Started in 2004 out in Whistler, Crankworx seems to have always had women in the competition. It begs me to ask the question “Why now?”. If women have always been involved, what happened this year to finally offer the same prize money and why did it take over 10 years to do so?
“It was just time. There are amazing things happening on two wheels right now and we should be able to recognize women for the feats they accomplish on an equal footing to men,” says Darren Kinnaird, Crankworx World Tour manager. “Hopefully, this will encourage more women to get involved in competitive mountain biking.”
I don’t think this actually answers the 10 year gap of the prize money difference. Women’s feats should have been recognized 10 years ago when they first started! It’s not like differences in pay based on gender is a new issue. Don’t get me wrong: I’m incredibly happy for it and I think it’s important that we collectively congratulate Crankworx. Should this decision have occurred many years earlier? Of course…but it didn’t. And now it is. I want this to be encouraging news and I want this to be the trend that all competitions (not just in mountain biking) begin implementing.
It’s really easy to fall into the negative-thinking trap and really get upset with this when you consider it’s been 10 years of inequality (heck, I’ve had to edit this blog entry as I work myself up over the injustice of it!) but I do think we need to be positive. The change took a long time but the change has actually happened. My concern is that if we slam the organizations that are actually implementing the change, what incentive do other competitions have for equalizing pay-outs and prize money (shout out to the Dunbar Dowhnhill Summer Series as they typically have equal payouts!)? Crankworx has done something great. They’re actually promoting women and showing the globe (their world tour includes both New Zealand and France) that women are valued as highly as men in mountain biking. It’s a huge step in breaking down the barriers that exist for women in pretty much any sport.
How are girls to know that mountain biking is “ok” for them to participate in if venues only promote men and blatantly provide significant better prizes to men? I understand that, from a business perspective, numbers talk. With low rates of women participating in mountain bike competitions, it’s not just about offering cash. There needs to be a concentrated effort of promoting women who are competing. Posters and photos need to be featuring women and clinics and teams need to be supported. In an article on PinkBike last fall, Endless Biking took on the challenge of trying to answer “Where have all the ladies gone?”. With a women’s specific team, Endless Biking is doing their part to increase the participation rate. Kelli Sherbinin, co-owner and president of Endless Biking, sums up how I believe we can increase women’s participation in biking:
“There are women in this sport doing fabulous things, and they are capable of inspiring girls and women to participate and excel in sports. They need increased exposure in order to reach people, have their voices heard, and spread their athletic passion.”
Let’s start telling by telling our friends and family (including the men!) that not only CAN women compete but they SHOULD. Support the competitions that promote women and let’s start sharing their stories. Do you know of some amazing women mountain bikers? Share their information with me through Awesome Active Women!