How Outdoor Afro Founder Rue Mapp Is Helping African Americans Connect With Nature

Every day in June, FN is showcasing female leaders across the industry for our Women in Power series.

Rue Mapp left corporate America in 2009 to form Outdoor Afro, a not-for-profit organization rooted in celebrating African American connections to nature. The Californian is dedicated to championing underrepresented women and helping them earn leadership opportunities both at Outdoor Afro and within the greater industry.

“My biggest accomplishment is leadership development. I’ve had people come on to be Outdoor Afro community leaders who have spun a whole new life for themselves,” Mapp said. “I could name 20 people off the top of my head who have found a pathway to a life in this work that has helped their families live differently, make different decisions on how they spend vacations and explore the different career opportunities that have come about.”

Of the people she’s helped lead, Mapp said she’s especially proud of Yanira Castro, the communications director of Outdoor Afro. Sending Castro to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska in June 2016, Castro said, was a catalyst for her joining the organization in a full-time capacity. (Prior to the trip, Castro was a volunteer leader.)

“Now she not only works with Outdoor Afro, but she’s also created her own communications network that’s helping other women and nonprofits led by women to help their work be seen and heard,” Mapp said.

Mapp, who has formed partnerships with brands including Keen, Columbia, The North Face and REI, among others, believes industries could take cues from companies such as McDonalds and Coca-Cola.

“They don’t have the diversity problem that we are talking about right now,” Mapp said. “They recognized from an early stage what’s already there, not just from a market opportunity but also leadership. If we can get more people to work at a director level and above, to be in a C suite or sit on national not-for-profit boards, that’s when we’ll see the needle be moved.”

Below, watch our video with Keds president Gillian Meek on how to succeed as a woman in the shoe industry.

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