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Women in trade: Sasha Castling, Ribble Cycles

It is no secret that women are underrepresented in the cycling industry. According to Cycling UK, only one million women in the UK cycle regularly – just 3% of the population, with many more bike journeys made by men than women.

Imagine the difference that could be made to the sport and the industry by encouraging more women to cycle – after all, we are potential customers and employees for your business. But how is the industry itself catering to the women who work in it? Is the gap really closing or is there still a long way to go? Rebecca Morley got in touch with five women from different areas of the trade to find out how they got into the industry, what their experiences have been and what more could be done.

Today, we hear from Sasha Castling, PR and marketing, Ribble Cycles.

Tell us about how you got into the cycle industry.
I first became involved through my role at a design consultancy working on the branding for the original Boardman Bikes concept and founders. As time progressed I moved across into the business taking on the PR and marketing responsibilities. It was an exhilarating time to enter a completely new marketplace and bring my branding and design experience to a new arena. It was also inspiring to be involved with the creation and development of a completely new British bicycle brand and to work with one of our British cycling legends. Move forward a few years and I go from one of the youngest brands to one of the oldest, working with Ribble Cycles which has been in existence for more than a century and is innovatively looking to the future. Exciting times ahead.

What’s been your proudest moment so far?
Working with a team of people to create a powerful new brand is certainly up there – but the stand out two would have to be unveiling a new bike at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii and launching a complete range of bikes on the 31st floor of an iconic building in central London. That in itself was quite an achievement as the venue only had one lift and a two-hour window for us to transport everything up – but the bespoke cocktail created for the evening more than made up for it. To launch an extensive range of bikes with our World and Olympic Champions alongside the great and the good from the media whilst overlooking the capital’s night skyline was certainly one of my career highlights. A true testament to all the hard work, dedication, belief, determination and all that our small team had achieved. A great event, which still makes me feel incredibly proud. 

What are your experiences of being a woman in the cycling industry?
My experiences have been extremely positive – historically it has been a male-dominated sector, but I’ve had the absolute pleasure of working with some extremely talented and inspiring women from across the industry. I love the drive and enthusiasm that all of my colleagues have – they are all super motivated, extremely supportive and exceptionally professional. Personally, it’s been one of the nicest industries I’ve worked in and made me feel most welcome. 

Do you feel that the gender gap is closing at all?
Yes, but there is still plenty of progress to be made. It’s great that we are seeing much more coverage of women’s cycling combined with more female-focused initiatives, which in turn raises the profile of cycling across the board. I am positive we will continue to see more and more women enter the industry and flourish as it continues to grow. This will not be achieved overnight, but it’s definitely moving in the right direction – and I am really looking forward to the day when gender gap is not an issue and this will no longer be a question! 

If you could give one piece of advice to women entering the industry, what would it be?
The cycling industry is an exciting place to be with lots of opportunities for talented individuals to become part of a genuinely rewarding profession – make the most of all opportunities available to you – who knows where they may lead!

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