Six Steps to Close the Gender Gap in the Bike Industry

Carolyn Szczepanski, Communications Director
October, 2012

Source: BikeLeague

Pat Cunnane
© BikeLeague

Getting more women to ride and elevating female leaders within the bicycle movement isn’t the work of one gender. While women are certainly leading the way — bringing new energy, ideas and perspectives to the table — we know that men are equally invested in closing the gender gap.

Because women’s voices historically have been under-represented at the podiums of major conferences, we were eager to feature female presenters at the National Women’s Bicycling Summit. But we were also excited to see leaders like Dave Snyder (California Bicycle Coalition), Dorian Grilley (Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota), and Scott Bricker (BikePittsburgh) in the audience. As we move toward the roll-out of Women Bike programming, we know we have countless allies among women and men.

Pat Cunnane, president of Advanced Sports International., is certainly one. Just a week after the Women’s Summit, I saw him speak at Interbike as the keynote of the Outdoor Industry Women’s Coalition awards program. In his speech, Mind the Gap, he explained the importance — and economic imperative — of addressing diversity within the bicycle industry.

“We’ve inherited this gap; it’s real,” he said. “And I think it’s something that can have a really incredible effect on the future of bike industry… If we really want our business to grow, to compete and attract a new generation of talent, we need to take a hard look at how focusing on gender, racial and other differences among our workforce population can help get the bike industry to another level. We shouldn’t pass this gap on to the next generation.”

So what steps can industry take? Cunnane came up with six ideas. His speech starts at 26:00 in the video below.

UPDATE: Cunnane’s six ways to close the gap:

  1. Be open-minded about entry level positions: At ASI, Cunnane pointed out, only three of 15 women employees and 1 of the 16 non-white employees had prior bicycle industry experience, but 70 percent of white male employees did.
  2. Encourage more women to join the industry: Plenty of female leaders have already proven that there’s no ability gap; women need to be encouraged to gain the experience the industry is looking for — and industry has to put women in positions (mechanical, hard goods) that position them to move up the ranks.
  3. Sponsor women athletes: Female racers are a relatively untapped market and athletes have many of the qualities needed to succeed in business, too.
  4. Put policies in place that allow flexible work options: Help ensure that people stay engaged during periods of their lives that might challenge the traditional 9-5. Give management the flexibility to do what’s right for the business and the employee.
  5. Put mentorship programs in place: It’s not enough to attract more women into the industry — they must be given the opportunity to lead.
  6. Pay the same wage for the same work: Companies should and must compensate employees fairly.

Thanks to the OIWC for a great event — and sharing the video! Read more about OIWC’s 2012 award winners — Nichole Perrin of Specialized and Milay Galvez at ASI.