REI Wants to Level The Playing Field Outdoors

REI Force of Nature

Yet one more reason to love REI, the retailer announced yesterday that for 2017, they will be putting women first. In a public effort called Force of Nature, REI will focus on everything from gear and experiences to storytelling and nonprofit partnerships that help inspire and empower women to embrace life outdoors.

Earlier this year, REI commissioned a national study to better understand women’s view of the outdoors. More than 85% of all women surveyed believe the outdoors positively affects mental health, physical health, happiness and overall well-being, and 70% reported that being outdoors is liberating. That’s the good news.

The bad news? Up to 63% of women said they could not think of an outdoor female role model — this one is extremely sad for me as the saying goes, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Also, 6 in 10 women say that men’s interests in outdoor activities are taken more seriously than women’s. So REI decided to do something about it.


REI’s Force of Nature program features four components: changing the narrative, creating community, closing the gear gap, and investing in communities. This year, REI will make a comprehensive effort to change the male-dominated imagery of people in the outdoors — you will see more stories about women adventurers on the Co-op Journal as well as across all the REI marketing and social media channels. And next month, they are partnering with Outside magazine on the first ever all women’s issue.

While many brands have finally moved beyond the “shrink it and pink it” approach to women’s gear, REI believes we still have a ways to go. The retailer is partnering with brands to increase focus on building better women’s gear while also working hard on improving their own Co-op brand offering.

Over the course of the year, REI will donate $1 million to support nonprofits that create opportunities for women in the outdoors. Roughly $500,000 will support organizations like Camber Outdoors, GirlTrek and the YMCA’s BOLD/GOLD initiative. In May, REI will launch a new $500,000 “Force of Nature” fund, available through an open-call submission process, for organizations that join in the commitment to make outdoors the world’s largest level playing field.

And finally, starting May 6, REI will launch of over 1,000 events designed to get women outside — events like REI Outessa and women’s only REI Adventure Trips.

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