Womxn Built This

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by Emma Murray

Womxn Built This by Emma Murray was initially published in The Daily: Post Show from the summer 2019 Outdoor Retailer conference in Denver, Colorado. The article focuses on the several female business founders in the outdoor recreation space, and their struggles in a male-dominated field. This article also works to quantify these struggles by comparing these women’s experiences to new gender bias research released in March of 2019 by Stanford University. Womxn Lead, a panel held at the conference explored these issues. 

Throughout the article, there are examples of real-life female business owners questioning if they should divulge their identity. The questions stem from a fear that, because they are women, their companies will be less valid in a male-dominated industry. Gloria Hwang, founder of Thousand, an urban bike helmet company opted not to feature her self in any promotional materials. She highlighted one of her male designers instead, even though she was the inventor of the technology. She cited the physiological phenomena of the “familiarity effect,” where people are less likely to trust something different from the norm as her reasoning. Michelle and Kenya Jackson-Saulters faced a similar problem. They both question if it should reveal their identity as queer black women, even though they run organizations that help women find healing through outdoor recreation. One person told them, “[they] probably shouldn’t be the face of [the Outdoor Journal Tour] because ‘black women don’t hike,'” and this could potentially hurt their organization.

The Stanford study, unfortunately, gives backing to some of these concerns. In the study, participants were asked to provide their opinions on cupcakes and beers by looking at the packaging. The researchers chose those options as they represent gendered societal fields, cupcakes = feminine, beer = masculine. For the beer, participants received labels that were identical except for the name of the head brewer. Some featured male names; some featured female names. The bottles that had female names regularly had lower expectations for taste and quality. The majority of the participants also said they would pay less for it. These results, however, did not flip for the feminine field of baking. There was no noticeable difference in opinions on the labels. The study concluded that women are penalized when they choose to participate in a male-dominated field for no other reason than they are female. 

Jenny Bruso, the founder of Unlikely Hikers and participant on the panel, concluded that misogyny is still very much engrained into societal norms. This is despite all the progress that has been made. Women still have to question if it’s okay to take credit for their work or assume another identity.

I chose this article as it continues to reinforce that women are underrepresented and not taken seriously in the outdoor recreation space. It also highlights that designers frequently overlook women when designing outdoor hardgoods which reduces their enjoyment. 

Originally published by: The Daily