Together We Have Impact: Exploring Gendered Experiences in Outdoor Leadership




outdoor leadership, implicit bias, gender, feminist narrative inquiry, art-based research


Recent dialogue in outdoor leadership has led to the realization that more care and attention is required to ensure the profession receives the benefits of diverse perspectives. In this paper, we report on stories gathered through feminist narrative inquiry via art-based approaches from 32 participants attending one of three outdoor conferences in Australia. The arts-based workshops aimed to provide a safe space for participants to reflect upon how gender may have influenced their outdoor leadership journey. Three key gender-related themes emerged through a thematic analysis of the reflective process: (1) noninclusive practices, (2) inclusive practices, and (3) suggestions to increase equity and inclusivity to embrace and enact. Further exploration of these themes highlighted the value of single-gender environments and the influence of supportive mentors while illuminating the societal privileges, unconscious entitlement, and implicit biases prevailing in the profession. Finally, we draw attention to gender erasure and the imbalance in voice and suggest collaborative efforts that move the outdoor leadership profession forward and ensure the benefits of diverse perspectives are received.Subscribe to JOREL

Author Biographies

Sandy Allen-Craig, Australian Catholic University

Sandy is a Senior Lecturer in Outdoor Leadership at the Australian Catholic University. She has developed and implemented courses of Outdoor Education at the national tertiary level for over 30 years. She is a published academic conducting research into the conditions of outdoor employment, program outcomes, risk management, bush adventure therapy and gender equity within the Outdoor profession. She is currently the Deputy Chair of Outdoors Victoria, an Executive Member of Outdoor Education Australia and an Associate Editor of Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education.

Tonia Gray, Western Sydney University

Tonia Gray, PhD is a Senior Researcher in the Centre for Educational Research, Western Sydney University. As a researcher, teacher-educator, and curriculum developer of Outdoor Education and Health/Physical Education for over 30 years her transdisciplinary research explores human-nature relationships and their impact on health and well-being. She is currently Chair of the Australian Tertiary Outdoor Education Network (ATOEN) and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education.

Rylie Charles, Western Sydney University

Rylie Charles is an Outdoor Education graduate from the Australian Catholic University and is currently studying a Master of Philosophy (Education) at Western Sydney University. Her research topic focuses on gender inclusive leadership in higher degree Outdoor Education. She also works as a freelance outdoor leader and loves to share her experiences in the outdoors with others. 

Teresa Socha, Lakehead University

Teresa Socha, PhD is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario. Her research and teaching interests include fat studies, feminist and sociocultural theory, anti-oppressive education, and initial teacher education.

Marg Cosgriff, The University of Waikato

Marg Cosgriff is a Senior Lecturer in Te Huataki Waiora, the School of Health at the University of Waikato in Aotearoa New Zealand. She has a longstanding research and professional interest in gender in outdoor learning.

Denise Mitten, Prescott College

A widely experienced adventure guide, from SCUBA to mountaineering, Professor Mitten designed an award winning outdoor and leadership program for women (Woodswomen, Inc.) that included an apprenticing program for women, opening the door to outdoor leadership to many women. Over 10,000 women and children enjoyed this outdoor programming including women survivors, women with eating disorders, nuns in recovery, women felons, LGBTQAI+ youth, and socially and economically disadvantaged women and children. In 2015 Dr. Mitten received the Distinguished Researcher Award for her creative and innovative impacts to research within the experiential education community, including examining how body image relates to participation in outdoor activities.

TA Loeffler, Memorial University of Newfoundland

TA Loeffler, PhD is a Professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland in the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation. She brings 30 years of expertise leading people through significant life-changing experiences to every facet of her work. Both her work and adventures have taken her to 40 different countries and all seven continents. TA is a recognized expert in the area of gender and Outdoor Education. She has several publications in this area. Her work in the area of competency development in Outdoor Education is well respected and frequently cited. TA has presented this body of work throughout Canada, the United States, Europe and Australia. 


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