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Feminism is very in vogue at the moment. David Morrison, Beyoncé, Ronda Rousey all share a common goal: to see women achieve equal rights and opportunities in all aspects of life. Whether that’s in the social, political or sporting arena, it doesn’t really matter.
I’d argue that Ella is a feminist publication aimed at empowering, informing and encouraging women through cycling. I’d also argue that if you’re reading this, you’re a feminist.
In November I was asked by the Australian Institute of Sport to join a pilot program they were launching in partnership with one of Australia’s largest steel manufacturing companies, BlueScope. The program, now known as ‘Change the Game‘, is about creating mutually beneficial partnerships between 10 of Australia’s best female athletes and 10 BlueScope employees, who vary from plant managers to state managers. Each athlete was paired up with a BlueScope employee and given free reign. “Make of the program what you will,” we were told.
For the athletes like myself it’s an opportunity to begin to ‘pad’ our transition from sport to the real world by learning from BlueScope’s and our partner’s experience in the business sphere. Instead of jumping straight off the 10-metre diving board onto a bed of concrete, we were being giving the option of a foam pit. I was more than on board with that.
BlueScope were approaching the program from another point of view entirely; diversity. Their work force is overwhelmingly male dominated. How can they encourage and motivate women to join their organisation? To advance in management?
These were questions that never really occurred to me until I joined the program. I have been, for the majority of my career, in teams run by women. My teammates are women, my colleagues are women and my boss is a woman.
Too often we dwell on the negative in women’s cycling and women’s sport in general. And its true; media coverage is below par, sponsorship is hard to come by, etc…But how often do we stop to dwell on the positive? I’ve found that working in a female dominated work environment is a positive. What’s more, it’s a privilege.
It wasn’t until my BlueScope partner, Chris, stood in Stuey O’Grady’s coffee shop in Adelaide in January and asked his Fielders colleagues to look around that I realised this.
Chris and I had been emailing sporadically since the inception of the Change the Game program and workshop in November. We had agreed to catch up in Adelaide when I travelled there for this month’s Santos Women’s Tour Down Under.
I had invited Chris to come along to the third stage of the tour. He sat in on the team meeting, rode in the race car and got to see how my team of women work together to achieve a common goal. He also got to see what riding in 42 degree heat does to people — an added bonus I’m sure. By the end of the day my teammates and I looked somewhat similar to a grape left outside for too long; shrivelled, discoloured and smaller than when we started.
A few days later Chris invited me to a ‘meet-and-greet’ breakfast with some of his Fielders and Lysaght (Adelaide based companies owned by BlueScope) colleagues. Which brings me back to Stuey’s.
As Chris asked, I glanced around with the other 35 or so people who had gathered in the quirky bike cafe. Were we about to be told to look under our seat and check for the gold star? Oh man I hope I win. I never win anything.
“How do you feel blokes?” Chris asked the men in the room, “Outnumbered?”
Looking around I realised the ratio of men to women was significantly skewed, much like the ratio of coffee shop time to ride time on recovery days.
“You should,” Chris answered his own question. “I wanted it to be that way.”
Chris went on to explain that at BlueScope, women are unfortunately usually the ones in the blokes’ situation. It is a diversity issue that he and the people higher up at BlueScope want to try and correct.
Chris’ speech got me thinking about how lucky I have been to work in an industry that is female dominated — when I say industry I’m referring specifically to women’s cycling and not the general ‘cycling industry’. And how privileged I have been to work with, for and under some pretty incredible, motivated, driven and inspirational women. All of a sudden I realised my experience isn’t the norm, it’s a unique opportunity to learn from women.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-male — my dog is male and I love him almost as much as I would if he were a girl — I just realised the importance of having strong, female role models of which we have plenty in women’s cycling and women’s sport in general.
Working with people like Velocio Apparel owner and former Velocio-SRAM team manager Kristy Scrymgeour, and my current team manager Rochelle Gilmore has given me confidence and inspiration for what I want to do when I finish cycling.
Seeing how women like Marianne Vos influence and impact the public and inspire young girls to ride their bikes makes me feel empowered. I mean, surely it’s not just me who wants to be Marianne Vos when they grow up?
Women’s cycling is going forward in leaps and bounds at the moment thanks in large part to these women, but also due to all women who ride or race and all the men who support us. So thank you, because if you’ve read this far you’re a giant feminist like Chris. Be a giant feminist.
Chloe Hosking is a professional cyclist riding for WiggleHigh5. The Australian found cycling as a pre-teen and spent her early years on the bike riding around Canberra with her dad. Chloe took an untraditional path to Europe, self-funding trips to ride with composite teams and club teams at international races. She hopes that her success inspires other Australian women to recognize the multiple pathways to European racing.