The Gendering of Outdoor Recreation: Women's Experiences on Their Path to Leadership
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While growth has occurred in the numbers of women entering outdoor recreation vocations, white men are still the dominant face in outdoor recreation and wilderness adventure pursuits. One explanation is the effect of gender socialization. Socializing forces such as media, family, youth organizations, and school potentially contribute to the gender discrepancy in outdoor recreation. Researchers have found that participation in outdoor recreation provides physical, emotional, mental and spiritual benefits (Hanlon et al., 2013). With fewer women involved in outdoor recreation, everyone is not accessing these benefits equally. The current study examines how female outdoor leaders experience gender as an outdoor leader and during their path to leadership. This study employs in-depth narrative inquiry, an approach useful for rich investigation of personal experience (Polkinghorne, 1995). Narrative research is, in essence, an exploration of the ways people experience the world (Connelly & Clandinin, 1990). Further, scholars have suggested that it can be useful for sociological investigation, because of what it uncovers about social life: individual stories reveal insights about culture (Riessman, 1993). The current study investigates the experiences of four female outdoor leaders. By using a four phase modified categorical content analysis eight metathemes emerged. Three of the identified metathemes present as motivation for the study participants: mentorship, personal qualities and the development of idealism. Three of the identified metathemes present as constraints for the study participants: role expectations, nature of the industry, and media. Two of the identified metathemes serve as both motivations and constraints: family support and self-perception. Additionally, it is clear from the data that in terms of the phenomenon of “women becoming outdoor leaders,” gender socialization is often seen to play a more negative (constraint) than positive (motivational) role. In response to the constraints faced by participants, a variety of negotiation strategies were developed and employed. These encompassed both long-range strategies, as well as strategies producing more immediate personal results. Acquiescence and avoidance were situational strategies that produced immediate results. Conversely, the negotiation strategies of support, contesting, and education resulted in varying degrees of both immediate and long-range impacts. An unanticipated, but striking, indication that emerged in the current study was an episodically-evolved desire among all participants for social justice in outdoor recreation. The women in the current study all developed a desire to be agents of social change and demonstrated actions toward these ends. This study holds implications for multiple groups and audiences. Implications of this study include contribution to the body of literature on gendered experiences in outdoor recreation leadership, as well as an expansion of awareness about the gendered experiences female outdoor leaders continue to face. This study also has the potential to enable future female outdoor recreation leaders to recognize barriers to participation, develop effective strategies to diffuse or counter those barriers and, as an extended counter-strategy, optimize recognized motivations for participation.