(WTF) reveals similar attitudes, reporting that “over 50% of attendees found they were more capable than they previously thought”. One in four women also said the festival “helped them overcome fear or anxiety”, says Hetty Key of the WTF. It is important, however, to recognise that “women are

not a bunch of shrinking violets” says Kennedy. “I think this ‘perceived’ low-confidence is actually just a tendency to worry what others will think, combined with an overriding desire to have all the answers – to know what to expect and to be fully equipped to perform.” To find out what kind of group format might improve accessibility for women, I turned to a success story for answers: the Scottish Women’s Walking Group (SWWG). The SWWG is a women-only online community of over 15,000 members, growing by an average of at least 100 newcomers every week. “Our walks are all organised by members, so any one of us can arrange a walk if and when we please. That way we can choose the location, distance and difficulty to suit our own levels of fitness and experience. We have no ‘leader’ on the hill as such and there’s no need for anyone to feel left behind – no matter how unfit you think you are, there’s always lots of others in the same boat, willing to walk with you,” says Heather Dunnell, Founder of SWWG.

In a survey of its members, 98% said that SWWG group

events had ‘helped improve their experience of the hills’, with 72% of respondents agreeing on multiple ways through which the group had facilitated their participation – including walks that were women-only, had lots of flexibility, low- commitment and an informal feel. Perhaps surprisingly, over 25% of the women surveyed

listed ‘personal safety concerns’ as a reason for not joining other/mixed-gender walking groups, intimidated by the idea of being the only woman or in a minority within a group of men. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable arranging to meet men I’d never met in a remote place,” confirms Dunnell. By extension, this same concern might also prevent some women from staying at a bothy alone – something that might not even occur to most male hill-walkers. Somehow, what is needed is equity in the outdoors, rather than equality. “If we want equality, things have to be the same for everyone. Except, ‘the same’ often


V Leading the way; guided trail running for women in Glencoe, Scottish Highlands.

R Outward Bound's Women in Leadership Course is the first of its kind and for those interested in a career developing young people and working towards outdoor qualifications.

doesn’t equate to fair” says Katherine O’Brien, Project Manager of Instructor Diversity at The Outward Bound Trust. “Sameness only parallels with equality if everybody starts from the same place. Equity is a different concept; it is about fairness and making sure that people get access to the same opportunities. Sometimes historical differences can create barriers, and to move towards equality we first need to ensure equity by creating opportunities for groups who were previously restricted in some way.” The good news is that independent training providers, national centres, sports councils, governance organisations, regulatory authorities and funders are stepping-up, making evidence-based adjustments to improve women’s access to both recreational and professional pathways. Mountain Training began its Women in Mountain Training initiative in 2015 and is now writing a Women in Mountain

It is important, however, to recognise that ‘women are not a bunch of shrinking violets’.

Training Strategy to better meet the needs of women entering the instructional system. “We are keen to better understand and address the difference in participation levels in walking and climbing, compared to the number of our qualification holders who are women. We are in the development phase of the strategy at the moment and hope to have it finished later this year,” says John Cousins, CEO of Mountain Training UK & Ireland. All National Outdoor Centres in the UK now offer women- only or women-specific courses, as do an increasing number of independent providers. There is also an increase in single-gender social movements such as The Adventure Syndicate, Girls on Hills, Adventure Queens, Love Her Wild and Wonderful Wild Women which showcase authentic female adventuring and empower women of all ages,



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