Asking Your Boss to Support Your Attendance at the Women in Camp Summit

Now is the time to ask.

After reading this article entitled “Why Women Should Demand Professional Development,” I am reminded of a really important lesson that I have learned time and time again as an educator:

Every person learns differently.

Sure there are categories of learners and learning preferences. There are learning cycles and education strategies—and yet, when I think about many of the professional development events in the camping industry, they tend to be sit-and-get sessions with an “sage on stage” where learners taking a relatively passive role in their own learning.

In fact, that very reasoning is why I live tweet during conferences so I can retain what I’ve heard and continue to learn from it in the future as my followers engage with the nuggets I share.

I also think this is why many camp professionals discover that the networking time tends to be some of the most valuable time at a conference. Learning is social no matter whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. Engaging in conversation about an idea and thus formulating your thoughts and beliefs and understanding of the concept are the best ways to truly learn about a topic.

The Women in Camp Summit is designed with this in mind. With intentionally designed small group discussion and learning environments as well as opportunities for networking and mentorship, this is not a sit-and-get experience.

Today, ask your boss to support you in attending the Women in Camp Summit on November 7-9…

  • because it will make you a more effective and assertive leader when managing staff and parent relationships

  • because it is an economical option for a professional development that is designed by educators who understand how learning works.

  • because you will return refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to tackle the challenges in front of you

  • because your organization can proudly share that they support Women in Camping.

  • because your camp community wants to know what you are doing as an organization to prepare your campers and your staff to operate in a #metoo world

  • because you are worth investing in.

Registration for the Women in Camp Summit ends October 1, 2018 and can be completed at this site.

Boss says no but you still want to come? You deserve it. Contact about financial assistance and check out the Women in Camp Summit Ride & Room Share group to get linked up with others who can help you reduce your cost.

Why a Women’s Summit?

Where are we?

“Do you want to look at your photos from camp?” Joanna was talking with her daughter Kelly. Kelly, nervous about her upcoming first day of school, was visibly withdrawn from her usual confident self.

Kelly looked up at her mom and smiled as she glanced at the photo on her mom’s phone of Kelly and her cabinmates on their last day of camp for the summer. She jumped off the dining room chair and ran to her room and came back a few minutes later decked out in her camp t-shirt, camp pajamas, and camp bracelets. Her camp bandana was wrapped on her head. She stood in the doorway of the kitchen and put her arms on her hips, took a tall stance, and a big smile crept across her face.

“I’m ready,” Kelly remarked. “I climbed to the top of the climbing wall! I stayed away from home for two weeks without you. I even chose to eat BROCCOLI!”

Joanna smiled at her daughter’s confidence and said, “What could third grade possibly challenge you with that you can’t face? You will be a star.”

As a friend recounted this story to me and showed me the photos of Kelly in her camp gear, I wanted to celebrate the impact of camp and that it had made Kelly feel SO good.

And then my attitude quickly soured as I came to think, “What’s wrong with our world that our girls have to put on armor to face every day life? Why are girls being torn down?”

And lastly I thought, “It doesn’t have to be this way.”

As I rewatch the passionate speeches of the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at the March for Our Lives where the students, one by one, demanded that we, the adults, the people in charge of this world, do better, I couldn’t help but feel passionately that it does not have to be this way. We do not have to sit idly by and have our world become a place where we don’t want or can’t live.

We have to be better.

Who runs this world anyway?

It’s time. Period.

Four years ago I took a Leave No Trace Master Educator class and my two male instructors stated to the class, “You need to be incorporating a discussion about proper disposal of feminine products into your lessons about disposing of waste properly. It’s not only about trash and poo anymore.”

I remember hearing that and thinking “Of course! Why haven’t we been doing that all along?”

Earlier that year, the company Thinx was founded. They released videos of famous female celebrities talking about their periods. Mila Kunis talking about her period! What?!? TV like this doesn’t happen.

And yet, it was brilliant. Thinx set out to take the stigma out of period talk. Because this is a natural process. Because it happens to roughly half the earth’s population at some point in life.

Because--let’s be real--as women, most of us have or have had periods. And, if not, we've certainly helped another woman through it. You know you have an established friendship with another person when you can finally talk about periods. When you feel safe and brave enough to broach the topic with someone else, you know that this person will be a friend, be it just for now or forever because the door has been opened to a path of vulnerability and sharing.

So, consider the Women In Camp Summit as a large gathering of people who not only are brave enough to talk about periods, but also about what it is like to be a female in charge, how to navigate the “old boys clubs” that persist, and how to build a world where females can be true agents of change. And what if these women also built a world where they don’t have to hide their tampons in their sleeves?

Change happens now.

At a recent national conference, a friend of mine spoke with several notable female leaders who are members of the preceding generation of camp leaders. These are women who fought to wear pants in the workplace. These are women who were some of the first to really be faced with the a true choice to have a family, a career, or both. These were women who fought to get in the leadership positions they are in.

As my friend shared with these remarkable women about her experiences of being ignored or the assumption that she was the assistant when accompanied into a professional setting with a male, the older generation grew visibly upset. One even remarked, “I thought we fixed this.” Another commented, “We worked too hard to make things better for you to be treated that way.”

There is still more work to be done and with the emergence of #metoo and #timesup, more people are ready to engage in the discussion. Males are reflecting on past relationships and wondering if they have caused #metoo moments for the women in their life and are asking how they can help and how they can be allies.

In truth, I don’t think we have the shared language and cultural norms established yet to fully teach others how to be allies and how to make sweeping cultural change because we are navigating an entire nation’s history of oppression and privilege.

And that’s why we need summer camp to be the living laboratory where we test our theories, practice new language, and process the experience in these smaller social settings so we can hone in on strategies that work and social skills that need to be taught and developed. What does it look like to create an equitable learning community? What does it look like for women to be empowered? How does that change or remain consistent across cultural differences?

These are not easy questions and that’s why women must come together and network with one another, learn from each other, and build community with smart #ladycamppros across the world.

That’s why I ask you to join us at the Women in Camp Summit November 7-9 in St Charles, IL for three days of networking, discussion, and mentorship. Because, as Beyonce says, “Who runs the world?”


The Intersection of #MeToo and Summer Camp

According to Wikipedia, the #MeToo movement went viral in October 2017 after Alyssa Milano tweeted the following suggestion from a friend:

“If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me Too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the problem.”

On the days following October 15, across the world, ‘Me Too” Facebook statuses, tweets, and Instagram posts were abundant. The stories seemed to be endless. Some shocking, others horrifying, and many, familiar.

Pandora’s box was opened. The curtain pulled back. Social media, for a few days, felt like a release valve had finally been turned. The gravity and magnitude of how many have been violated in their personal lives and, furthermore, in their professional careers became very real and very personal.

#MeToo was first used by Tarana Burke, a social activist and community organizer, on Myspace in 2006 in an effort to promote empowerment through empathy especially among women of color. The phrase “me too” came from Ms. Burke’s recounting of a story of a 13-year old disclosing abuse she had endured to Ms. Burke. Ms. Burke found that she had nothing to say in response and upon reflection, wished that she had simply said, “Me too.”

In the months following, Hollywood, news, and political figures were accused of a variety of acts against others ranging from harassment to assault. Some apologized. Others denied. Some remained silent.

And like that, the nation was thrust into a conversation about rape culture, gender, and equitable work environments.


What role does summer camp play in a #metoo world?

There are many lessons to be gleaned from the current events of the last year though first and foremost, camps have an obligation to create the space for staff to practice having honest and vulnerable conversations about what is happening in the non-camp world.

The camp bubble has been popped and as much as we may want to live in our own little worlds and ignore what is happening “out there,” this year parents will ask harder questions about harassment and abuse policies, teens will have walked out of school in support of gun control, and elementary age children have been asked what pronouns they prefer.

Summer camp has the opportunity to be the living laboratory where social experiments are conducted to see what a truly equitable world looks like. Summer camp is the world where everyone can be included and all are recognized and respected for their differences and strengths. The skills, rules, and commitments necessary to make radically inclusive environments can be determined, refined, and then shared to the rest of the world.

The rest of the world can’t immediately enact legislation that requires people to ask for consent before touching another person’s body. But summer camps can make that rule.

The rest of the world can’t just snap their fingers and say everyone must use non-binary gender pronouns, but summer camps can.

The rest of the world can’t instantly implement a brave space where conversations about privilege and intent versus impact happen respectfully. But summer camps can.

The rest of the world can’t simply say, “everybody put down your screens and talk to each other.” But summer camps can. And summer camps do.


What does summer camp look like in a #metoo world?

Call-in to a brave space

In the past when having challenging conversations, youth development professionals often used the term “safe space” to represent an environment where it was okay to speak up, share out, and challenge one another. However, the very definition of safe contradicts the experiences necessary to grow. To experience growth, one must take risks, be challenged, and have the opportunity to fail or stumble. By using the term “brave space,” camps, can instead, ask for bravery from the community, rather than promising the illusion of safety.

Bravery can be celebrated in your camp community. Imagine the staff member that says, “I’m a white male and I recognize that I have been privileged growing up and I still don’t understanding why the Black Lives Matter movement is such a big deal.” While this statement may sting some in the group, in a brave space, this staff member is acknowledged for his bravery to speak up and for offering the invitation for others to educate him.

Instead of calling him out as privileged or racist, there is the opportunity for this staff member to indicate to the group, “Hey, I want to know more and I am not totally sure how to ask. Help me understand.” And when staff step into that space with vulnerability and authenticity, those staff are able to take control of their own learning, open their minds and hearts to others’ experiences, and listen more fully to what is shared around them.

Consider setting aside time this summer for your staff to share what gender means to them personally and how they have come to understand their own and other gender identifications. Simply hearing from one another about what they have learned in the past can help those in the community have more empathy and understanding about where folks are coming from.

Offer your staff the opportunity to fill in the blank on the following statement and share out with others in the community: “It really bugs me when others ask me_________________.” Most camp directors hate being asked what they do the rest of the year and having the opportunity to share that frustration and talk about it further can be a true bonding experience between people. This same bonding experience can be extended to discussions about gender, race, religion, and other beliefs and values.

Teach consent to all

Consent education doesn’t just belong in sex education class. Consent education can be taught to all ages if you use the guiding principle that a person is the captain of their body and nobody can touch, change, feed, or enter that body without the captain’s permission. See the flow chart below about the difference between asking for consent and asking for cooperation in youth programming.

Consent education-2.jpg

Talk about trust and boundaries

With the prevalence of fake news and alleged atrocious acts from public figures, it can be impossible to know who to trust. There is much uncertainty today and anxiety about trusting the “right” people is rampant in both youth and adults. Encourage staff to use the word trust when appropriate with one another and with staff. Consider having staff discuss what it means to break trust and what are some of the boundaries around trust. Encourage a strong connection to self for campers and staff and a trust in their own beliefs, values, and boundaries. If something doesn’t feel right, encourage campers and staff to speak up and advocate for themselves.

Encourage action

In light of the March for Our Lives, it may be that campers or staff want to create their own movements. If a group of campers wants to put together a march to rally around a topic, ask how you can help. Ask questions about what they want to accomplish and offer guidance on how to plan programs or events that are effective and engaging for all. Consider a social justice evening program or an opportunity for campers to ask questions about what they are hearing about in the news. Perhaps that is an informal conversation that is sparked during a more sedentary activity.

If a camper brings up a controversial topic, use the technique that Scott Arizala teaches and encourage staff to say, “It seems like you are curious about XYZ. Tell me more about what you are wondering about.” By asking questions directed at the camper’s curiosity, rather than directed at the topic itself, it demonstrates to participants that the staff member may be able to engage in the conversation without shutting down the discussion because it is taboo and without sharing personal details from the staff member’s life.

Camp staff are professional role models and they can role model how to have conversations about controversial or uncomfortable topics in a respectful and professional way. Equip staff to ask campers about their evidence when a camper states strong beliefs or facts and to ask this question regardless of whether they believe the fact to be true or not so all in the community get used to evaluating and sharing their sources.

You don’t have to be an expert

One of the biggest hurdles to leading conversations around controversial topics is directors feeling like they are not experts in that topic. In this case, it is okay to show some vulnerability and authenticity and say, “I don’t have all the answers and I am interested to hear more about your experiences.” There may be a staff member who has expertise to share that may step up and voice their knowledge given the invitation. There may be questions or concerns around the topic that never occurred to you that will be brought up for the whole group, raising awareness of triggers, challenges, and frustrations that may have previously been unspoken.

Look at your own social media accounts and pay attention to what voices you are hearing. Are there podcasts that you can listen to that express opinions or experiences vastly different from your own? Are there Jnstagram accounts you can follow that will give you a glimpse into someone else’s life that is completely different from yours? Are there other camp directors or professionals in the area who want to talk about gender, equitable work places, social justice, and other issues that are relevant in local, regional, and national communities? Can you create the space for these conversations to happen? Yes, summer camps can.

Want help?

Consent education - Keep an eye on for a suite of materials to assist in bringing consent education to your camp from lesson plans to power points and handouts for staff and campers coming soon.

Delegate this - Hire me to come to your camp to facilitate these conversations and empower staff on the skills and tactics addressed above.

Hey those who identify as female in the camping industry! - Come to the first annual Women in Camping Summit in St Charles, IL November 7-9, 2018 where all kinds of discussions and presentations surrounding being a female camp professional will happen. This first year is only open to those who identify as female with plans to open the summit up to all genders in future years.