Rei debuts 'Force of Nature' gender equality campaign

Seattle-based outdoor retailer Rei is taking a stance for gender equality with a new campaign entitled “Force of Nature” that highlights the roles women play in exploring the outdoors.

The new campaign is an effort from Rei to support the female explorers that are never represented in the media, entertainment or literature. The outdoor retailer aims to change the narrative about women and challenge gender norms, beginning on May 6 with the launch of 1,000 events designed for women and girls, including the REI Outdoor School classes, 19 new REI Adventures trips and three REI Outessa retreats, and the launch of Outdoor Magazine’s first-ever all-women’s issue.

Jerry Stritzke, REI President and CEO, said, “Today we proudly launch a public effort called Force of Nature. It is a disruption of the status quo. It claims the outdoors as a place to opt out of cultural pressures to conform—the “supposed-tos” and “shoulds” that underpin outdated stereotypes—especially for women. To create real change right now we are putting women—of all ages, races, sizes, gender expressions—front and center in all we do.”
Rei also launched a video to support the campaign that includes portraits of women and images of active female runners, climbers, cyclists and swimmers in their element, interspersed with words that people often think women should be or should act.
Stritzke, in his open letter, mentioned the saying “You can’t be what you can’t see,” which is very fitting considering that the 2017 National Study on Women and the Outdoors (commissioned by Rei) found that 63% of women could not think of an outdoor female role model, and 6 in 10 women say that men’s interests in outdoor activities are taken more seriously than women’s interests.

In addition, 85% of women see the outdoors as a key to better physical and mental health and overall well-being. This is why Rei is committing $500,000 to support organizations such as Camber Outdoors and GirlTrek and the YMCA’s BOLD/GOLD initiative that call for equality outdoors regardless of gender or race.
“I know that I stand in a privileged place,” Stritzke said. “Because of that, I believe I have a platform and a responsibility to speak out. I believe it’s important for every leader, regardless of gender, to raise a voice on this topic because together we set the tone to create positive change.”
The new campaign comes at a very solemn time for Rei, with the passing of co-founder Mary Anderson on March 27 at age 107. Anderson did much for the outdoor community in addition to co-founding the retailer, including teaching climbing courses. She and her husband, Lloyd Anderson, formed the co-op to make high-quality climbing gear readily available in the US. Rei is continuing on Mary’s legacy by further enhancing its women’s product offering.
“Together, the women and men of REI Co-op are putting our voice, our energy and our passion into this effort,” said Stritzke. “Force of Nature builds on decades of work we have been doing within the co-op to advance gender equity. Today is a milestone in our decades-long journey creating access to life outdoors for all.”

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