The cycling industry, dominated by white, heterosexual men, faces significant challenges in diversity and inclusion. A recent study revealed a concerning yet not unexpected reality, with many women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ community members experiencing harassment and degrading comments.
Key industry figures are calling for change:
- Cassondra Spring emphasizes the need for a sustained effort to prioritize women and women-focused initiatives. She urges the industry to look forward, not backward.
- Kate Veronneau candidly expresses her desire to see more women in leadership roles within the cycling industry.
- Sasha Castling highlights the benefits of a diverse and inclusive industry, including improved business, new narratives, increased participation, and sustainability. She believes that fostering inclusive cultures benefits everyone in the industry.
Alarmingly, 71% of women in the cycling industry are contemplating leaving, a higher percentage than in other male-dominated fields like the automotive industry, where about 40% of women are considering a career shift. This statistic underscores the urgent need for transformative action in the cycling industry.
The Evolution of the Cycling Industry: A Push for Gender Balance
It might seem surprising that 71% of women in the cycling industry are considering leaving, especially with the rise of women-focused initiatives like the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, the formation of new women’s teams, and the launch of women’s cycling apparel brands like Jelenew. These developments suggest a concerted effort to achieve gender balance, but the question remains: are these changes substantive or merely superficial?
Despite disheartening statistics, there is a sense of optimism among female leaders in the industry. Sasha Castling, head of public relations at Ribble Cycles, notes a positive shift. “The industry landscape is definitely evolving,” she observes. When she began her career, women were scarce in the cycling industry, but now she sees a significant increase in women taking on diverse roles in global cycling companies, including tech, editorial, digital, photography, and engineering.
Castling highlights notable progress at Ribble, like the hiring of their first female mechanic and women in various key positions, such as operations, finance, customer service, and even on the company board.
Cassondra Spring, global brand manager at Liv Cycling, acknowledges the industry’s transformation but emphasizes that there’s still considerable work to be done. The growing presence of women in influential roles is a step in the right direction, yet the journey toward full gender parity in the cycling world continues.
The Progress and Potential of Women in the Cycling Industry
Sasha Castling of Ribble Cycles celebrates significant strides in gender diversity within her company, noting the remarkable appointments of the first female mechanic and women in key roles across various departments, including the company board. This marks a notable shift towards inclusivity in the industry.
However, Cassondra Spring points out that representation is still lacking, citing a recent industry conference where less than 20% of the bike brand representatives were women. Despite this, she remains optimistic, recognizing the vital role of current female leaders in paving the way for future generations. Spring emphasizes the need for a sustained commitment to prioritizing women in the industry, especially in challenging times.
Zwift, for instance, has demonstrated serious commitment by creating dedicated positions like the Director of Women’s Strategy, a role held by Kate Veronneau. She is at the forefront of initiatives like the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift and Zwift Academy, which promotes emerging talent in professional cycling, regardless of gender.
Veronneau is candid about her aspirations, expressing a desire to see more women in influential positions within the cycling industry. She suggests that the industry should look beyond just gender diversity and consider hiring from outside the traditional cycling community.
Castling echoes this sentiment, highlighting the broader benefits of a diverse and inclusive industry. Such an environment not only enhances business performance but also fosters new narratives and attracts wider participation, thereby ensuring the sector’s long-term viability.
Both Spring and Veronneau acknowledge the positive steps taken by brands in hiring from outside the cycling world. They urge these brands to maintain their commitment to career growth, inclusive cultures, fair compensation, and overall improvement of the cycling culture.
Spring concludes with a forward-thinking perspective, urging the cycling industry to focus on future goals rather than past practices. This approach is crucial for the industry to continue evolving and becoming more inclusive and equitable.
Fostering Women’s Leadership in the Cycling Industry Through Collaborative Efforts
The responsibility for increasing female representation in the cycling industry doesn’t solely rest on companies. There are several initiatives designed to empower women within this field and to encourage self-advocacy.
One such initiative is Uplift, a mentorship program developed by Shift Active Media. Its objective is to provide women in the industry with access to a network of influential senior female professionals who have already left their mark in the bike business. This program boasts mentors like the three women featured in this article, alongside female leaders from prominent organizations such as Specialized, Cannondale, SRAM, British Cycling, BMC, and Rapha.
Additionally, Women in Sports Tech (WiST) plays a crucial role in empowering women at the intersection of sports, technology, and innovation. WiST’s mission focuses on creating transformative growth opportunities for women and employers, spanning from educational settings to executive boardrooms. Their activities include hosting webinars, conferences, and a fellowship program, with some of these events being free to attend.
Kate Veronneau’s statement encapsulates the sentiment driving these efforts: “I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I want to see more women in leadership positions in the cycling industry.” This call to action reflects a broader movement within the industry, aiming to break down barriers and create a more inclusive and diverse environment for women to thrive.
Public Opinion and Data Highlight the Need for Greater Investment in Women’s Cycling
Public sentiment and research underscore the value of investing in women within the cycling industry, particularly in promoting women’s sports. A revealing study by Wasserman Media Group highlights the untapped potential of women athletes:
- Women athletes generate twice as much engagement on social media compared to their male counterparts.
- Fans demonstrate a 54% higher awareness of sponsors associated with women athletes than those linked to male athletes.
- Supporters of women athletes are 45% more inclined to consider or purchase products from sponsor brands, a stark contrast to men’s sports.
Despite these compelling statistics, there remains a significant disparity in earnings and sponsorship. According to Wasserman, male athletes earn on average 21 times more than female athletes, and a staggering 90% of sponsorship dollars flow into men’s sports.
This data paints a clear picture: investing in women’s cycling, particularly in elevating women to leadership roles and prioritizing female athletes, is not only a matter of equity but also a sound business decision. Brands in the cycling industry now face the crucial task of genuinely committing to this priority, recognizing the substantial benefits that come with supporting and promoting women in the sport.
The Call for Women to Drive Change in the Cycling Industry
The three influential women in this article, while acknowledging the ongoing challenges in achieving gender equality in cycling, share an enthusiastic outlook for the future of women in the industry.
Cassondra Spring emphasizes the timeliness and importance of joining the cycling industry now, to actively contribute to a more equitable future. She highlights the need for genuine enthusiasts – those who are passionate about cycling and committed to innovating and improving the industry.
Kate Veronneau predicts an increase in the value and impact of women’s perspectives in cycling in the coming years. She believes that current initiatives will only expand and become more influential.
Interestingly, the backgrounds of Castling, Spring, and Veronneau, which include creating new ventures, community organizing, and marketing to diverse audiences, suggest their innate ability to understand and engage with different stakeholders. This might support the notion that women often bring a collaborative and empathetic approach, though this is more an observation than a data-backed fact.
Echoing this sentiment, Castling uses a fitting metaphor: “Like a bicycle, life is about moving forward.” She invites women to join and shape the cycling industry with their unique perspectives, emphasizing the crucial role they play in defining the future of cycling in terms of visibility, vision, and voice. This call to action underscores the importance of female participation in an industry on the cusp of transformative change.