***Names of individuals have been changed.

About seven months ago, I loaded up my skis, bike, camping gear, and small heap of clothes in my Subaru and drove a few thousand miles from my home in Colorado to Boston. I left the mountains, trails, fluffy dry snow, and dear friends to go work in the city for a massive financial services company I barely knew anything about. As an ultrarunner and backcountry skier, it didn’t make much sense to leave an environment so suited to my passions.

And yet, I looked forward to a new adventure – one that involved a city by an ocean instead of mountains, a big for-profit company instead of a small nonprofit, and a team of coworkers who didn’t necessarily know what it means to take a powder day.

I figured, hey, it’s okay if I spend fewer days in the mountains – I’m focusing on my career right now.

As expected, I have spent fewer days on top of big mountains since I moved here. But I didn’t expect to discover that my experience working for this company would actually make me a stronger, more confident female outdoor adventurer.

Three weeks ago, I lay crammed into a three-person tent with my climbing buddies Jeff and Cameron at 10,000 feet on Mount Rainier. We had attempted to reach the summit of Rainier that afternoon. We had decided to turn around just 2,000 feet from the summit because of a late start, travel-weary bodies, and a total whiteout. As a trio of driven, competitive athletes, we were bummed and trying to figure out our next step after this unplanned turn of events.

IMG_0522Without warning, Jeff said, “I think Cameron and I should go summit a different route. Hannah, you could just, like, call the trip over for yourself and go run trails or something.”

Um. What. Where did that suggestion come from? I had put just as much energy, time, and resources as they had into this trip. How could he ask me if I was ok with being done so soon? Did he think I had no goals of my own? No, thank you. I knew I could summit – we hadn’t turned around because of my skill level. How could he so easily give up on me – and expect me to give up on myself?

Sure, I was a slower climber than these two guys. I had never experienced glacier travel before, so I had struggled with getting used to all the climbing gear. But they knew this beforehand. I had even tried to dissuade them from inviting me because I had so much less experience. In response, they had encouraged me to come. Now, here I was, climbing and carrying gear alongside them. I had worked hard, learned quickly, and kept my upbeat spirit the entire time.

Jeff’s suggestion to leave me behind stunned and infuriated me.

Yet, I placidly said, “Oh. Hm. What would I do while you guys are gone?”

I instantly kicked myself and thought, “Hannah, why are you letting this man casually edge you out of this adventure, the team’s objective, and your own dream?”

In this moment, my thoughts shot back to a place I never thought I’d go in the middle of an outdoor adventure – my day job.

A few weeks ago, my boss, a dynamic woman who grabs attention through the sheer force of her optimistic, kind energy, sat me down to talk about an article addressing the confidence gap between men and women in the workplace.

Research has shown that men and women respond very differently in situations where they have only some of the skills but still have the potential to succeed in that environment. [1] A woman is more likely to back down from an unfamiliar challenge, to assume she doesn’t have the skills, and to not assert what she really wants out of the situation. We frequently let others define success for us, and we don’t have confidence in our own capabilities. Meanwhile, men more often take on a new challenge even if they have only have some of skills, and they speak boldly about their confidence and goals.

My boss and I enthusiastically discussed this confidence gap, remembering times when we had succumbed to it and resolving to support each other through future moments of hesitation.

In fact, in my new job, I have experienced a remarkable focus on empowering women on teams, launching women into leadership roles, and encouraging women to take control of their finances. The financial services industry – much like the outdoor industry – has historically been run by men and designed products primarily for men. Women in finance face tremendous cultural barriers to progressing to the highest levels of the profession, and our female customers don’t see themselves as investors or have confidence in their ability to manage their own money.

My company tries to tackle these challenges head on, through open dialogues, like the one I had with my boss, and intentionally designing products for women. Consequently, every day at work, I am inspired by women who aren’t afraid to talk about their goals and fears, and by women who support other women.

So, up in the tent on Rainier, squeezed into near immobility between my two male adventure buddies in our sleeping bags, I wriggled my tired toes and remembered that inspiration.

“Actually no. No, staying behind is not enough for me. I want to summit, I want to continue to adventure, and I want to be a part of a team.”

IMG_0564After a little more debate, Jeff begrudgingly relented, “Ok, fine. We’ll just do the same route all together again.”

We re-grouped and headed up the summit two days later underneath a clear blue sky. Five energy bars and two liters of water later, I hit the summit with a huge smile on my face.

It’s hard to get past the feeling that you’re not good enough or that you don’t deserve to be there. In the tent on Rainier, I barely did. It was thanks to being in a place where women are fighting to hold their ground in an industry typically run by men that I realized I had to believe in myself— even if the men around me didn’t.

***

I’ve often thought about how running ultramarathons and ski mountaineering makes me better at my job because I’m accustomed to dealing with intense, risky, and uncertain situations. In moving to Boston, I was totally prepared to back down on the adventuring aspect of my life. However, on this trip, I realized how my job has inspired me to be a braver, more empowered female outdoor adventurer.

 

[1] Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. “The Confidence Gap.” The Atlantic Monthly. May 2014 Issue. Retrieved June 2016 from http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/05/the-confidence-gap/359815/

 

Guest Contributor

Hannah Lippe is a No Man’s Land Film Festival Ambassador. Born in Denver, CO, she grew up in the Silicon Valley and has since returned to her true home in the mountains of Colorado. Hannah is an avid ultra-trail runner with an affinity for unhinged adventure – whether that be on the trails, in educational policy, or at her new home in Boston, MA. Hannah is home when she is running. Find out more about No Man’s Land Film Festival and for more of Hannah’s writing, visit:www.nomanslandfilmfestival.org