For quite some time now, I’ve been following a polemic topic that most of you, unless you follow triathlon and more precisely follow Ironman brand events you probably wouldn’t understand or perhaps care. So just to give you the cliffnotes version of the issue it is only related to the professional level triathletes, and the problem is that at Kona, which is the Ironman that most people know one way or the other, women don’t have the same representation as men. So in laymen’s terms only 35 women are allowed to participate vs 50 on the men field. While the prize purses are divided equally the inequality in the number of participants seems unfair. The organization bases their logic on the fact that participation of the women field in general (Age Groupers which are us the mere mortals) is not equal to the men. While their reasons don’t seem to be very well validated and there is a big uproar because of the sense of discrimination, I’ve remained quiet since this whole thing started. I’ve followed it on social media as it doesn’t seem important enough to make to national news. There have been plenty of blogs, facebook posts, facebook groups and websites dedicated to this, that try to bring awareness to this issue which in 2015 it doesn’t make any sense at all. A lot of the groups root for the pro’s which of course, I do too. Afterall, they chose this as their career and they need to be treated equally. So there are a few issues with this, and I’m going to try to name them and maybe expand on each without any order of importance so bear with me.
- Why is this important to me? Why do I care if I’m not a pro and I’m never going to aim to do that?. I think in my opinion is a matter of principle. We are in 2015 and not 1960. We have the right to vote and we have a voice. So I care because I think is simply ridiculous to not have equality in something so simple as it is sports. Not that there shouldn’t exist in everything in life. So I care because I am a woman and there is something called gender solidarity.
- Do I think there is a simple solution? Most of us with common sense think that the organization should simply add the 15 slots or at least make them equal. 50/50, 40/40, 35/35 whatever the magic number is, simply make them equal. It doesn’t make any sense, but yet you know what they say… common sense is the less common of all the senses. The organization runs a business and as such for them it means money and a whole bunch of other things that us age groupers don’t really care because we just spend our hard earned money in this very expensive sport and love doing it for any reasons that we might have. The arbitrary number doesn’t work anymore. We are smarter than that.
- Is it a problem deeper than just gender equality in the sport? Of course there is, not only in the sport. In any profession or majority of professions have gender inequality. I’m married to an engineer and when he was in college I got to see first hand how uneven that field is. In his class of 60 there were only a hand-full of women. So I think it is a deeper problem that I don’t have a magic solution for. I do believe that it is up to us to make a difference and try to bring awareness to little girls that it is not all about princesses, pink, or things that typically are girly things. I think society as a whole is probably guilty of this and by default we are seeing now the consequences. Our parents probably didn’t know any better, say I was never good in math, well what did they do? Put me in arts… What does it do? Make me hate math therefore I was never exposed to any majors that had math classes because I was afraid and not good at it. Same goes with sports, running, cycling or even swimming was something that was not part of their vocabulary… Instead I did dancing, not that i didn’t enjoy it and liked it but yet I didn’t know any better. Again, I was just a result of the environment I grew up in. I think triathlons being relatively new, will probably take a while to catch up. It only took maybe 20 years for women engineers to not feel like a minority in the business but it has been a bumpy roads. Same goes with politicians, bankers and other fields that are male dominated. Triathlon isn’t any different. What do boys get typically for Christmas or their birthdays as soon as they can… A bike… Well there you go they have an advantage over us who get probably dolls, fisher-price kitchens, castles or doll houses.
- Will we see a change any time soon? I sure hope so. Maybe the Ironman organization thinks it over and avoids a PR nightmare and get this over with by just making it equal. Honestly I highly doubt it will happen but we can only hope. I do believe it will change though, maybe not our generation but the generation after ours, yet we have to start the change and make a difference with the girls that look up to us and see us as their role models. I don’t have any children on my own buy I have a niece who I definitely plan to teach and show that it is ok to do all these things.
So, what I am trying to say is that not that I don’t care about today’s pros I do believe that maybe the next generation of pros will see the differences and more equality in the sport. I definitely think that change starts with ourselves and we have all the power to do it… So let’s get to work.