“WE’RE all the same, why aren’t we all allowed equal access to sports? Why am I pushed into netball when I don’t like it?”
An outdoor adventure company in Dorset has taken on the challenge of addressing gender prejudice in the industry.
After realising that nearly two thirds of its applicants for the Outdoor Instructor Course had been male for well over 10 years, award-winning company Land & Wave decided to embark on a mission to readdress the balance, boost inclusivity and diversity in the outdoor adventure industry.
Bolstered by a recent report from Women Working in Sport, which identified how less than 1% of women working in sport right now believe there is gender equality in the industry, it was clear to directors at the Swanage-based firm that gender prejudice is still evident in the sector – and they wanted to do something about it.
Land & Wave’s Outdoor Instructor Training course has started the careers of more than 230 outdoor instructors, and with the launch of the apprenticeship in 2021, many more to come.
And it was while analysing apprenticeship applicants the team at Land & Wave began to think about how they could change the landscape of the outdoor industry and how they could make the outdoors more diverse.
Rosie Tanner, marketing director, said: “In that first year of apprentices, three out of four were male. And that realisation led us to looking more closely at what we could be doing to address the gender and diversity imbalance in the outdoor industry.
“After all, these apprentices and newly-trained outdoor instructors will be going out and encouraging the next wave of outdoor enthusiasts.
“And if we want to increase the amount of underrepresented people in the industry, we’ll need to start by giving people representatives that are just that, representatives of who they are and this extends beyond getting women into these roles, but also non-binary people, people of colour, religious people, it needs to be as diverse as possible.”
The team is working hard to inspire more diversity in the outdoors in both their apprenticeships and outdoor instructor courses.
And their efforts are paying off, with 12 female instructors this year, and actively encouraging more non-males to get involved in the outdoors through a new range of adventure weekends and wild swim retreats aimed at a more inclusive audience.
Apprentice Verity Church, 25, who is due to complete an apprenticeship course with Land & Wave in October 2024, said: “Being nonbinary in the outdoor industry, I think it’s super important to highlight that the outdoors is for everyone.
“I don’t know of anyone else who’s nonbinary in the outdoor industry, I don’t feel it’s openly talked about and I think there’s definitely a space for more LGBTQA+ representatives in the industry.
“It should be normal that we have anyone, and everyone represented, no matter your gender or ethnicity.
“I know this is changing, but there’s still a lot of growth that needs to happen.”
Rosie added: “We’ve been really nurturing these relationships and working hard to show our apprentices great role models in the industry.
“Our female instructors are incredible and bring so much to what is and has been an essentially male-dominated industry.
“Things need to change and we hope that starts here with the next generation of outdoor instructors.”
Teenager Lottie Kelly, 19, an apprentice from last year’s intake, went on: “Since starting the course back in September last year, I’ve had so many amazing and fun experiences that I’d never have experienced if I’d ended up in a different job.
“I’ve got so many inspiring female instructors around me every day who have become my role models, and when I find myself doubting myself and my abilities, it’s so reassuring to see other female instructors who are so good at their job, I know that if they can do it, I can do it too.”
In August, Land & Wave released its new Women’s Wild Camping & Bushcraft Experience in collaboration with the Adventure Girls Club, offering women 24 hours of adventure where they can try new activities including fire lighting, axe throwing, shelter building and campfire cooking in a supportive and welcoming environment.
Alice Keegan, founder of The Adventure Girls Club, said: “I get contacted by a lot of women that really want to get outdoors but are too scared.
“Many of us have been told from a young age that it’s dangerous to be outside on your own. And yes of course it can be, but what we want to do is make it safe, we want to provide women with the skills, the know-how, and most importantly, the confidence to go out there and enjoy the outdoors.
“We all know how important nature is for our mental health, and we don’t need to be conquering it, or doing crazy intense challenges to get the benefits. Taking a relaxing walk in your local park will benefit you too.
“The collaboration between us and Land & Wave aims to empower women, they might not need those bushcraft skills again, and to a certain extent, it’s not about that, it’s about giving them the confidence that they can learn new things, they are capable, and the outdoors doesn’t have to be scary.”
18-year-old Brodie Wyatt, one of Land and Wave’s newest apprentices, said: “I really want to change the stereotype that things like coasteering and bushcraft are activities more for men rather than women.
“At school, I wanted to try everything sports wise but we were always pushed toward the ‘girls’ sports’ which I could never understand.
“I think it’s awful that there’s still this big difference – or perceived difference – between girls’ and boys’ sports. We’re all the same, why aren’t we all allowed equal access to sports? Why am I pushed into netball when I don’t like it?
“I think it’s my experience with things like football at school which has made me determined to change things for the girls coming up the ranks behind me, I want all activities to be open to all genders. I think everyone should be able to experience the great outdoors.”
Rosie added: “This year, for our 2023 intake of apprentices, we’re proud to say we’ve flipped that ratio and have two female apprentices, one non-binary apprentice, and one male apprentice.
“We now realise we can enact change, we can help make the outdoor industry more inclusive.
“It’s so rewarding to see that happen, to see it working, and to hear amazing feedback from all our apprentices.
“While there’s still a lot to be done, and it can seem daunting, it’s important that we start otherwise it’ll never change.
“We all feel very passionately about readdressing the imbalance and encouraging absolutely everyone to go outside.
“This isn’t just about us though, we can’t change this on our own.
“We need schools to change the way they teach sports. All sports should be taught to all children, regardless of their gender, we need children to be more actively encouraged at home and at school to simply enjoy the outdoors – it’s not just for sport.
“And we need more organisations like ours to actively look at changing who they choose to be the face of outdoor activities for the next generation to more easily relate to.”
For more information on Land & Wave, log on to landandwave.co.uk.