For once I can honestly say; I think I know what women want! This statement is in regard to basic pay in professional cycling and it is an issue that has been provoking arguments for decades and what has happened in this time? Nothing, if anything it has got worse. If you look at events around the world so much has changed, it’s astonishing to think that there was an apartheid in South Africa within my lifetime. After years of hard work it was finally abolished and steps could be taken towards equality.
But when we think of women’s professional road cycling and equality nothing has changed! I’m not comparing the inequalities women face to the plight of South African’s and their fight for equality, I just think that any form of inequality is shit. I am lucky enough to live in the western world as a white middle class male, so what barriers do I face? The simple answer is none! I see myself as very fortunate but this does not mean I do not care about the inequality others face. Maybe the reason I get so wound up about it is because I am fortunate enough not to have to worry about a lot. There are people all over the world that are suffering, living in war zones, starving and dying from disease due to lack of medicine, some might think my time might be better spend writing about this; though selfishly it is this inequality that is on the forefront of my mind.
So what’s my problem regarding to pay, well it is simple; I believe that women who cycle professionally should be paid the same basic wage as their male counterparts. I am aware there are a lot of opinions about this, arguments for and against. I think it is being over complicated and ‘certain people’ are stuck in this old fashioned way of thinking need to wake up and realise just how crappy and unfair it is. Not only is it unfair it has a detrimental effect on women’s cycling, both on a professional and amateur level. I am not going to sit here and preach about what women want as to be perfectly honest I don’t really know, but I feel that if more men in the cycle industry got behind this then changes could be made. I am in no way saying that women in cycling need to rely on men to get this done, but in a way it is the old farts that are preventing it and the more people that voice their opinions then the more chance there is of change.
I don’t think women should receive the same prize money as men; this is for the simple fact that women’s cycling does not grab as much mainstream attention as men’s. This is not to say it never will but everything has to be calculated by sponsors, endorsers and advertisers as after all the cycle industry is a business and its aim is to make money, women’s cycling is not high profile enough at this current time. What I believe should be happening is women that are racing on a professional level should receive the same basic wage as the guys do. Some may think the professional cyclists and brands are all millionaires; the truth is that compared to other professional sports there is far less money in it.
I’m not going to bore you with figures and stats but think of how much a Premier League footballer or NBA player receives per year in comparison to the highest profile cyclist. That said there is still enough money to pay women an equal wage, and I am not talking hundreds of thousands, I think most professional cyclists would be happy with enough money to pay their bills, mortgages and have the free time to train all year round. How is women’s cycling ever going to reach the same level as men’s when someone has to hold down a full time job and train? It is just impossible! Imagine if Wiggins, Hoy, or Cavendish had to work full time, how do you think this would affect their performance? The simple truth is that women’s professional road cycling will find it nearly impossible progress without the relevant funding. Investors, media and brands say there needs to be more women involved in it, but this can’t happen without funding thus we end up in this circle of doom.
I am 33 and am now thinking about all those grown up things such as having children and as both my partner and I are keen cyclists I am sure that our children will be too (well they bloody well better be). Then the thought popped into my head; what happens if we have a daughter? I don’t mean that we want a son; we really do not care either way. If we were to have a daughter and she was really into cycling she could be faced with this inequality. If we were to have a son and daughter that both wanted to be professional cyclists then we would have to inform them that the cycle industry is stuck in the dark ages and if they were both doctors, lawyers or worked down a mine they would be paid the same; but if they were cyclists then there is not a chance of this equality.
Sorry for the rant, as I said earlier I am not pretending to know what the women of the professional cycling want, I am another man saying what I think women want; to be honest all I want to see is equality and for my children to be afforded the same opportunities regardless of their gender.