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Tour de France Femmes, Gender Equality & Empowering Women in Elite Sports
Progress in women’s cycling isn’t linear, but on the 24th July 2022 we took a big step forward with the revival of the Women’s Tour de France. The race has seen previous editions starting in 1955 and running ad-hoc on occasions until 2009 when it was dropped through lack of funding, media coverage and trademark issues. Now, in 2022, La Tour de France Femmes Avec Zwift is back and with significantly improved support and drive to give it the place it deserves in the sporting calendar.
Whilst we can’t celebrate equality quite yet to the men’s race, with significant differences in prize money, live coverage and stages, the 8 day race is a big step up and a move in the right direction. But before we can even consider matching the men with a 21 day race, we need to address the fundamental problem in that 37% of the women’s peloton are not paid a living wage so racing for that length of time is not actually realistic. Teams and sponsors need to step up; but this summer of sport, I believe will seriously have helped the cause.
I am sure a lot of you tuned in on Sunday 31st July to cheer on the Lionesses as they won the Women’s Euro 22 Final against Germany. Amazingly the final was viewed by a whopping 17.4 million viewers from the UK and by 17.8 million viewers in Germany. At this same time, the women raced the final stage of the Tour de France up on the top of the Super Planche de Belles Filles in France and attracted 5.1 million viewers with 22million across the whole race. This was a big day and a big week for women’s sport and it’s only going to go up. So for those of you that followed the Tour, a big thanks for being part of what is ‘closing the gap’.
The racing is hard, really hard. For those of you that follow my exploits you will know I had Covid just before the tour, which is far from ideal preparation, but with a job to do and a role to play in the team, it’s a case of cracking on and taking each day as it comes.
I was in a break away on Stage 6 which is something that every team wants for the day, as an opportunity to sit on TV across the world brandishing the logo, sponsors and team colours. Sadly, I was swallowed up by the peloton only kilometres from the end so it wasn’t a win but it was a great day with incredible crowds, support and atmosphere.
Women’s racing is different to men’s. For us the races are a little shorter, usually 3.5-4.5hrs opposed to 5-6hrs and it’s full gas from the start to the finish. It’s hectic, fast and entertaining. And that is what this is about after all – it’s about entertaining the crowds and showing what we can do. It’s about making women’s cycling equal and in that respect it plays a part in transforming sport, the workplace and society.
Professional sport is not dissimilar to the tech industry in the past. In the whole time I have been in the tech industry there has always been a lot more men than women. I have always had more male colleagues than female and on projects, I worked predominantly with men. I’ve always ridden my bike with more guys than girls. Club rides have more men, local races have more male entries and there are a lot more men’s teams than women’s. Although we are seeing this change and there are actually more female entries to a lot of races now.
I am fortunate enough to ride for a team that takes gender equality very seriously and has the same bands of salary across all the riders irrespective of gender. We are all paid by our roles, experience and performance. However, there are not many teams that do this. Fortunately this year, for the first time, there is a minimum salary for the Women’s World Tour. This is a huge breakthrough and something that will help close the gap. The risk of course is that sponsors or teams can’t afford it and then the sport actually suffers as a result. So it needs to be done carefully, incrementally.
Growth needs investment. It’s exactly the same as the tech industry where companies have to proactively try to address gender equality. NTT DATA Business Solutions has always been strongly committed to women’s empowerment and gender equality. NTT DATA Business Solutions has really helped me balance my passion for racing with my passion for SAP project management. When I was balancing my hectic racing schedule with customer meetings, I felt there was a massive opportunity for me to succeed with all gender barriers removed and a real focus on building talent. I have also been involved in the D&I programmes and Women in Tech for years in an attempt to bring in more women and address the gender imbalance in tech roles.
Next up it’s the Tour of Scandinavia, starting on the 9th August and running until the 14th, so a 6 day Tour. I jumped from one Tour to the next (with the Commonwealth Games sandwiched in between). Starting in Denmark we expect BIG crowds. With the recently crowned yellow jersey winner in the men’s Tour de France going to Danish Jonas Vingegaard, the crowds, the atmosphere and the support for the sport is to the max at the moment so I have no doubt it’s going to be an exciting week of racing. You can follow how my team (Uno-X) is doing on Instagram, Twitter or you can watch live on Eurosport and GCN….. (that’s what the dual screen is for after all!)
Till next time
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