‘I’ve faced some challenges which I believe are completely down to my gender’

It’s no secret that the cycling industry is male-dominated; from trade shows to press tours, I often walk into a room and instantly notice how few women there are. It can sometimes feel quite intimidating.

But I can’t say I was surprised to find that the cycling industry is this way – almost all sports are the same, or at least, it’s the men’s games that see more promotion. This simply makes the problem worse – how likely are women to enter a sport or trade if they don’t feel represented in it?

Many girls grow up unaware of the numerous opportunities that are out there for them, from a career point of view as well as their general interests, and this ultimately results in them going down a beaten path that is more traditionally female.

But how do the experiences vary for those already working in the bike trade? I reached out to six women to talk about the cycling industry, its gender gap and what more could be done.

Today’s edition: ‘I’ve faced some challenges which I believe are completely down to my gender’

Tell us about how you got into the cycle industry.
I fell into the industry about eight years ago, originally hired by a cycling brand for my language and copy skills and quickly became very engaged with the sport! Since then, I’ve moved into various roles at a few different brands – varying in size and company culture.

What are your experiences of being a woman in the cycling industry?
It’s definitely a struggle and I’ve faced some challenges which I believe are completely down to my gender. I definitely feel like I have to work harder to prove my worth and gain respect than my male counterparts. Having a strong community of women in my network has definitely helped keep me motivated and navigate difficult situations.

There are few women at the top of this industry, but finding the ones who have made it and seeking their advice and support is something I’ve actively sought out and would encourage other women to do too. It’s definitely helped me get to where I am today and made me feel less alone on the journey.

Do you feel that the gender gap is closing at all, and if not, what more could be done?
This question is a bit of a sore one for me right now as I recently found out that I’m paid significantly less than a male counterpart who does a very similar job to me (same title). I approached this with my line manager and was told the gap was justified. I’m in the position now of feeling completely undervalued and unsure of what my next steps should be; challenge it with legal support (using the Equal Pay Act 2010) and risk my relationship with management and potentially impact future employability within the industry or shut up and accept it? Neither of those options sit well with me.

So, to answer the question, I don’t know what the pay gap looks like across the industry but in my own experience, it’s very much still there and it’s difficult to know how to tackle it. I know that I ensure within my team, who I manage, that this type of gap between the men and women doing similar roles doesn’t exist. But is that enough to impact real change across the industry? Probably not.

If you could give one piece of advice to women entering the industry, what would it be?
I think this industry is great fun to work in, I had a blast in my first few years. However, I don’t feel like it’s one that really invests in the people who work in it. I look at friends in other industries and they seem to have a greater sense of feeling looked after and protected by their employers. I’ve seen most of my employers not do things by the book, e.g. dismiss people without proper grounds or following proper process, not providing contracts or payslips, not providing anything above statutory requirements when it comes to pensions and maternity/parental leave (although I’m sure there are some exceptions.)

My advice would be to think seriously about whether you want to work in the industry long-term and if you do, be prepared to work twice as hard as your male counterparts if progression is on your agenda and make sure you have the energy to fight hard to prove yourself worthy to everyone else once you’ve got there. I’ve been in the industry for almost eight years and am not sure I have much fight left to stay in it for much longer.

Trying to make a positive change for myself and other women has been and continues to be exhausting, and perhaps it would be easier to find an industry and organisation where the principles and ideals around gender parity already align more closely with mine?

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