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Ladies: How to make a climbing gym more welcoming


JSH · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2007 · Points: 1,028
 So the first place the management of your gym could start is to make sure that all the staff is welcoming and friendly and respectful and attentive to whomever walks in the door.  Even if the staff of the gym is 100% SWyoungM, if they have the right attitude, any woman, or old person, or gay person, or non-white person will feel welcome.

​This is powerfully important, and just as hard to do. ​​​Please do it.

Also, realize that young women are just as capable of creating / enabling a dudebro vibe as men. They, after all, have also grown up in and absorbed the unspoken rules of how to succeed in this world. So when you train your people on being welcoming and friendly to everyone who comes in -   by all means, do that equally for everyone.
Melanie Concordia · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 10

From my personal experience:

When I was in college I went home for holiday break in another state and wanted to climb at the local gym but felt too intimidated to go in alone without knowing anyone. They had a weekly women's climb, open to women of all ages and abilities, and this was what got me in the door. It was the first time I attended a "women's specific" climbing event, as I didn't particularly care what gender my partners were, but it was welcoming and immediately made me feel comfortable! The lady who ran it was super rad and introduced me to one of her guy friends one time when we were there together. I ended up climbing more with him than the women I met in the group, but it was the group that set the tone of the gym as friendly to me.

Also, thinking back on college, most of what I did socially was advertised in my dorm or around campus. I bet if you worked with the college outdoors club or dorm RAs (particularly in freshman dorms) to coordinate climbing events, you would get a whole diversity of people coming in.

SMarsh · · NY, NY · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 0

I'm with JSH on this.

Most important is that women feel respected, whether they're new beginners or female icons of climbing expertise.

A facility needs to train its staff to be non-discriminatory, no matter what the outside social structure is.  Color, sexual orientation, or whatever, be accepting.

Having a couple of auto-belays will allow someone who doesn't know anyone to work their way into the facility, as well.

Grandpa Dave · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 5
Kari V wrote: Hello all! I am looking for opinions and feedback from women on how to make the climbing gym I work at feel more inclusive, welcoming, and less intimidating.

I work at a climbing gym at a university where the vast majority of the staff is male. Nearly all the routes are set by men, and nearly all the advanced climbers/lead climbers seen regularly at the wall are men. Some women (students and community members), especially those new to climbing, have told me this is intimidating for them. I am trying to do my part by becoming a more regular presence at the wall, beginning to set routes, and reaching out to women.

Part of my job is to attract more women to the climbing wall and to our adventure program. I would like to begin some kind of "Ladies' Night" for female climbers, but I am also concerned about causing too much separation or offering a financial incentive that's not available to men.

I'm curious to hear other women's thoughts on this. How could I best advocate for female climbers in this context? Does anyone have personal experience with this?


Grandpa Dave · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 5

I supervise the climbing gym where I work (YMCA), and when I started, the climbing gym was primarily a male event. I hired young women (that were very capable, and good with people), and that has changed the balance/dynamic of the gym. More girls and young women come in now, some alone, some with husbands/boyfriends. It's a very relaxed atmosphere. 

señdera la reina · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2017 · Points: 0

In my gym they have ladies night on Tuesday and you sometimes see more women on those nights but still most climbers are men.  The ladies night is only $5 but if you are a member already it does not make a difference.  I have tried to make my women friends interested and some have tried but only one stayed interested.  

The gym has a yoga class that is usually all women.  They do not have a mens night for yoga and I am glad for that because the men are always farting.

Señor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10
señdera la reina wrote: I am glad for that because the men are always farting.

Always farting, or just farting a lot? Because if they're capable of sustained and continuous farting I've got an idea for a new Broadway show.

Laralyn M. · · SF is home (but I live in NYC) · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 55

My gym sends out regular pulse surveys to hear from members about what's working and what needs attention. In the last couple of years they've specifically been asking questions about the gym culture, and whether it feels like a welcoming and safe space for women, LGBTQ folks, folks with disabilities, etc. Generally there's an open-ended question at the end for people to give feedback, whatever's on their minds. Maybe your gym might consider reaching out to its members to hear from them directly?

señdera la reina · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2017 · Points: 0
Señor Arroz wrote:

Always farting, or just farting a lot? Because if they're capable of sustained and continuous farting I've got an idea for a new Broadway show.

lol, just farting a lot.  Women do it too but men are worse.  I know it can happen but not to me ;)

Katie K · · Bozeman, MT · Joined Jan 2018 · Points: 0

My gym had a screening of the "No Man's Land" film festival and turned it into a full day of female-centered epicness, open to all gym and community members. They had clinics throughout the day, ALL taught by women in the area (thankfully, Maine/New Hampshire gives us some excellent examples to choose from and we put them up front proudly every chance we get). The gym sweetened the deal with some killer raffles and free food from area partners who were excited to get behind an event like this. It was great because I could hang with my male climbing partners (because lets face it, I have more of them) while celebrating the strength of lady crushers. For me it was the perfect balance of affirmation without segregation. The fact that so many of our male community members showed up, for reasons of post-climb free beer or otherwise, felt really good.

If your gym has a blog/newsletter/community board, highlight female only perspectives every once in a while (with or without first drawing attention to gender). Just do it, make it mainstream even if the gym is mostly guys (cause if any of these guys ends up going into guiding, they're going to need to be versed in a whole lot of stuff they'd maybe never thought of!). One of the things that sold me on doing a course with American Alpine Institute was them dropping an article on female mountaineering topics without any special fanfare. 

wonderwoman · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2006 · Points: 88

My most unwelcome event in a gear shop popped up in my facebook memories yesterday:

This is how it played out:
I went to a guide shop to get an obscure, photocopy style guidebook in order to check out a new area where it wasn't raining.  The employee asked me to come back the next day so they could have another person bring it in from their other store.  

I show up the next day and there is a different employee there, completely bewildered as to why I am looking for this particular guidebook and concerned that I am by myself.

Him:  Who are you climbing with?  Are you by yourself?
Me: My husband is parking the car and putting our name in at a restaurant so we don't have to wait for a table.
Him: Well, if he really wants to push himself he should check out blah blah blah wall.
Me: I like to push myself, too.  Why are you making recommendations for my husband when he's not even here?
Him: Well, how hard do you climb?
Me: I got my redpoint on blah blah blah (11c trad) yesterday.
Him: Oh, wow!  In that case... (and suddenly becomes helpful).

It feels unwelcoming when you are sized up, or the assumption that the male in the party is the stronger climber - even when he is not present (and yes, my husband is stronger than I am, but I am still a pretty good climber).  So I would echo the need to treat everyone equally and not make assumptions about a climber's interest or ability based upon gender, looks or anything else.  
Lovena Harwood · · MA · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 400
Katherine Knight wrote: My gym had a screening of the "No Man's Land" film festival and turned it into a full day of female-centered epicness, open to all gym and community members. They had clinics throughout the day, ALL taught by women in the area (thankfully, Maine/New Hampshire gives us some excellent examples to choose from and we put them up front proudly every chance we get). The gym sweetened the deal with some killer raffles and free food from area partners who were excited to get behind an event like this. It was great because I could hang with my male climbing partners (because lets face it, I have more of them) while celebrating the strength of lady crushers. For me it was the perfect balance of affirmation without segregation. The fact that so many of our male community members showed up, for reasons of post-climb free beer or otherwise, felt really good.

If your gym has a blog/newsletter/community board, highlight female only perspectives every once in a while (with or without first drawing attention to gender). Just do it, make it mainstream even if the gym is mostly guys (cause if any of these guys ends up going into guiding, they're going to need to be versed in a whole lot of stuff they'd maybe never thought of!). One of the things that sold me on doing a course with American Alpine Institute was them dropping an article on female mountaineering topics without any special fanfare. 

I think we were at the same gym! LOL! I wasn't able to stay for the "No Man's Land" film but I took the women's crack climbing clinic and it rocked! I always am on the lookout for women's climbing clinics. 

Dylan Pike · · Sandy, UT · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 35

I was a manager at my university climbing gym. As is generally standard, our gym was located in the rec center, and gym employees were also rec center employees. We often poached regular "rec center" employees who saw how much fun it was to work on the climbing staff. Maybe you can do some outreach to other rec center staff and see if any women are interested in coming over to the climbing gym?

señdera la reina · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2017 · Points: 0
wonderwoman wrote: My most unwelcome event in a gear shop popped up in my facebook memories yesterday:
This is how it played out:
I went to a guide shop to get an obscure, photocopy style guidebook in order to check out a new area where it wasn't raining.  The employee asked me to come back the next day so they could have another person bring it in from their other store.  

I show up the next day and there is a different employee there, completely bewildered as to why I am looking for this particular guidebook and concerned that I am by myself.

Him:  Who are you climbing with?  Are you by yourself?
Me: My husband is parking the car and putting our name in at a restaurant so we don't have to wait for a table.
Him: Well, if he really wants to push himself he should check out blah blah blah wall.
Me: I like to push myself, too.  Why are you making recommendations for my husband when he's not even here?
Him: Well, how hard do you climb?
Me: I got my redpoint on blah blah blah (11c trad) yesterday.
Him: Oh, wow!  In that case... (and suddenly becomes helpful).

It feels unwelcoming when you are sized up, or the assumption that the male in the party is the stronger climber - even when he is not present (and yes, my husband is stronger than I am, but I am still a pretty good climber).  So I would echo the need to treat everyone equally and not make assumptions about a climber's interest or ability based upon gender, looks or anything else.  

I am confused by this story.  Who called someone an idiot?

wonderwoman · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2006 · Points: 88
señdera la reina wrote:

I am confused by this story.  Who called someone an idiot?

No one.  My husband was implying that I should have called the employee an idiot.

señdera la reina · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2017 · Points: 0

You probably will not get a special price if you do that.  Men are not good shoppers.

Lisa S · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 26

I know this thread is a month old, but its relevant enough to me to throw my 2 cents in as well.

I work at my university's climbing wall, and last year my female co-workers and I started a Women's Night once a week, and we were able to attract and retain a lot more female climbers than before!! We got posters around, staffed women only and as staff during that time focused on mentoring, teaching and making a really accepting, welcoming environment, and we heard from several girls that they never would've tried climbing or stuck with it otherwise! Woo!! This year I'm going to work on discussing issues I've noticed or ideas for improvement with all of the staff, men and women, and hopefully foster even more inclusiveness from all of us all the time. Message me if you'd like any more info! I also just made another post on this forum about barriers women face that I've observed that may be helpful as well. Cheers! 

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