We are celebrating women in the outdoors through REI’s #ForceOfNature project. This is not a sponsored post, we just want to keep sharing our thoughts and feelings about what it means to be a Force of Nature. We thank you for shopping through our affiliate links to help support our Ambassador team.

How has your career shaped and molded your perceptions of women in the outdoors? As a former Army officer, a woman in a man’s world, I can really relate to Helina’s experiences feeling like she needed to justify herself and prove to her male counterparts that she was just as tough, smart and competent. I think you’re going to like what she has to say.

Helina is a Hike Like A Woman Ambassador, you can learn more about how to join her on #teamHLAW here.

Photo courtesy Helina Alvarez

I would not consider myself to be an athletic person.

I tend to be uncoordinated with balance similar to a penguin on a slip and slide.

Seriously, ask anyone that knows me well.  

After college, I had the extreme privilege of getting a full-time job in my major of Wildlife Management and Conservation.

Graduating from one of the top natural resources school, one thing I can recall was that we weren’t taught in our undergraduate career, is that in the “real world” this is a male dominant field.

After graduation, I shipped out to the mid-west where I noticed the females I worked with were sacred.

Quickly I became competitive with a few male colleagues.

Thinking back at it now I’m sure it was because I was tired of being mocked when I didn’t know a particular skill.

Usually, it was a skill involving auto-mechanic and carpentry.

I didn’t grow up with a father to pass down this “basic knowledge.”

My competitive spirit followed me on the trails.

I would hike like I had to prove to someone, something.

As if those guys were on the trail as well.  

I hiked, not being in the best physical shape, having a slow pace, and overall just not prepare for some of those trips.

(I don’t recommend it and I definitely approach that last one differently now.)

I would push myself harder with each step, releasing frustration and resentment.

With each trip, I made it to my destination.

With each trip, I felt like I left a bit more of having to prove myself.

With each trip I came to realize that I don’t have to prove myself to anyone, I just need to accept me for me, and appreciate what my body is capable of.

To this day I’m still surprised of some the hikes that I’ve accomplished, Half Dome, The Narrows, Challenger, Pedra de Gavea and more to come.

I look back at those hikes not as a trophy but as an award of just being honored to experience some of the most beautiful places by just my own two feet… that in itself is more than enough to me.

2 comments on “A Woman’s Force In A Male Dominant Workforce

  1. I enjoyed your story of “awakening” and self acceptance in a male dominated career. I’ve worked for the last couple of decades in the timber harvesting industry. I’ve “proven” myself through confidence, knowledge and persistence. I feel that women are a welcomed asset in these vocations. We are a reminder that the strength and development of our society was equally bore by women and men.

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