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Women climbing to the top of the outdoor industry

Let’s face it, when your family is planning a vacation, be it Disney World or Vail, it’s the women, the mom, the wife who is making all of the decisions…

Let’s face it, when your family is planning a vacation, be it Disney World or Vail, it’s the women, the mom, the wife who is making all of the decisions on how vacation money is being spent. It’s the women who book the tickets, arrange for lodging and schedule the activities. Women are also making a significant amount of the buying decisions when it comes to outdoor related gear and apparel. Think about it, when is the last time a guy thought about going out and buying a cute new running outfit or a new jacket for this ski season or a new pair of sandals? Yes, guys do buy a lot of tech gear but women are making the buying decisions and driving the market on just about everything else.

This is great news for women who are interested in having a career in the outdoor industry. Outdoor companies are learning that if they want to enter or become more engaged in the women’s market, they will have to have more women involved in strategic leadership roles and processes. “if they want to attract and retain female customers, they’d better be attracting and retaining female leaders.” says Donna Carpenter, CEO and Cofounder of Burton Snowboards from a 2018 published white paper by Heidrick & Struggles.

A consumer force in the outdoor industry

A 2014 study on outdoor consumer segmentation, conducted by the Outdoor Industry Association shows that while women make up half of all U.S. outdoor consumers, opportunities to tap into their distinct attitudes and behaviors have generally been unrealized.

The study shows:
51% of all outdoor consumers are women. The median age is 40 and 43% of them have children. Most, 84% feel engaging with nature is an important part of outdoor recreation.

The top three motivators for women to get outdoors are the positive benefits of sunshine and fresh air, to have a family experience and to have fun.

When it comes to shopping women spend $334 annually on outdoor apparel, footwear, equipment and electronics. When purchasing outdoor products, women look for quality, comfort and value and are not necessarily interested in technical product features.

An interesting thing to note from the study is that women are more likely to have only shopped at brick and mortar stores for outdoor products but are extremely active online and use social media to share their outdoor activities and shop for products. This suggests an opportunity exists for online shopping experiences that are geared towards women and their behaviors.

More consumer influence means more career opportunities

Leading the charge for women in the outdoor industry is the non-profit organization, Camber Outdoors. Focusing on creating mentoring and network opportunities, identifying talent and giving visibility to open jobs for women in the industry.

“The industry has pivoted, so it is less about the individual and more about who we are as an industry and who we are as companies. Are we attracting the best talent, knowing that women are part of that talent pool?” – Deanne Buck, Executive Director of Camber Outdoors

“Most CEOs in the industry are men. Camber Outdoors is helping show them how they can make change in their organizations (amid all their other pressures), why it’s an important legacy, and why it will help their company.” Sally McCoy, former CEO of CamelBak

“I see the industry evolving in a really healthy way: all people—men and women—becoming part of the solution.” – Deanne Buck, Executive Director of Camber Outdoors

From the Camber Outdoors website

Founded in 1996, Camber Outdoors (formerly the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition) envisions a future of “Everyone’s Outdoors.” It is the only national organization dedicated to achieving equality for all women in the outdoors, from backcountry to boardroom through innovative and thought-leading programming and initiatives, including: the CEO Pledge, Pitchfest, and Cross-Industry/Company Mentoring Program. Over 170 corporate and 4,000 individual members support Camber Outdoors.

Learn more about Camber Outdoors and what they are doing for women in the outdoor industry at

Source: Heidrick & Struggles. 2018. Women in leadership: From backcountry to boardroom.

Source: 2014 outdoor consumer segmentation study conducted by Outdoor Industry Association

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