The Kona Supremes: my journey into women’s leadership started in 2016 with this all-female mountain biking group. They taught me how to ride fast and ride big. Along with crucial bike skills, I started to understand how to be a good peer to other women in the outdoor community.
Fast forward a couple of years. I am beginning to be recognized as an athlete in outdoor spaces. People start referring to me (me?!) as a leader. But I experience a falling out with another woman for whom I fail to be a good friend, listener or leader. I am crushed.
Do I really belong in a leadership role?
My response to this early failure was curiosity, and during the 2019-2020 ski season, I began wondering, “What does it mean to be a mentor?” “And a leader?” “What is the difference between leadership and mentorship?” “How do I better support women in sport?” And most importantly, “Do I even have what it takes to lead?”
These questions guided me toward skiing with women of various levels, skills sets and backgrounds. On hut trips into the Sierra and freeride competitions in Alberta, Canada. To two all-female gatherings with Canadian skier, Leah Evans, in Revelstoke, British Columbia, for her Girls Do Ski camps. And to one of the most memorable moments of the season—skiing in Utah’s Wasatch Range with Caroline Gleich, a fast-paced and vibrant ski mountaineer and public lands and climate activist. With each experience was the hope that I’d absorb something from everyone.
What I gathered during the season is that good things happen organically, when both mentors and leaders bring something to the table, and when we can all see each other as peers. I learned that some dynamics don’t work out, which is fine. That it’s important to honor the desires and heart of the mentee. And I saw that being a female leader in a male-dominated space is hard and requires a lot of experience, failure and, ultimately, thick skin.
Putting these thoughts into writing has been challenging because my journey isn’t over. I’m still figuring out how to ski, how to be a good friend and if I really do want to be a leader in this space.