On the 16th July we asked the internet what barriers they believe exist at every level of women’s racing. We got a great response with a real variety of comments, coming from both men, women, novices, experienced racers and non-racers. It was really eye-opening and definitely made us consider certain things we hadn’t thought of before. We unfortunately don’t have a solution for the distinct disparity in numbers, and maybe there isn’t an ‘answer’ as such. It may just be a case of waiting for youngsters to come through, motivating current racers and encouraging those that have the desire to have a go and enter a race.
One thing we do know, is that it’s important to keep the conversation going. So here is a summary of the responses we received and suggestions for the future!
Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts, it was fascinating.
Perceived barriers/thoughts around women’s racing:
· Cost of getting a race licence
“The cost of getting a BC license definitely made me flinch”
· Feeling slow
“It's focused on being fast, and I constantly feel slow as f***”
· Racing just doesn’t appeal
“I personally just think why bother. It just doesn't appeal”
· Combined races
“The idea of being engulfed by the men’s field midway through the race terrified me”
· Self confidence
“For me the biggest barrier I found wasn’t the money…it’s the confidence you need in yourself and your own abilities. One bad race can totally throw you off…”
· Racing feels dangerous
“Crits just seem too risky. I've heard people say that women's aren't as bunchy as men's, but I just don't think it's worth the risk”
"You have to be very comfortable with being vulnerable and the chance that you might do really rubbish”
· Race organisers not providing for women
"If race organisers treated racing with a legitimate 50:50 level of commitment then perhaps there’d be better quality women’s races that act to invite more racers than push away”
· Everyone that wants to race already is
“If people aren’t inclined to race then there is no barrier."
“The amateur race scene is largely open and supportive and there’s a wealth of resource out there for anyone that’s eager to give it a go and most importantly a lot of incredible men and women out there that are more than happy to share knowledge, skill and experiences. And those that really want to race will seek these things out”
· Seems unattainable
"Probs not specific to women’s racing but cycling racing seems like it’s reserved for a completely different league of rider to us ‘normal’ people … With a crit race, it feels like if you turned up with anything less than a flashy carbon bike, all of the skills and all of the speed you’d be getting funny looks and would be dropped straight away”
· Low participation in organised events
"We have difficulties in the north getting any sort of numbers for women's crits this year. Though, interestingly, percentage-wise the drop is about the same for men and women's races (just there were a lot more men to start with)”
“Low numbers also mean e/1/2/3/4 races, which is quite intimidating for a newbie”
“From a rider’s prospective it's difficult to motivate yourself when 9 people turn up and then points are reduced. Then it's less appealing to pre-enter, the pre-entries are then low and then entries on the day are a gamble”
“This is mainly due to not enough racers & local races. It’s a catch 22 situation. More races aren’t being placed on the calendar for women because organisers don’t want the financial risk”
· Fear of failure and judgement
“Fear of failure and looking stupid comes into even more for women than men - perhaps because men judge women and women judge women...”
· Internal barriers and vicious circles
“Sometimes a lack of confidence, or self-esteem, leads some (not all) women to not want to sign up or step up because they don’t have the inherent self-confidence to do so. Crucially, that inherent self-confidence is often built and encouraged by involvement in sport, so it becomes a bit of a vicious circle”
· Pressure on racing women is unhelpful
"Putting pressure on an already small pool of women who cycle to race is counterproductive. Racing isn’t for everyone and it shouldn’t be pushed onto anyone who isn’t interested. Framing it as a gender issue creates an unfair pressure.
“It does feel like you are responsible for women's racing succeeding…”
“I think the advertising, and limitations placed on women’s racing is a big “off-putter” and it sends a really negative message!"
· Hope for the future
"Also, there are such a lot of really good junior women that I think in the next few years we will see the numbers go up… or at least I hope so.”
We also had some interesting suggestions:
We need more female solidarity and support - it’s there 100% in pockets, but we can deffo do more to encourage newbies and welcome them that bit more at races!
I think what clubs like Velociposse are doing with their skills session are brilliant. It's a much cheaper way to test and improve skills with the help of peers in a more controlled environment first.
The numbers will always be less for women. Focus should be applied on those who turn up. Then more people will come.
Surround yourself with positive supportive people then just turning up and standing on that start line is an achievement.
The issue that prevents itself with a lot of these type of events is the culture. Make it inclusive, inviting and encouraging and people will stay.
Surely if the women’s local race scene is the flourish it needs a complete re-think and help from British Cycling.
To encourage women to race and keep racing, more needs to be done to the structure of the points system, race categories (i.e not all together) and date clashes.
We try to teach skills in a very fun and low-pressure environment, as well as sharing advice and encouragement.
Redbridge Cycling Centre have an awesome set up for first time races; free skills session before the race and awesome chill vibes.
Perhaps a change in messaging in order for all races to appear more inclusive (to all genders) and we guess that goes back to systemic change from the top...