Women in Triathlon: Why the Skew in Numbers and What Can We Do?
Recently: Triathlon Business International asked for Articles - as a Femme Triathlete Manufacturing Clothing - I felt very strongly about Women in the Sport.
Take a read: Why are there so many more men than women doing triathlons? We are all aware of it but what is being done to remedy the situation? Well first we must learn why there are fewer women. Being that I’m in apparel, I have heard from many women who find it is really difficult for all sized women to purchase well-functioning and comfortable clothing for larger women. I understand that triathlon used to be a sport of the fittest of the fit and I am not disrespecting the history. But it’s time to embrace all types of women! Second, it’s important to understand the difference between women, versus men, in what drives them to participate and compete in triathlon.
At De Soto, our Femme attire is designed and made by women. Not everyone believes this makes a big difference but we do. We also believe that all product should be tested by women. Real women. Real women of all sizes. We at De Soto have in fact, started our own Athena Testing Team. We recognize that women in the Athena-sized group need to not only have the products available to them to make them comfortable but also be involved in the process of testing. Their bodies are different and we should respectfully listen to them about what makes them want to get out and race! Honestly, how can we expect anyone to return to do another race if they are uncomfortable both in terms of the options of race day kits and the comfort level while racing? This is why we offer a variety of options for women both on top (looser fitting tops) and bottom (wrap around skirt option.)
I find it incredible that today, 2015, we still have a gender pay gap. Statistics show that women are paid just 79% of what men are paid. Why do I bring this up? Even in today’s society, there is a difference in the confidence in women versus men in triathlon which I believe contributes to the lower women race numbers. One of my veteran triathlete femmebassadors recently told me that she was intimidated to post on the Womens For Tri Facebook page, when I suggested she do so. I asked her why and she said she didn’t know if she was worthy because her time wasn’t fast enough and she was embarrassed to post a photo because she wasn’t at her goal weight.
I understand this is only one woman but I can assure you there are many more women out there feeling insecure and not as confident as we like. The women’s only races like Danskin and IronGirl have helped. This is fuel for the confidence women need. The community that is being built and much more readily available also helps enormously (one of the few things for which I thank Mark Zuckerberg.) Women for Tri has launched a collegiate scholarship program and triclub grant. Its mission is to mitigate the barriers that women versus men face to entering triathlon. When women feel supported, they gain confidence. By growing the community of women, we will grow the numbers of female participants.
Please note that this is not an issue that is particular to only women or only Athena women. In fact, if we can grow our triathlon community, it will benefit every single one of us. It benefits the apparel manufacturers, the race directors, hard good manufacturers, the retailers and right on down the line. And you know what else? It benefits our community even beyond triathlon because we can all be healthier together! We can all be supported and share in community which leads to happiness. I understand this sounds perhaps naïve and even trite but by supporting all types of women, we can all benefit: our neighborhood, our community and even our pocket books, if that’s what motivates you.