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: ‘Male-dominant businesses are becoming a dated concept’
Tell us about how you got into the cycle industry.
In 2018, I made the decision to do a little exploring and live in Sweden for a year to complete an MSc. I had never been a big cyclist before, aside from cycling to and from nearby friends’ houses as a young teen, but since adulthood, the idea of getting sweaty out in the open and cycling on busy roads had never particularly appealed to me. However, living in a Scandinavian country opened my eyes to the endless benefits that cycling has to offer.
Despite the harsh weather, in my small town cycling was by far the most common method of transport, with safe cycle routes to the university and picturesque views of the lake. The cyclists showed diversity, with men, women, old and young cycling, even the bars and clubs had a mass of bicycles parked outside them – quite the sight to an outsider like me!
The town had fewer cars, lower pollution levels and a very happy population, much of this could be directly attributed to the love of cycling held by the people there. From hereon, I knew this was a method of transportation that should be encouraged and invested in in the UK, and that any business supporting this notion must surely be a positive thing.
What are your experiences of being a woman in the industry?
As a female cyclist myself, it is impossible not to notice that I am often severely outnumbered on the roads. My daily commute sees a number of male cyclists, and while it’s a really great sight to see cycling commuters, few to no females seem to be out on two wheels at 8am along the main roads.
This male-heavy ratio is also reflected in the industry. With the bulk of trade shows attendees as well as retailers being made up by white middle-aged men, it is understandable that it could be overwhelming to be a minority in the industry. I personally feel grateful to be working at a company that has never made me feel undermined in any way, or that my intelligence has ever been undoubted. I understand that this may not be the norm for many females working within the industry.
Do you feel that the gender gap is closing at all, and if not, what more could be done?
The larger cycling organisations are setting excellent examples – initiatives such as Cycling UK’s Women’s Festival of Cycling and the London Bike Show’s Women’s Cycling Awards celebrate females within the industry and welcome more to join.
An influx of smaller female-only cycling clubs, either in-person or using apps such as Strava, and more IBDs making the effort to become female-friendly shows that, while progress may be a little slow, we are certainly pedalling in the right direction.
If you could give one piece of advice to women entering the industry, what would it be?
Unfortunately, the cycling industry is still at the stage where females need to work a little harder to prove themselves to a number of the trade. However, the female cycling community is growing. Male-dominant businesses, while certainly still around, are becoming a dated concept. If cycling is something that you enjoy then jump on your bicycle and get on board with as many female-friendly initiatives as possible to spread the word!