Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management


Dr. Denise Anderson

Committee Member

Dr. Dorothy Schmalz

Committee Member

Dr. Robert Barcelona

Committee Member

Dr. Cynthia Deaton


Females have long found it difficult to find entrance to and acceptance in the outdoors because of socially engrained gender expectations, a lack of female role models, and fear. Despite the hurdles, research indicates that females who participate in outdoor recreation are more empowered, and have higher levels of self-esteem, self-trust, self-worth, assertiveness, self-sufficiency, independence, confidence, and body image (McDermott, 2004; Pohl, Borrie, & Patterson, 2000). Therefore, it is important that females are not only encouraged to participate in outdoor recreation, but empowered to do so. Current research on females' leisure in the outdoors largely focuses on women who are casual or amateur participants (e.g., Little, 2002). What has not been investigated is how women who participate at the highest levels of their sport have successfully negotiated the many constraints to their outdoor recreation participation. Three main theories acted as a framework in guiding this study: the social cognitive theory of gender development and differentiation (Bussey & Bandura, 1999), leisure constraints (e.g., Crawford & Godbey, 1987), and poststructural feminism (as applied by Aitchison, 2003). In addition, the research was conducted in the spirit of Parry's (2003) call for a sixth phase of feminist leisure research. That is, this study seeks to move beyond simply understanding the experiences of women's leisure in a gendered society, and towards a focus on how these gendered norms can be broken down and challenged. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to understand what specific constraints professional female mountain guides have faced and their methods for successfully navigating through them on their way to an elite level of participation and performance in mountaineering. Data analysis revealed that the professional outdoor athletes face the same types of constraints to outdoor recreation as amateur participants. These constraints include fear, a lack of confidence, and gender relations. The findings also indicate that the professional athletes identified similar negotiation strategies including a reliance on social support, the development and use of resiliency strategies, and an unwavering passion for the outdoors. The results of this study provide a starting point for improving on or creating interventions aimed at increasing women's participation in outdoor adventure recreation.