Inclusivity in Cycling (a lack thereof)

As International Women’s Day gets a little less than 3 weeks away I want to talk a little more on women in biking. First of all, a note on language, when I use the word “woman” I am referring to anyone who identifies as a woman or expresses their gender as feminine.  Check out the gender unicorn if you are confused on what that might mean. We are talking about women because in a recent study done by Camber Outdoors the biking industry was perceived as the most gender exclusive. Camber Outdoors is an organization that focuses on promoting equity for womxn and underrepresented communities in the workplace of active-outdoors industries and has a theory of change that is rooted in workplace equity and diversity that cultivates a more sustainable and healthy active-outdoor industry. While on the surface this might just seem like a capitalist scheme to garner more consumers of active-outdoor industry goods and raise profits, the idea at its core is equity and diversity for sustainability, which is pretty radical albeit capitalist. Their model is below.

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In the study 17% of respondents worked in the cycling industry and they asked both men and women identifying folks how they perceived their workplaces as non-discriminatory (or not) as well as dealing with sexual harassment in a correct way, or with a policy of zero-tolerance. The difference in the answers of men and women varied a significant amount and is telling of where the outdoor industry needs to improve as well as who it is built for and how those people perceive it’s accessibility and inclusivity.

Specifically in the bike industry, 42% of women reported being affected by behaviour that is discriminatory or bias on a company level and 55% reported being affected on an industry level. These are strikingly high in comparison to the other specific industries like snow, running,and outdoor as well as the answers of all women in the study regardless of industry affiliation. In addition, 37% of professionals in the bike industry who took the survey said the culture of their industry was exclusive to for employees based on gender as well as tolerated disrespectful communication and behaviour based on gender and that their industry didn’t take employees and their perspectives seriously independent of gender.

Interestingly enough, a different group called Diversify Outdoors with a similar mission but less of a focus on women and more of a focus on inclusivity to people of color and GLBTQIA+ folks had a pledge that different outdoor industry CEO’s commit to. In signing the pledge companies commit to hiring and supporting a diverse workforce and leadership, presenting representative marketing and advertising in their media, engaging and supporting broadly representative athlete teams, as well as sharing their experience in these aims with other outdoor companies. While this pledge hasn’t gotten as much media coverage as the Camber survey it represents a growing need for the outdoor industry to be more inclusive and leaders that are spearheading that movement.

This data and project are monumental in the scheme of making biking more accessible. It is also integral to those already working in the biking industry to cultivate awareness and cognizance of its perception from those who might not yet be as involved as they want to be, and what limits them from that. For me, this is key to also informing how we advertise biking at Dickinson and how we can do our best to make it an inclusive space.  

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