CHI: Women in the Outdoors: Building Community

In honor of International Women’s Day, Mappy Hour Chicago’s Women in the Outdoors: Building Community panel on March 11, 2020 featured various leaders around Chicago who are building outdoor-focused communities of women, female-identifying folks and allies.



The discussion covered what it takes to build outdoor communities in urban spaces, why it’s important, and what more we can do to empower even more women and diverse communities  (people of color, low income, vulnerable populations) to find their community outside.

Here are a few of our favorite highlights:

Hatie Parmeter: “When we talk about gender inclusivity, what issues do you think to get overlooked?”

Gloria Orozco: “Especially when trying to reach out to women in my job, it’s trying to change the mentality that this is only for people who love the outdoors and love hiking – they already love that, so let’s try to reach to the people who like nature in different ways. So whether it’s someone who likes working out or wellness, let’s try to incorporate that.”

Heather Hoffman: “We’re trying to build inclusivity from scratch – teaching kids that getting dirty and playing in the mud isn’t just for boys. […] Everyone is treated the same. Get out there, jump in the mud, play around – the outdoors is for everyone. From ages 0-5-year-olds, we’re trying to build that [way of thinking] for every generation.”

Pilar Amado: “When women get together with women, you learn more. The reason we started Wednesday Crush Group, it is because we had a group of ladies who were going to the gym and men were telling us how to climb. But you know, we’re different. […] Climbing with women, for me, was more inspiring.”

Anna Pfaff: “One thing I see happen – I teach a lot of women’s clinics for The North Face and other festivals I work for. And when they first came out, the whole idea of a women’s only clinic I thought it’d be gimmicky, but it was actually really cool […] “One thing I see that we can do as a community is to support each other and encourage each other to try something – just be like, “Hey, that seems really cool you should try it.” so you can help people get outside of their comfort zone.”


HP: “Have you ever gone about identifying and/or working with male advocates for gender diversity and the outdoors.”

PA: “We started having non-binary individuals coming to our meetups. We didn’t know that until we were friends. They started to tell us that they’ve avoided or haven’t come to WCW in the past, because [they don’t identify] with the name. So me and my other leader took it upon ourselves to change the name – it was kind of a lot of back and forth, educational information exchange, but I think we got it at the end. We’re very happy about it.”


HP: “How is your organization including not just women, but women of low-income backgrounds?”

GO: “Friends of the Forest Preserves does a lot more than just organizing volunteers. Another part of our department is the [restoration] crews – there’s a big push for us to help bring jobs to neighborhoods where there aren’t that many jobs. We’re applying for a lot of grants to bring jobs to those communities (south and west) and finding a way to give stipends to volunteers who are helping out to create a gateway for people to continue helping out.”

PA: “[Through our group Sending in Color] We partner with the gyms to be able to offer a very discounted rate to all of our guests at the meetup. We also partner with the Boys and Girls club that we bring to the climbing gym on Fridays.”


Audience Question: “How can men help women be more safe and empowered at the crag (or in the outdoors)?”

HP: “There are a lot of times, even as a woman, where I want to provide feedback to someone. But especially now that I’ve experienced that [people giving feedback when I don’t want it], I will also be like, “Hey are you open to suggestions – would you like some advice? Because if you don’t that’s totally cool!”.”

AP: “I think just offering encouragement rather than telling women what to do. […] I think when men look at women climbing – just treat them as a partner. Sometimes men will climb with other men or I might climb with another man who has characteristics that are more feminine (emotional, have a different reaction, etc.) […] just take away the gender and treat them like a human – you’re going to keep your partner safe, you might say look at this beta or that beta – but you don’t have to take care of us, we’ve made it this far. Just treat them like an equal partner.”

A quick reminder: Check out the video link above for a full recording of the Women in the Outdoors: Building Community panel. 

Thanks to everyone who came out to listen and drive this conversation in our Chapter and community. 

And a major shout-out to the ladies who came to represent their organizations on the panel – as well as Revolution Brewing for the beer and The North Face Chicago for hosting!

Next Event

In light of the Covid-19 outbreak, and helping to minimize the continued spread of the virus in Chicago, we have decided to postpone planning and scheduling our April event.

Please keep an eye out on our Chicago chapter Facebook group and the Mappy Hour Chicago chapter page for updates on future event dates/times.

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