There's been a fair bit of negativity in the press this last week in relation to sexism in cycling, particularly within British Cycling. I'm not going to comment on something which seems to be pretty obvious to me, other than to point out two facts: 1) there are no female executive directors on the Board of British Cycling (Alex Russell and Marian Lauder are two of three non-executive directors who are there to oversee the Board's actions) and 2) there are no female members in the senior management at British Cycling. You can draw your own conclusions on that.
What this week has brought home to me though is that there is now, more than ever, a need to empower the women within the sport to help build on the progress we have made so far and change the culture for the better. In order to do that, the Racing Chance Foundation is committed to help those women who want to bring about lasting change within our sport.
With this in mind, here are a few things that riders can do as individuals:
1. Vote with your feet and enter races early
How often have you rolled your eyes when an organiser uses the phrase "use it or lose it, girls"? It's something you never hear organisers say to elite men who can be just as bad as the women for entering late. But women riders don't help organisers by entering in advance. Just because you think you will get a ride doesn't mean that you shouldn't enter early. It's a big financial commitment to put on any race, so put organisers' minds at rest and support the organisers who are trying to help you by entering well in advance of the closing date.
2. If you're uncomfortable with how you are being treated, say something
There are relatively few women involved in the management of teams or clubs and sometimes it can be difficult for women to speak up if there's an issue, mainly because women on the whole don't have as much confidence as men. At the same time, it's a male dominated sport and you might be given the excuse of "that's just how it is, get over it". However, if you genuinely have a concern about how something is being run, tell somebody else about it. If you're not sure who to speak to, get in touch with us.
3. Get involved on a local level
Women's cycling is, for the most part, an amateur sport. That means it's run by volunteers and the more people who volunteer, the better. There are more ways than ever that you can get involved; for example, offer to help your local club or race series. The more people that get involved, the more people encourage others to join in and take part, the bigger the reach and the more opportunities there will be. Don't focus solely on your team promotion, remember that whilst its reach is relatively small (sorry, it is) everyone involved in women's cycling is a stakeholder and intrinsic to its future success.
4. The BC Structure - National Council needs more female representation
This can be seen as complicated. British Cycling is a National Governing Body and it is run by a Board of Directors who are elected by the membership via the National Council which meets once a year, in November, in Crewe, Cheshire. In order to have a vote at National Council, you have to attend as one of your Region's National Councillors, who are chosen by vote at your Region's Annual General Meeting in September. In order to be considered, you have to submit a CV (usually requested in August) which is then put forward to the vote at the AGM. It tends to be the same people each year as nobody really knows about it, but an increase in female National Councillors would definitely be a step forward.
The issue with the current situation is that in order to stand for election as a Director of the main Board, you have to demonstrate that you have experience in either senior management or as a director of a company, which prevents most women from standing. That and the fact that you have to persuade your Regional Board to support your nomination, which is easier said than done.
However, all members of British Cycling are entitled to attend the National Council (or so I am led to believe) as onlookers, you just can't vote.
5. Get involved with your Regional Board
If you have time to attend meetings, which are usually once a month, and you want to get involved, you can also stand for election to your Regional Board. The process is the same as election for National Council as detailed above.
6. Being involved in sport gives you confidence
Women's sport is reliant on women getting involved and growing through increased participation. Although men play a big part in changing the status quo, they sometimes need convincing that women want the opportunities to race. If you open your mind to the fact that everyone involved in women's cycling has a part to play, let that be the reason that you empower yourself and help other women to do the same and let's move women's cycling into the 21st century.