A survey from Trek on my views about "women's specific" things initially had my hackles up but I decided the only way things might change is to complete the survey. I've had a bee in my bonnet about the whole women's specific issue for a good while now though mostly about the tokenism attached to it. However it does have a few strands.
To begin with I know I am far from what could be considered as standard sized for a female but its a bit much when every female you know has a gripe about the fit of outdoor gear. With the press now reporting that the average size is 14 in the UK now, it's somewhat disconcerting that this equates to a size large for most manufacturers and that's before you take into consideration the cut of the gear. More annoyingly, is when you do find a manufacturer who's cut fits your sizing and you like their kit, you buy it and when it wears out you go back to get a replacement to find they have totally changed their cut. Aaaaaarrrrrrrrrggggggghhhhhhh. Women are not alone in this though as I have many a male friend who also complains of this same problem. Some companies are better than others at dealing with the issue that a "one size fits all" is not the way to go while others pay lip service and you end up in a shapeless tatty sack - not attractive and certainly not functional. I'm sure like many others out there, we find no fun trailing round the gear shops searching in anticipation for something that fits.
This brings me onto my next gripe. I have been fortunate to be able to see workbooks for some of the gear companies so know that the range they are producing bears no resemblance to what we actually see in the shops. I can fully appreciate that in this financial climate that carrying the full range is not an option but carrying just one or two options in pastel colours or pink aint the way to get most of us gear monster women to buy the kit. The guys also have the same issue though not quite as badly. OK there are not as many women as men buying kit but when you go into a shop to find less than a 1/8 of the gear is for women yeh I get narked.
Getting back to one of the questions from the Trek Survey that started all this off isn't actually about gear but whether there is a need for women only such as the Trek Dirt Series Programmes. It reminded me of a discussion on Outdoorsmagic that certainly gave a lot of insight into this subject from both sides. I know why such programmes have evolved. The spectre of driven, competitive, intimidating personalities kinda takes the emphasis off of what you're there to learn. That's not always the case in mixed groups though I do know of some horrific stories. I also know of some in all female groups too. Thankfully that has not been my experience. I've been to a Chick's Unleashed event and really enjoyed it but no more than any of the mixed group ones. So for this part of the survey I had to say I think it says more about your confidence as a person in company whether you might need a gender specific event along with your confidence in the instructor who is pivotal for ensuring that everyone; whether that's the larger than life competitive driven or the wee mouse hiding at the back, is given the opportunity. I feel very fortunate that I have had very supportive and encouraging male and female friends who give me the confidence to do things.
I'm not professing to having the answers to sorting out this conundrum but I do know that the Outdoors Industry could do with having a few more females involved at the decision making end to get the voice heard. Any vacancies...............................................