Having spent over 20 years in the company of both bankers and cyclists, I am often been struck by the similarities between the two industries. One I haven’t given much thought to until recently is the challenges both industries face when it comes to getting more women to participate.
In both banking and cycling we know, at least in theory, how to get more women involved.
We host rides for beginners, events for women, and clinics & information sessions. We write blog posts (or create videos) covering the fundamentals on everything from how to avoid chafing, to how to buy your first bicycle.
We organize Women in Banking conferences, establish committees on diversity and discuss ways women can mentor other women.
These are the things we know how to do. We are making progress. But in both banking and cycling, it’s often 3 step forwards, 2 steps back.
This may be because, while we are doing some of the right things in one place, as a community we are still inadvertently, unconsciously, doing other things that make women and girls feel unwelcome.
Or assigning sexist or racist names to trails and Strava segments that appear to be written by Beavis and Butthead. (My recently found local “favorites” being “Reverse Cowgirl” and “Dead Indian Bypass”).
And, in both industries, we brush off any comments and critiques as either being too politically correct or, inaccurate because the people who selected all the speakers happened to be women. (Let me again direct you to this article about the unconscious bias women have against other women).
As one who has a financial stake in both industries, throughout my career I’ve been challenged to figure out how to address issues of sexism and inequality. That’s because while I am part of the industries, I am also not of them. I can tell you without question that I have been excluded from at least one agency RFP because I wasn’t deferential enough to a high ranking executive.
(Another similarity – it’s a small industry. People talk).
In my sheltered little world, I rarely run into true male chauvinism and ignorance. That’s not to say it doesn’t exist, but instead that most men who know me, I believe, are smart enough to keep it to themselves when I’m around. But the last few weeks have been tough ones as I have been reminded through recent conversations that we still have a lot of work to do, in both industries. And that I have a responsibility to speak up, and step up.
Yes, I have a responsibility because I’m a woman. And a mom who wants her daughter to receive the same respect and opportunity as men. And a rider who wants to feel safe when I’m riding (so, guy I don’t know, please don’t touch my butt while I’m riding alone – true story), and who wants more friends to ride with me.
But I have a responsibility because I’m older, and more fiscally and professionally secure than I was in the past. I have built up an invisible flak jacket, that, for the most part, cannot be pierced very easily. I have, hopefully, established a reputation as who reaches out to people individually instead of airing grievances publicly, who criticizes reluctantly and is almost always willing to contribute.
It’s also a reminder that I have to continue to step up. I have to raise my hand, to speak up and speak out. And find places where I can make a difference in small ways by lending my voice or giving my time.