World-record breaking cyclist Jenny Graham and elite mountain biker Lee Craigie have thrown their support behind the UK’s first-ever Women’s Leadership course for outdoor instructors, to help inspire more females to take more prominent leadership roles.
Jenny is famed for breaking the women’s around-the-world cycling record, riding 18,000 miles across 16 countries unsupported in just 124 days. Meanwhile, Lee is a former national cyclocross champion and winner of the UK 24 Hour Mountain Bike Championships; she is currently Scotland’s official ‘Active Nation Commissioner’.
The record-breaking pair continue to ride their bikes incredible distances each year and run bike-packing expeditions to challenge the notion of what women are capable of. Together they headed to The Outward Bound Trust’s centre at Ullswater to meet the women talking part in a new ten-week Women’s Leadership course being spearheaded by Outward Bound.
The aim of the brand-new course, which draws to a close later this week, aims to help women working in the outdoors step up to the next level and become more confident and motivated about tackling top roles.
Although 50% of participants on Outward Bound courses are female, just 20% of their outdoor instructors are female. The figure is even lower for Mountaineering (10%) and Advance Water Endorsement (8%) instructors and Outward Bound says change is needed to ensure young people have more positive female role models leading courses for them.
To help redress the gender imbalance, eight participants were selected to take part in the Women’s Leadership course, which combines personal adventure and development with opportunities to work with groups of young people and experienced instructors. As well as technical skills around Summer Mountain Leadership, Rock Climbing Instruction and Paddlesports Leadership, the psychology around personal development and potential is part of the mentoring process.
Jenny Graham and Lee Craigie are both prime examples of female adventurers leading from the front. They are both excited about helping to inspire potential new female leaders in the outdoors.
Jenny said: “It was great to hear that a big organisation like The Outward Bound Trust is being pro-active by putting in time, money and research to an area that needs addressing in the outdoors. I’m even more delighted to see this being followed through with the commitment to running the course. Meeting the women, I was really pleased to see such a diverse group in terms of age, experience, and outlook. They have such great rapport and it was amazing to see how much they were getting from the course and each other. Those relationships and that support network will no doubt be something that they will keep with them as they progress.”
Meanwhile, Lee added: “The camaraderie, fun and mutually caring spirit of the Women’s Leadership course group was immediately apparent and made open, honest conversation easy and engaging. We talked about all sorts on the night and I left feeling energised and excited to be a woman doing adventurous things in the outdoors. I have no doubt that these women will go on to inspire others in the same way.”
Kate O’Brien, Project Manager at The Outward Bound Trust, said: “We wanted to offer an opportunity for women to be trained by women, alongside women – something which is the norm for males in the industry. Research has shown that a lack of role models, gender bias within the industry and women’s own self-limiting beliefs can hold them back, but we need to help overcome these challenges and develop well rounded, aspiring female instructors with the readiness and desire to work in the outdoors.
“This is new for us and like any true adventure, we don’t yet know what will happen. We hope it will influence the stories of eight women, as the future leaders and role models of tomorrow’s girls. Ultimately, we aspire to learn more and to drive future actions towards equality.”
To find out more about Outward Bound’s Women’s Leadership programme, visit: www.outwardbound.org.uk/womens-outdoor-leadership-course