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backgrounds and abilities to join in.


“Initiatives which increase female participation, representation and leadership by women offer a different image and narrative around what it means to be female, which hopefully over time will shift out-of-date perspectives and create a more empowering environment, which supports women’s development in the outdoors,” says O’Brien. But redefining the norm is a lengthy process and will take generations of further change. For this reason, it is important that these new initiatives extend to our young people. Research has highlighted the importance of role models and empowerment initiatives specifically, in helping shape our future female runners, climbers and mountaineers. Girlguiding UK delivers Walking and Climbing Schemes and The Outward Bound Trust runs a Women’s Outdoor Leadership Course, with the aspiration of training more female instructors, who will in turn become an inspiration to the thousands of girls who attend their courses each year. Unfortunately, “research suggests that there are still widely held gendered expectations, roles and stereotypes which impact on young women getting involved in outdoor adventure. Judging girls on their appearance rather than their competence, the assumption that girls can’t be strong and the accepted norm that some activities are more for boys, are just some of the more subtle influences that over time, left unchecked, gently stifle a sense of confidence, competence and belongingness in mountain environments,” says O-Brien.


There is no doubt that although we are seeing more women in the hills of the UK than ever before, there is still more we can do to facilitate the continuation of this trend towards its natural equilibrium, whatever that might be.


Judging girls on their appearance rather than their competence, the assumption that girls can’t be strong and the accepted norm that some activities are more for boys, are just some of the more subtle influences that over time, leſt unchecked, gently stifle a sense of confidence, competence and belongingness in mountain environments.


S Learning the ropes at the Women's Trad Fest 2019.


Words: Keri Wallace


Keri is a trail and mountain runner, and Co-Founder of Girls on Hills Ltd. She is Summer Mountain Leader (SML) and Rock Climbing Instructor (RCI) qualified - and mother of two. She has been running and racing in the Scottish Highlands for 12 years and is based in Glencoe. www.girlsonhills.com


WHO IS WITH?


Project partners in the WITH network include the National Trust, Forestry Commission, John Muir Trust, Pelvic Roar and Girls on Hills. The project has already engaged with a huge number of other practitioners, governing bodies and stakeholders. You can keep informed about progress and outcomes from the project by signing-up for the newsletter. Alternatively, visit the website for events or more details:


www.womeninthehills.co.uk


SUMMIT#98 | SUMMER 2020 | 59


PHOTO: CHARLIE LOW


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