This International Women's Day, we have been inspired by our community who have shown us that women around the world are more determined than ever to forge a path towards gender parity. While the outdoors does not discriminate, the Australian Youth Confidence Report by Suncorp last year found that almost 50 per cent of Australian females in their late teens had either moved away from or stopped doing their favourite sports, compared to 30 per cent of male teenagers.

With this in mind, we spoke to three women who are driven to push percentages like these down. 

Molly Spark is a 16-year-old multisport adventurer from New Zealand. She has competed in a number of events across New Zealand and in 2020 she competed in her first Kathmandu Coast to Coast. Talk to Molly for just a moment and you will instantly see that this is someone who lives and breathes adventure, with a passion and energy that makes everyone want to lace up and take on a trail!


Can you remember what first got you interested in multisports?

Ever since I was about ten yeras old, my Dad has done the GODZone. It was always fun following him around and I began to be drawn to running and multisports. One day at school we got a team of eight together, we put our names forward for a week-long adventure race on Great Barrier Island. It was the best week of my life! We started entering into all sorts of races. Now the whole school is interested in adventure racing.

What do you love most about competing in events like Coast to Coast?

I just love the environment. Everyone is supportive along the way and the conversations you have push you along as you go. Every single time you do it, it is different. Even if it is the same race, it is never the same.

How do you feel when you’re surrounded by nature?

We live in the country and I have to mention pig hunting of course! I’ve been pig hunting since I was about five. It’s the adrenaline that first gets me. If you have a bad day, nature both calms you down but then this adrenaline rushes over you. Some people have a shower or a bath, I just need a walk or something, it clears my mind.

What are your aspirations for the near future?

Where to start? The Hillary Challenge, the Coast to Coast next year. When I’m older, I want to be a professional adventure racer with mainly the three disciplines of kayaking, trekking and running, and mountain biking. I want to be doing the big 7-day events.

What influence do you think you have on your friends?

We have a top mixed team, but I’m the only girl in school into it. There are definitely girls who do it but it’s the ones who don’t care about the mud and cold.

Do you have women who inspire you with your goals?

Definitely Simone Maier and Sia Svendsen. Sia came up to me after the Coast to Coast and asked how she could support my mental and physical training. You need to be able to pick yourself up 500km from the finish line when you hit that wall.

My mum and dad are really supportive. I’ve grown up in the country and Dad doing GODZones was truly inspirational.

Becchara Palmer is an Australian beach volleyball Olympian, having competed around the world throughout her career. Bec and her volleyball partner Louise Bawden were Australia's number one ranked team in 2011 and were selected to represent Australia at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London after an 18-month qualifying process where she and Louise were ranked within the top 16 teams in the world. 


How would you describe your relationship with the outdoors/nature?

Being a beach volleyballer, I have grown up travelling the world to play the sport I love, amongst some of the most beautiful natural environments on earth. Building a career and making a living in the outdoors is pretty unreal, I count myself very lucky. More so now, nature is also where I go to slow down, to breathe, to learn and to listen. There is nothing more therapeutic than escaping the hustle and bustle of everyday life to the serenity and simplicity of nature. 

Do you have a specific IWD ‘Mission’ that speaks to you?

Applauding equality for women athletes resonates with me for sure. Beach volleyball is actually a very equal sport in terms of prize money and tournaments etc. However, the Australian sporting landscape at large is skewed heavily towards men’s sport – so opportunities to earn (sponsorships, ambassadorships etc.) are often less. 

What would you tell your 8-year-old self she could look forward to as a woman in 2020?

I would tell her that the world would be her oyster, thanks to the fearless efforts of women that came before her. I would tell her that being a woman in 2020 comes with great freedom and also great responsibility. What she chooses to do, who she chooses to be and who she chooses to support will all play an important part in the success of future generations. I would tell her that she has the ability to make a difference and by banding together with other strong women, the world will become a more equal place.

What do you hope the world looks like for women in the future?

I hope that we can create a society whereby women are appreciated, respected and championed for being who they are, where women feel safe to express themselves without fear of judgement or retribution and where workplaces support women to balance motherhood and careers equally. 

Ria Vandervis is a New Zealand actress across the screen and stage and is best known for her role starring as Harper Whitley on the New Zealand TV2 soap opera Shortland Street. Living on the west coast of  New Zealand's North Island, Ria has a strong relationship with adventure and the outdoors and is a passionate advocate for the protection of the rich forests that make her home one of New Zealand's most famous destinations.


How would you describe your relationship with the outdoors/nature?

I am very lucky to reside in the Waitakere Ranges in West Auckland, so I live right in the middle of some of the most beautiful nature in the world, and consequently have a really close relationship with nature as it is crucial for my mental health. We are guardians of the environment, and it needs our protection at all costs. Kauri dieback is a big issue in our forests, so lots of the tracks I usually run and hike on are closed for now, but there are still beautiful places around me to explore safely. 

Do you have a specific IWD ‘Mission’ that speaks to you?

I am behind any mission that aims to improve conditions for women, bring us parity and help us thrive. Increasing the visibility of women creatives and promoting their work for commercial projects is something I wholeheartedly support.

What would you tell your 8-year-old self she could look forward to as a woman in 2020?

If I could tell my 8-year-old self what she could look forward to as a woman in 2020, it would be that life isn’t fair for women yet, but not to worry because we will get there. I truly believe that the current energy and global voice surrounding women will propel us to equality in Western cultures and to be super stoked that we have an amazing, empathetic, highly intelligent young female prime minister in New Zealand who is paving the way for us.

What do you hope the world looks like for women in the future?

I hope that the future for women demands less of them while giving them the same opportunities as men. So much is expected of us – we kick butt in our careers, while are still expected to run the household and raise the children. This is slowly changing but I hope that in the not-too-distant future men won’t be seen to be ‘helping out’ with household and childcare duties, but that these things will be a duty shared equally. 


 Help us support the work of ActionAid who run programs in Nepal to equip women with the technical skills and support to free themselves from cycles of poverty. Donate online or instore. 

Donate to ActionAid

More from the Summit Journal...

Items 1 to 8 of 11 total