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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

REI aims to get more women outdoors

Seattle-based REI says the company is stepping up promotion of women in the outdoors in 2017. (Courtesy photo)
By Stephen Regenold For The Spokesman-Review

REI was co-founded by a woman, Mary Anderson, who was born in 1909. She passed away recently at age 107, and her life and love for the outdoors formed part of the foundation for the company.

This week, REI announced a refocus on women. The company, full name Recreational Equipment Inc., is a co-op with millions of members and billions of dollars in revenue.

A move made by REI has reverberations across the outdoors world. The news this week is noted as a long-term effort “to increase women’s participation in the outdoors.”

The initiative, called “Force Of Nature,” includes marketing, a multitude of events, education, donations, and gear design aimed at putting women front and center.

REI said it surveyed more than 2,000 people when planning the project. The results showed that “72 percent of women say they feel liberated or free when they are outdoors.”

But only 32 percent of women, the survey discovered, describe themselves as “outdoorsy.” REI hopes to change that with its initiative.

In May, the company will hold events to launch the effort. It will continue to host more than 1,000 events and classes through the year focused on education and getting women outdoors.

REI will commit $1 million to nonprofits that get women and girls into the outdoors.

On the gear front, REI notes it’s “closing the gear gap” with new products developed for women by women. From color choices to technical specs, the brand is rebooting its in-house line.

Today, 45 percent of all REI employees and nearly half of corporate officers are women. The company noted it will focus even more on women in leadership and a commitment to gender balance throughout its company structure.

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