeoplecamping, @unlikelyhikers and @womenwhohike are some of my favorites.

I feel fortunate to have been a part of these events and came away energized and inspired. Big thanks to Gossamer Gear for travel to Outdoor Retailer and supporting coverage of women and diversity.

Getting my copy of Backpacker Magazine's Long Trails book by Liz "Snorkel" Thomas

August 03, 2017 — Brian Fryer