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Not Just a Boys’ Club Concludes with Important Message

Genevieve de la Plante is the leading force behind the B.I.G. Initiative. In this final part, Alexa Fay directs to describe this unique organization

How many times have I heard “I am not going to hire a woman just because she’s a woman. I’m going to hire the best candidate for the job.” – Geneviève de la Plante

In climbing, openness to diversity is often dressed as the inclusion of diversity itself. Where climbers have long understood themselves open-minded folks, the reality remains that the industry is almost entirely made of men. In these last weeks, director Alexa Fay released four shorts that each target different aspects of this industry. She spoke with route setters, business owners, competitive climbers, and photographers, all to describe the fact that climbing is not an actively inclusive space for women.

In her final short she focused on the one organization that has made meaningful, consistent strides to reach out to women and include them in the industry space. She spoke with Genevieve de la Plante.

De la Plante is the founder of the B.I.G. Initiative. After years in the industry, De la Plante noted how difficult it was to find and hold on to female route setters. In an industry that prioritizes nepotism, like route setting, getting your start as a female in the industry, especially in a team composed almost entirely of men, provides social and structural challenges.

Seeing a need, she expected that someone would rise to solve the problem. In the end, De la Plante was that person. Organizing a team about her, she began to plan setting workshops across the country. These workshops attained a following and became more popular. Eventually, they were making their first film series and now their second.

Photo by Alexa Fay

In this final film, Fay presents B.I.G.’s thesis. Part Four opens with the above quote and moves through the team that makes up the B.I.G. Initiative. It branches further to find Flannery Shay-Nemirow, the route setter that leads B.I.G.’s clinics. She described her own path in the industry and her own experience being utilized as a female body for female boulders. This hits hard for it appears that the male route setting team she described both noted the fact that women have a lot to contribute to the setting space, while simultaneously refusing to support the woman whose help they required.

Given time, this changed and Shay-Nemirow became the professional route setter that she aspired toward. This introduction established the base for De la Plante’s next point. She wanted to give women practical tools to become route setters. She wanted to offer targeted classes designed to help women flourish in the sport. It had the secondary effect of providing an all-female community in a male-dominated space.

The film ends on a powerful note where De la Plante described what she hoped for the future. “I think that a lot of young women don’t see themselves as route setters,” she said. “What I would want for them is to start to see that differently and to have confidence in themselves and to take a chance on themselves.”

Geneviève de la Plante and Flannery Shay-Nemirow