Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental and Energy Policy (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Social Sciences

Advisor 1

Richelle Winkler

Advisor 2

Angie Carter

Committee Member 1

Adam Wellstead

Committee Member 2

Casey Huckins


This dissertation applies feminist theory to investigate women’s participation in wildlife-based recreation and how natural resource management organizations conduct stakeholder engagement in a North American context. Gendered social processes, including norms and expectations, as well as gendered cultures, can constrain women’s participation in recreation through social sanctions and disenfranchisement. Gender and leisure scholars have studied these dynamics in sport and leisure contexts, but how individuals negotiate these constraints is understudied in a wildlife-based recreation context. Social constructions of gender also contribute to imbalances of power within formal natural resource management organizations and influence how stakeholder engagement policies and programs are implemented and evaluated.

I applied a mixed methods approach to study how women’s recreational fishing participation trends, and their first-hand fishing experiences, are impacted by gendered expectations among both recreational anglers and fisheries managers. Demographic analysis of women’s fishing participation patterns in the Great Lakes region show women’s fishing participation varies by age and generation. To confirm gender-related reasons for these differences, I conducted a feminist participatory project that provided space for women to share how their fishing experiences were impacted by gendered social processes, age, birth cohort, and other intersecting aspects of their lives and identities. Using the Becoming an Outdoors Woman program as a case study, I demonstrated how historically gendered assumptions about how men and women should interact with fisheries and wildlife can constrain stakeholder engagement programs that serve women by limiting organizations’ ability to evaluate program outcomes and social value.

As a whole, this dissertation critically examines women’s experiences as fisheries stakeholders and questions the gendered approaches natural resource organization rely on to engage with women. Key contributions of this body of work include identifying how women and natural resource organizations both perpetuate and resist gendered expectations and norms. Understanding how gender influences North American natural resource management requires creative and more nuanced research approaches that consider how gender intersects with other socially institutionalized systems, processes, and identities.