I’m always interested in research into women’s cycling participation so I was intrigued to see a piece of research from Cycling Victoria last month. I’m a member of the Women’s Commission of Cycling NSW (the neighbouring state and key rival for those who aren’t Australian), and within my role I often look to Cycling Victoria for their leadership on the topic of women’s participation.
This piece of research conducted by a University collaboration for Cycling Victoria has some interesting conclusions. I was particularly interested in their methodology in which they used desk research, interviews of only 11 people and observation. I’m not a research expert but it did sound like a very small number of people to involve in such strong recommendations. So for what it’s worth here are the key findings and recommendations. You can see the whole research study here:
- Overt sexism, ingrained sexist attitudes, and gendered norms and expectations pervade cycling culture in Victoria, despite structural attempts to ‘level the playing field’
- The journey into (and out of) cycling is complex, and girls and women face additional barriers to participation and performance excellence that have not been fully understood or appreciated by CV, cycling clubs, event organisers, and bike shops
- Boys and men have a significant role to play in building a love of cycling for girls and women in Victoria
- There is a perceived lack of strategy, leadership and communication regarding gender equality and the growth of female cycling in Victoria
- Individual advocates for change have predominantly been volunteers working outside (or against) the formal structures of CV, and many are burnt out from years of fighting to change the system and feel isolated and unsupported
- New advocates with high levels of drive and energy have recently emerged – this is occurring outside of the formal structures of CV, and proposed initiatives bear striking similarity to previous individuals’ efforts, thus revealing a cyclical (and unsustainable) model of change
- There has been a lack of formalised gender equity action at the cultural level – therefore advocates for women’s cycling have had to ‘fight’ for their own interests (their clubs, recreation or racing agenda, different cycling disciplines) which has led to a fragmented, competitive approach to advocacy that has inhibited long-term change.
Based on the findings of this commissioned research, six recommendations are made to Cycling Victoria.
- Employ a gender equity (or female participation) officer for 3 years
- Establish and support a ‘Towards 50/50’ working party or advisory group
- Facilitate and champion gender equity education and diversity training
- Prioritise and clearly and creatively communicate the message that everybody is responsibility for gender (in)equality in cycling, and that everyone benefits from increasing female cycling participation in recreational riding and competitive racing
- Facilitate the diversification of what cycling clubs are, and who they are for: inspire clubs to adopt a model of transformation rather than inclusion
- Facilitate opportunities for girls and women to ride that do not unnecessarily pit clubs against each other
Turing these recommendations into equity actions will safeguard any progress made towards gender equality in cycling in Victoria, and will help Cycling Victoria to achieve their mission to ‘build a love of cycling’ for all Victorians, irrespective of their sex.
It will be interesting to see if they adopt any of these recommendations in this research into women’s cycling participation and the results they yield.