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 received just as many opportunities to progress and develop as my male counterparts’
Tell us about how you got into the cycle industry.
My background is in marketing and I ended up in the cycling industry quite accidentally whilst looking to pursue the type of consumer marketing that I find fascinating. I initially took on quite a junior role within our business but have been lucky enough to have received a couple of promotions during my five years with the company.
What are your experiences of being a woman in the cycling industry?
To be honest, my experience of being a woman in the cycling industry has been overall very good. There has definitely been the odd joke or two about my lack of cycling knowledge, especially when it comes to quite technical products! But it’s not something that has ever really bothered me, and I tend to view them in a good-natured way.
Ultimately, it’s my belief that when you work as a team, you need a blend of skill sets and not everyone is there to be an expert in everything. I’m not here to be an expert in technical cycling components, that’s what I rely on my team to help me with and they rely on me to help them with how to market their products, write content and report on campaign KPIs.
Then, in terms of the career front, I believe that I’ve received just as many opportunities to progress and develop as my male counterparts.
Do you feel that the gender gap is closing at all, and if not, what more could be done?
This probably depends on how you are interpreting that question… If we’re talking in terms of how women are represented proportionally compared with men in certain job roles, then I’d say there are some roles where women are underrepresented, such as mechanics, sales and product development.
However, I would also say there are areas where women are overrepresented such as finance, marketing and administrative roles. From what I have seen, the cycling industry has always seemed happy to welcome women into whatever roles are available if they have the inclination and work ethic.
In terms of the professional sport level, I would say that there are significant changes that need to be made on the equality front. There are very few opportunities for women to viably support themselves as a pro cyclist and the disparity in both publicity and prize money for men’s and women’s events is vast.
When talking in terms of equality on salary then yes, I would say there can still be a bit of a gap, but I would be very surprised if this was higher than in other industries. I do think that generally women also need to take a bit of responsibility for their own progression and development. Often it seems like men progress quicker than women or are better rewarded financially because they’re a bit more bold and forward with their employers. This is something that is backed up by research, showing that 64% of men are comfortable asking for a pay rise compared with just 43% of women, and that when men receive a rise, it is most likely to be in the region of 3-5% compared with 2% for women.
Personally, I think that the simplest way to progress or achieve a promotion is to think about the role that you want to do, and start taking on responsibilities where you can on top of your role that are linked to the role you are trying to achieve. Often, you’ll find that after a while you have quite a good case for promotion. Most importantly, when asking for any form of salary increase, you need to focus on your employer and not yourself.
Unfortunately, as much as we would like to think otherwise, the company finance department doesn’t really care if you want to buy a house, get a new car, get married, if you have a baby on the way or if you just want a bit of extra cash for your weekends! I’ve personally heard too many people ask for a salary increase from that perspective, and it never works.
If you could give one piece of advice to women entering the industry, what would it be?
The most important piece of advice I could give to women entering the industry would be to choose your manager wisely, and I would say, this is often more important than the actual role you will be taking on. I have had some extremely supportive managers during my career who have helped me to develop both in terms of my professional competencies and as a person and these managers really are the ones you want to stay close to.
If it’s not possible for one reason or another to have that kind of relationship with your manager, then I would advise women to seek out an alternative mentor within the company who they can learn from and who is more senior to them and can champion them and their interests at the management level.