Women in Innovation: Claire McDonnell, Dirt Maidens

We interview women in our community about innovation and what drives them to make a difference in their industries. This week we spoke to Claire McDonnell, Founder of Dirt Maidens.

Tell us about what you are working on.

Dirt Maidens supports women and girls to find confidence and community in the mountain bike world through skills clinics, social rides, bike tech sessions and bike events.

Many women want to learn to mountain bike, so that they can spend time with family, kids, partners and friends but they lack confidence and skills.
They might worry about their fitness, or about falling off, or crashing, and want to learn in a supportive female environment, with a female instructor who specialises in coaching women and girls. They might just want to find some others to socialise and ride with, who understand the challenges and can celebrate the wins with them.

Women and girls deserve to enjoy mountain biking as much as anyone. Our skills clinics, events and community can help make that happen.

 Why is innovation important to you?

If we want things to change, and for our children to have the opportunities we never had, we need to create solutions to the problems that we faced.

What drives you to make a difference?

Women and girls deserve to experience the outdoors, the freedom, the physical, mental health and social benefits, the connection to nature, and the challenge to comfort zones that outdoor pursuits such as mountain biking can offer.

They just need to be supported in ways that are appropriate and encouraging, with opportunities to realise their potential.

With the rise in mental health concerns, poor self-esteem and body image, lack of community, disconnect from nature, and increasing incidence of chronic disease due to sedentary lifestyle, mountain biking gives a huge ‘bang for buck’ and addresses all of these concerns. Canberra also offers a perfect environment for engagement in mountain biking, with various trails across different parts of Canberra, and our purpose built Stromlo Forest Park which is due for a major upgrade.

Everyone should have the opportunity to experience the vast array of benefits that mountain biking can deliver. Given that Mountain Biking is still a heavily male-dominated sport, women and girls need an approach that makes it more accessible and inviting to come and try it out, which is what Dirt Maidens is all about.

Do you have any advice for getting more women into innovation and entrepreneurship?

Share more stories of women doing awesome things. Every time we, as women, encourage another woman, and share and celebrate the successes of other women, we bring light to the possibilities for others out there.

What are you proud of right now?

Coming to the end of my first year of Dirt Maidens (after my big break to have kids), I have had over 100 women through skills clinics, mostly through beginner clinics, and gaining some momentum in the girls mountain biking space too.

I’m super proud of the progress that women I coach have made. From the mums that have taken up mountain biking so that they can be role models of a healthy and active lifestyle for their kids, to the women in their 50’s and 60’s that have decided to do something for themself, I’m so proud of everyone who comes along and gives it a go. The challenges they overcome to simply turn up at an unfamiliar place that is still dominated by males, and be prepared to try, fall down, get back up and keep going- it’s my absolute pleasure and privilege to be part of.

Thanks for chatting Claire! Make sure to check out Dirt Maidens if you ever wanted to learn more about mountain biking. Make sure to like and follow them on Instagram and Facebook

If you would like to hear from more inspirational women in innovation, come along to our Female Founders events.