We need more women-led outdoor companies

Mark A. Carlson

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This is pretty insane and worth pondering: Last year there were more CEOs of S&P 500 companies named “Michael” or “James” than women of any name. Which is precisely why I started Women-Led Wednesday (WLW). November 24, 2021, marks the fourth annual WLW, an annual shopping holiday that occurs the day before U.S. Thanksgiving designed to support women (and women-identifying individuals) in leadership. 

smiling women in white top with long hair | Women-Led outdoor companies
Cassie Abel is the co-founder of Wild Rye and Women-led Wednesday.
(Photo: Sofia DeWolfe)

I am the founder of Wild Rye, a women’s outdoor apparel company. I started Women-Led Wednesday just over three years ago when I was at a loss about how to launch our holiday sales program at Wild Rye. 

Black Friday seemed way too consumption-driven (plus we all should #optoutside). Small Business Saturday felt more oriented toward brick-and-mortar businesses. And Cyber Monday felt like a great way to get lost in the war of ad dollars. I thought, with all the talk of getting more women into C-Suites and on Fortune 500 boards, there must already be a holiday to promote sales of women-led brands. To my surprise, there wasn’t. 

So, with my arsenal of accumulated email addresses, the power of social media, and a Squarespace website, the first annual Women-Led Wednesday was born. Since that day, the Women-Led Wednesday initiative has grown into an annual event and a robust brand directory of close to 500 women-led brands. Every year we welcome countless new additions to the directory and we all come together to lift each other up by promoting the holiday, encouraging our customers to shop consciously and vote for women in leadership with their purchasing power. 

Read more: We covered Women-Led Wednesday when it first launched in 2018

With women receiving just over 2 percent of all venture capital, finding alternate sources of funding is supremely important. This is where Women-Led Wednesday and encouraging the public to shop with intention comes in. The initiative was built around the aphorism that “a rising tide lifts all boats” and this definitely rings true with women supporting women. 

Research shows women are more likely to a) hire other women, and b) be hands-on with their direct reports, bringing them up with them through the corporate ladder. So, if we are to create a more balanced economic landscape, we need to support the women who are already in leadership positions. While I probably can’t attribute it all to Women-Led Wednesday, in the last year alone here at Wild Rye I have been able to hire five women full-time and countless female freelancers. I can confidently say it’s not due to an influx of venture funding, but rather sales revenue.

How to support Women-Led Wednesday

There are currently 500+ women-led brands in our directory. Below is a snapshot of a few of them. On November 24, 2021, as you kick off your holiday shopping, please consider supporting them.

  • Title Nine is the OG women’s athletic wear retailer. Founded in 1989 by Missy Park, Title Nine is dedicated to offering women a great selection of women’s active apparel in addition to elevating other women business-leaders.
  • Carve Designs is a women’s lifestyle and swimwear brand. Carve is dedicated to celebrating women actively living our best lives, encouraging confidence in the curves of our bodies, and understanding of the needs of our diverse community.
  • Dovetail Workwear is a women’s workwear brand wear-tested by thousands of working women, from farmers to carpenters to scientists in Antarctica. Through the creation of high-quality apparel, Dovetail Workwear provides tools that support women’s jobs and lives.
  • Wild Rye is a women’s outdoor apparel brand specializing in mountain bike and snowsports that’s dedicated to crafting pieces that are both beautiful and technical in equal measure. Wild Rye strives to inspire confidence and welcome more women into the outdoors. 
  • Skida Headwear & Accessories is a proud Vermont-based company that produces playful and technical accessories and headwear. The brand is committed to local production, limited edition products, and a fresh perspective. 
  • Coalition Snow is a women-owned and operated ski and snowboard company. The brand is dedicated to building the gear and the communities that unleash skills and expand experiences. The brand and its leaders are committed to standing up for what matters and aims to make a positive impact in the world of snowsports and beyond.

If you’re a women-led brand and would like to join the initiative, please start by creating a free account and completing a brand directory page. If you want to support in another way, please share with your network, follow @womenledwednesday on Instagram, or reach out to me directly. Most important, make a point to shop women-led.

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