I’m posting in an effort to gain insight into the experiences of women in the climbing industry; specifically route setting. I am well aware of the dearth of females employed in climbing and have been frustrated myself with the lack of opportunity for women to obtain professional roles at indoor climbing gyms across the world. A few years back, as a climber with a solid climbing resume (I was climbing V9, 5.12+ sport, and 5.10+ trad at the time), I applied to three gyms in three different cities as a full or part-time setter. I was willing to start at the bottom, making minimum wage and learning the trade. Desperate to get a foot in the door, I even offered to volunteer my time. Beyond a preliminary email from one gym inquiring whether I would work in a daycare, I was given a flat-out ‘no’. This experience was the impetus behind my becoming CEO of two premier climbing facilities.
Not only are women facing opposition from employers who don’t consider setting to be a female task, but women are exposed to harassment, mistreatment, and disregard by other climbers and industry professionals. Gyms’ products are severely lopsided as a result of few female influencers at the professional level. Women who can’t make up the slack through brute strength are labeled weak and timid. We are shooed away from steep, powerful boulders, discouraged from speaking up and taking ownership, and instead pointed in the direction of a crimpy slab problem or a daycare center. Fingers get pointed when gym owners and staff ask one another why there aren’t more women in climbing. Because I am dedicated to supporting female routesetters in kicking down the doors of the climbing industry, I’ve founded a new business, SheSets.
SheSets intends to create an environment where women are taken seriously, where expectations of women are high, and where women don’t have to fight the urge to grow. SheSets will facilitate routesetting training and management clinics for women, and will ultimately work with gyms across the globe to place women in highly sought after setting roles. SheSets will be a driving force toward climbing organizations prioritizing women in the field of setting, developing scholarships and incentive programs to encourage women to become leaders in our sport.
At this point, my greatest weakness lies in lack of information. I would sincerely appreciate the time to speak with women either currently involved in the climbing industry or with a desire to become involved. I of course have my own experience to pull from, but am curious what other women have encountered during their effort to break into the sport in a professional manner. Why aren’t more women setting? Is it a lack of interest or opportunity? Why are we not seeing more women grow in setting roles once they’re on a setting team? What would be most helpful to women wanting to start to routeset? How can SheSets be most successful?
Finally, I’m looking to collaborate with anyone who is passionate about this movement. Female, male, V12 climber or 5.6 climber, everyone has something to contribute and a lot of effort will be required for forward momentum. Whether you’re interested in writing a blog post, sponsoring a woman to attend a routesetting clinic, running a clinic tailored to women, or helping to market and grow awareness of SheSets, I’d love to hear from you.
Please take the time to get in touch and help change the course of our industry.