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  1. #1
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    May 2007
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    National Bike Summit: Women's Forum

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    I fear I'm going to sound anti-feminist. I've been to several women's panels, women's forums, gender summits, etc for women in science, women in the postdoctorate, women in research, etc. I tried but eventually I quit going. A lot of women, the better ones had men in the audience too, listening to a few women talk about their experiences and finding a mentor and work-life balance and the two-body problem and what they did when their kids were sick. Each panel usually had a black woman or an LGBT woman so that "everyone" was represented. They'd talk about the leaky pipeline problem-- that grad students are 50% women but faculty are not and administration definitely not. That women get called on to service more often so that committees can show they are diverse. That women have to get better at saying "no" and must focus on their own advancement.

    The older women would express amazement that we aren't any further along. When they were young, everyone thought that by this decade, discrimination and under representation would be things of the past.

    Eh. I've heard the same thing so many times now. Maybe it's helping to get that message across, I don't know. What I do know is that I'm not interested in hearing it. I never liked hearing "You have to say no" and "You have to focus on your own advancement".

    I like serving on committees. I like helping other people. I don't care that those are traditionally female traits. Men and women ARE different. Men tend to be naturally drawn to leadership. Some women will be very good leaders (like me), but the only way to get 50% is by forcing it. It's not going to happen naturally because biologically we don't have the same inclinations.

    So I went to the Women's Forum at the National Bike Summit with low expectations. Maybe it would be different because this is bicycling, not science or research? But-- not really.

    There were some interesting presentations. I learned that Commuter Bicycle Trains appeal more to women: riders are 2/3 to 3/4 female. (I mean, 2/3 to 3/4 of the riders are female. Presumably each individual rider is either 100% female or 100% male?) "Conductors" are more often men: 1/2 of conductors are men. The presentation on mountain biking was great, recognizing that men and women tend to learn mountain biking skills differently.

    But it was disappointing overall. The panel presentation about women in bicycle advocacy leadership was particularly disappointing. They talked about work-life balance.

    The worst of this was that they used up their female speakers in the Women's Forum. The rest of the Bike Summit was almost entirely male.

    When anyone talks about gender differences, it's usually "70% of women tend to be this way". For example Women Specific Design bikes fit 70% of women and 30% of men (or something like that). So WSD is a terrible name for them-- 30% of men should be riding a Women Specific Design bike. The strategies to make more women feel comfortable on bikes will speak to a substantial number of men too. I'd like to see less focus on gender and more focus on the fact that we have different styles of learning and bicycling which might be more prevalent in one gender or another but at the same time cuts across genders.

    In my feedback, I recommended that they reduce the Women's Forum to a half-day and expand it to be a Diversity or Equality Forum. There were several presentations during the Summit on bicycling and ethnic or socioeconomic background.

    Otherwise I was delighted with the Bike Summit and Lobby Day and I had a wonderful time. I hope I can go back another year-- but I'll skip the Women's Forum.
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  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2008
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    northern Virginia
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    Quote Originally Posted by Melalvai View Post
    (I mean, 2/3 to 3/4 of the riders are female. Presumably each individual rider is either 100% female or 100% male?)
    Not necessarily.

    Thanks for your write-up. I can't remember the last time I attended any kind of women's panel or forum on anything. There are clearly complex issues, related to physiological differences as well as attitudes.

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  3. #3
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    Nov 2005
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    I hope the LAB sees this. It's something we are struggling with in my city--whether or not to have a separate women's bike group. I go back and forth.

  4. #4
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    northern Virginia
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    You know, I have just signed up for a women's seminar at my LBS for tomorrow evening. I don't expect it be like what Melavai described, though -- I think it's more about addressing a problem that many women here have written about, where they feel overwhelmed at an LBS because they're new to the sport or they feel talked-down to because they're women. The shop is owned by a married couple and they have always taken an inclusive approach at their stores, encouraging cyclists of all ages, experience levels, interests, etc. I think tomorrow's talk will be at an introductory level, but even if it ends up being lots of things I already know, I still want to go just to support them, because I think they're doing a good thing.

    Tulip, from what I've read, "women's issues" as related to cycling often are intermingled with "reasons people are reluctant to ride." Maybe a group to encourage new cyclists and address their concerns makes more sense than a special women's group? You could end up focusing on some things that tend to affect women more than men, but also look into other issues that really have nothing to do with gender.

    - Gray 2010 carbon WSD road bike, Rivet Independence saddle
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    - Royal blue 2018 aluminum gravel bike, Rivet Pearl saddle

    Gone but not forgotten:
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    - Two awesome worn out Juliana saddles

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
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    Western Canada-prairies, mountain & ocean
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    But it was disappointing overall. The panel presentation about women in bicycle advocacy leadership was particularly disappointing. They talked about work-life balance.

    The worst of this was that they used up their female speakers in the Women's Forum. The rest of the Bike Summit was almost entirely male.

    It is interesting in the world of bicycle advocacy leadership, at least for the 3 big cities I've lived in, the volunteer boards and committees do tend to naturally be dominated by men. Not all the time, but often enough. And I would say in cycling advocacy circles a lot of the men I know who are long term cycling advocates (tend to be middle-aged and older), to me..in my opinion much more accommodating for everyone. They are excellent competent cyclists but more patient/apt to cycle with a group of different levels, instead of leaving everyone behind in the dust all the time.

    In a way cycling advocacy at least for the larger cities, to make a group sustainable and effective with higher public visibility, is to treat it like managing a little non-profit organization and even getting into business planning and financial strategy for funding/fundraising. Figuring out mission/vision, messages, multi-pronged approach for marketing/lobbying, coalition-building, etc.

    Just based on conference call meetings, stuff dearie says on issues discussed, etc., the meetings can be awfully long-winded and sometimes to me, highly process oriented or general statement pronouncements/ theories. Yes, of course there is also a technical component since advocacy means discussing cycling infrastructure and dealing with a municipalities engineering/transportation dept., etc.

    Whenever dearie complains that there's a lot talk and not enough action/follow-through, I have visions of mostly men across a region spinning away there ideas and thoughts for several continuous hrs. during a meeting but unable to commit to action. Then there are those who want media profile, etc. Dearie has a patient nature in such volunteer advocacy work and produces reports, blogs, meets various govn't officials, etc. But that's just him by nature

    I am impressed by the women whom I know and have been cycling advocates long term: you have to have high tolerance for long meetings with mixed action results, etc.

    I have been involved in cycling advocacy for a women's group...for nearly 5 years when I was in Toronto. We were not a racing group but focused on activities to encourage more women to bike..meaning also practical educational/demonstration sessions. Membership of women was over 200 from southern Ontario. As former member of the 5- women member organizing committee it was very hard to let the organization dissolve...we no upcoming cadre of volunteers to take over.

    Thereafter I volunteered at cycling events where usually it was meeting members of the public and providing info....I enjoy volunteer work that enables me to share directly with the public and get them interested/encourage them. It's a switch from my paid job with some long meetings, technical matters.

    It is disappointing Melavi the discussion was on work-life balance for a predominantly cycling advocacy focused day. The closest to that, we ever organized a workshop was cycling with children..
    I'm not familiar with bike commuter trains....group riding? Or?

    After some thought, I do have a feminist bent about cycling and wrote about it here last year: http://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/...feminist-life/ I was taking a broad, global position. Not just thinking of ourselves here in North America or Europe.
    Last edited by shootingstar; 03-28-2014 at 05:16 PM.
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  6. #6
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    Dec 2006
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    I totally get what you're saying. I've often been at "women's" events and felt exactly the same way. Don't get me wrong. I'm a feminist through and through. But just like men aren't all lumped into one category, women shouldn't be either. We need to celebrate diversity and focus on equality.
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  7. #7
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    Feb 2005
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    Concord, MA
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    I stay away from these kinds of things; I have found people often have their own agenda, no matter what the topic is supposed to be. Like Wahine, I get nervous when any group is lumped into one category.
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  8. #8
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    May 2007
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    Columbia, MO
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    Thank you, I feel validated. And I don't feel like an anti-feminist for having these thoughts and feelings.

    A commuter bicycle train is a group of people who bike to work together.
    2009 Trek 7.2FX WSD, brooks Champion Flyer S, commuter bike

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
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    Saskatoon, Sask.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ny biker View Post
    ...from what I've read, "women's issues" as related to cycling often are intermingled with "reasons people are reluctant to ride." Maybe a group to encourage new cyclists and address their concerns makes more sense than a special women's group? You could end up focusing on some things that tend to affect women more than men, but also look into other issues that really have nothing to do with gender.
    That's how I felt about a "Women's ready to roll" cycling course that I helped with last spring. Yes, women are sort of an "indicator species" for whether cycling in a given area is viewed to be safe or not, but surely there are men who are also intimidated and don't quite know how to get started? Or are men just more reluctant to admit it?
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  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
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    1
    Thanks for this discussion! I'm the founder of the League's Women Bike program and organizer of the Forum. Far from being anti-feminist, this is a great discussion about how to approach our goal of getting more women on bikes. Since the issues you raised have been a hot topic, I shared my thoughts / where we're coming from at the League in this blog post. On your final suggestion, though: I'm also the co-founder of our Equity Initiative and, as I announced in the closing plenary, we are indeed moving to integrate Women Bike into the overall Equity Initiative and our next event will be a Women and Equity Summit at Pro Walk Pro Bike.

  11. #11
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    Nov 2005
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    My city has a women's racing group, but they are focused on racing and not riding for transportation. There are women who ride bikes for transportation, and they show up at all the events--events headed up by men, though. Perhaps the spring will bring some enthusiasm and change. In the meantime, wouldn't it be nice if women were just recognized and called upon to talk about bike issues just because they know about bike issues? This is not happening in my city, thus the opening for a women's organized thing to fill the gap. Not sure it it's going to happen--the men seem to want it more than the women.

 

 

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