The Women of Woodrow – Women in the Outdoor Industry
06 March 2020
Celebrated on the 8th March, International Women’s Day has gathered a huge amount of traction over the last few years as PEOPLE. GET. WOKE.
The outdoor industry is commonly (and incorrectly) regarded as a boy’s club, with limited space for women. This International Women’s Day, we are challenging this damaging stereotype in an interview with Magui, an outdoor instructor at Woodrow High House.
Get the scoop on what being a woman in the very industry that London Youth’s work is centred around means to Magui…
(Quick myth bust… Yes, you can work in the outdoor industry and still wear make-up to work if you want to.)
The interview begins with a brief but suitably awkward struggle to work out how voluntarily record a conversation on an iPhone… I’m expecting a lot of very niche advertisements on Facebook for the next few weeks.
So Magui, tell me a little bit about yourself…
“I come from Argentina, I moved to the UK two years ago to work as an instructor. It’s a bit random, I found my first job as a volunteer on the internet! I always did youth work; I was a volunteer back home. My family have a foundation which helps young people so I would go and have fun with the kids and encourage them to try new activities.”
And what exactly led you to Woodrow High House?
“I was volunteering at another centre, but I really wanted to become an instructor. A friend told me about this job and I really liked that I would get to work for a charity, I found that really motivating so I applied. Now I’m here and I’m really enjoying it!”
Queue loud huffs of annoyance at a colleague who chose this exact moment to start shredding paper right next to us…
How do you feel about being a woman in an industry perceived as male-dominated? What are the benefits? Are there any drawbacks?
“Ah, the important questions! You know, I really don’t think it is a male dominated industry. I think it was a few years ago, but everything has changed. There are a lot of female outdoor instructors, a lot more now than ever before. So, no, I don’t feel like I’m working in a male-dominated industry.”
Do you think the change has happened because of a bigger push to get women in, or do you think it’s just natural as gender-roles are being broken down?
“I think both play a part, in the past I like to think that women wanted to be outdoor instructors, and now with the feminist revolution people have started to think bigger. The outdoor industry is not judgemental, we accept everyone… I think it’s time, you know!”
Right on! Do you have any other messages for women who want to work in this industry?
“If you want to work here (or anywhere), just apply! In my team, men and women do exactly the same tasks. When we run sessions or do site work, we all lift the same heavy stuff. We work as equals. So don’t be afraid that we aren’t going to treat you as an equal too.”
Statistically speaking, more employees in this industry are men. Do you think the concept of it being a “boy’s club” is something that people outside of the industry might just assume?
“Yeah exactly. So, I have worked with people that are… I don’t want to say old, but… I’m the youngest (Magui laughs nervously). They are …older so maybe that’s why this industry may suffer from a stereotype of being stuck in its ways, but when you work with us, you’ll find different.”
On that note, give it 10 or 20 years, do you think we’ll see more women in more visible, senior roles in this industry?
“I think we just need to give it time. There are capable women who can do any job in the industry, I just don’t think that it’s a well-known option. I don’t think that many people know about the outdoor industry, and how you can be a part of it. I only discovered this industry a few years ago, that it even exists! It’s not well known in other countries; in my country we don’t have this industry at all!”
Do you think women bring anything to the role than men can’t?
“No, I think both genders bring the same skills. We are a really solid team. We smash it. Just because you’re a man, doesn’t mean you’re going to work any harder, or that women are going to work less hard. I think both genders bring the same joy and interest to the role.”
As a charity that works with a very diverse group of young people, do you feel that having a diverse team improves the work we do?
“We have a lot of staff from different backgrounds, I think that motivates people to come to Woodrow. In the past it’s just been people with money who see the importance, and now it’s like “Hey, everyone can come!”. It doesn’t matter about your religion, or disabilities or your gender, everyone can come! And that’s what we show, we show accessibility, you know? And diversity.”
Definitely not plugging Woodrow here, but… what is your favourite thing about working at Woodrow High House?
“The free lunches… just kidding! I really enjoy running sessions, that’s my favourite thing about my career. I really enjoy being with kids and teenagers, it’s really fun just to have fun with them, watching them learn. Not all young people we meet have really been properly outdoors, in a forest or a place like this before. Seeing them explore and do new things is really motivating. I also really like working with young people with disabilities as well, and when we don’t have groups, we go and do site work …which sometimes sucks… but can be a laugh when I’m with the rest of my team.”
Last question, I promise… quickly tell me about a project you’re working on at the moment:
“I want Woodrow to be even more accessible for people with disabilities. I’m working on a big project. My vision is having loads of sessions on offer for young people with disabilities of any kind. I believe that everyone should have the same chance to do everything, we should be equal. That’s what we’re saying at Woodrow.”
“That’s what we’re saying at Woodrow” – how’s that for a mic drop!
If you’re interested about finding more about a career in the great outdoors, visit our recruitment page…
Big thanks to Magui for giving such candid answers, this industry is made stronger for having amazing women like you as a part of it.
Questions by Lottie Forrest. Answers by Magui Da Rocha. Read by strong women everywhere.