Statement of Intent for International Women's Day

At UKClimbing we take great pride in having the busiest climbing and mountaineering website in the world, with a hugely diverse range of articles, news, videos, photography, as well as a thriving (not to mention controversial) forum. Our philosophy is simple: to create a site which we ourselves would want to visit. The top line figures suggest we're doing alright, but we think we can do better...

A buzzing audience of 400 women at the 2017 Women's Climbing Symposium, 138 kb
A buzzing audience of 400 women at the 2017 Women's Climbing Symposium
© Charlie Low

One aspect of the site that we have been proactively working towards is addressing the balance of male/female visitors. This began in earnest when we hired our now Editor-in-Chief Natalie Berry back in 2014, who has made a huge difference in the site's direction. At present UKC receives 40,000+ visits per day (compared to 30,000 back in 2014) and on average this is split 70:30 between men and women. We believe this figure can be improved on, but before we talk about how we plan to do so here's a bit of research:

Women in Adventure recently ran a survey with the aim of finding out what drives and inspires women, as well as looking at the barriers and issues that were making it difficult for women to get involved in outdoor sport. The survey highlighted some interesting points such as:

"Women were clear that the positive change they would like to see includes equal treatment of women and men. For example, coverage of women should be integrated, not through 'women's pages,' and should focus on an individual's achievements, not on their gender."

Sammi climbing at Birchen Edge during the 2017 Women's Trad Festival, 71 kb
Sammi climbing at Birchen Edge during the 2017 Women's Trad Festival
© Charlie Low Photography

Natalie Bowen on her first lead at Birchen Edge during the 2017 Women's Trad Festival, 73 kb
Natalie Bowen on her first lead at Birchen Edge during the 2017 Women's Trad Festival
© Charlie Low Photography

We agree and stand by this statement. We would never wish to see specific male/female areas on site, but we do wish to see a more even balance when it comes to the gear we review. Which follows on neatly to the next finding:

"At all abilities and levels of experience there was frustration about the limited range, functionality, and style of women's gear. The most frequent complaint was that clothing is too often restricted to pink and purple, reinforcing a perceived stereotype which is therefore unpopular. Other issues included restricted sizes, and much smaller ranges of women's gear. At advanced levels some women said that they can't always find the high-performance kit that they require."

In light of the above, we have recruited new members onto our test team with the aim of increasing our output. We are also encouraging the brands we work with to consider sending us a women's item of clothing instead of - or as well as - a men's item as default. Unsurprisingly, if you publish more men's reviews, more men will visit the site (and don't worry guys, we'll still be publishing plenty for you too). Whilst we don't anticipate being able to fit a women's specific Group Test within our 2018 schedule, this is something we are determined to achieve throughout 2019 (so please bear with us in the meanwhile).

Women's Trad Festival 2017, 161 kb
Women's Trad Festival 2017
© Charlie Low Photography

Women's Climbing Symposium 2017, 214 kb
Women's Climbing Symposium 2017
© Women's Climbing Symposium

Women's Climbing Symposium Logo, 24 kb
This year we will be supporting the Women's Trad Festival and the Women's Climbing Symposium, both of which are fantastic events that attract a diverse range of people both young and old, new and experienced. As a part of our support we'll not only be offering publicity, but also providing greater coverage both before, during, and after, as well as working alongside each event to produce more relevant content for our female audience.

"The Women's Climbing Symposium team are looking forward to working with UKC to further support women climbers. With more and more women active in climbing and the outdoors, it's so important to be developing opportunities for women to participate in its communities, engage with the climbing media, and celebrate their achievements."
Shauna Coxsey

World Bouldering Champion and Organiser + Founder of the Women's Climbing Symposium

Shauna Coxey, 47 kb

'If she can see it, she can be it' - it's about seeing other women in the media, hearing their stories and opinions. What we see in the media is part of what shapes our ideas about the world; it shapes our aspirations and ideas of what's possible. That's why female representation matters.

In the climbing and outdoor media, it plays an important role in breaking down barriers to female participation. Where women are seen, celebrated and represented, they will feel supported, inspired, and part of the climbing and outdoor community.

This is part of what we aim to do at Women's Trad Festival. Participants see other women climb and hear their stories, they meet and climb with experienced women from diverse areas of work in the outdoors - from mountaineering instructors to clothing designers - role models of what's possible.

However, beyond our weekend, it's words, pictures, the Internet and media that can reach and inspire so many more. I am really glad to see UKC's commitment to taking real steps in this direction – an inclusive and diverse media can only be positive for everyone.
Ellie Fuller
Founder of the Women's Trad Festival

Ellie Fuller, 71 kb

Women's Trad Fest, 5 kb

Women in Adventure was set up to drive positive change. Although our survey was completed by women, we were very clear that the end goal would always be an inclusive community with equal representation. When asked about the changes women wanted to see in the industry, there was a positive and clear message they would like to see equal treatment of women and men, and that things were moving in the right direction. It's fantastic to see UKC taking this on board and working with more women to put our findings into practice.
Hetty Key
One of the Founders of Women in Adventure

Click here to see the Overview of the 2016 Survey
Click here to see the Detailed Results of the 2016 Survey

Hetty Key, 54 kb

Women in Adventure Logo, 17 kb

At UKC we believe that to be a truly relevant site you must constantly reassess and evaluate your performance, not to mention listen to many differing opinions - if you have any suggestions or article ideas for us, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Upcoming articles with and about inspiring women:

  • 'Reading Between the Lines' interview with Alpinist magazine Editor-in-Chief, Katie Ives
  • Into the Mountain: A Life of Nan Shepherd - interview with author of Nan's biography, Charlotte Peacock
  • 'The War is in the Mountains' - a Digital Feature on war correspondent Judith Matloff's experiences in conflict-torn mountain civilisations.

Check out the following UKC articles and interviews for inspiration:

Take part in our #HumansofClimbing social media series and share your story (both men and women!) by using the hashtag or submitting it for inclusion in our official series to Read the first 10 stories in our Digital Feature.

Forums (55 comments)

Fantastic response Natalie. I'm so pleased that UKC is taking an active stance on gender issues in climbing and beyond. I understand why some men find it hard to acknowledge that equality has still not been reached -...
Well it doesn't really. You'd have thought in 34 years society might have progressed to the point where they'd feel comfortable in a mixed group. Point is, what's gone wrong? Why do they feel they need to be in an all...
I remember working for a day on one of those courses as a stop gap (they must have been desperate....... ). The women were really quite scary and I was pretty intimidated. Fortunately they agreed that I could count...
I'm not the best place to comment on how it was 34 years ago, but I can tell you that the majority view of women taking the survey emphasised that things were moving in the right direction. They were also clear that...
Please don't read any bias into this. It is not intended as a loaded question. It's a genuine question: In the mid 80s my wife worked on a number of women only rock climbing courses based in North Wales and run by the...
Because as any historian will bang on about until the cows come home, context is everything. My race and gender (white and male) means that I see the world from a very different standpoint to a BAME woman. Thats just a...

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