unequal pay in racing

Unequal Pay in Racing

Recently, an article came out highlighting the unequal pay for men and women in cycling. Luckily, this was an article about how someone is trying to do something about it.

I recommend that you read the article itself, but briefly the issue was that Lea Davison, a mountain biker, was “disappointed in the discrepancy between the men’s and women’s podium.” So a local company in Rhode Island–G-Form LLC–stood up for women and contributed funds to fill in the gap. The article notes that this unequal pay is an issue in all of sports, not just cycling.

Picture of mountain biker Lea Davison

Lea Davison

But I was curious about exactly how much the difference was. This was not very easy for me to figure out! I came across this website that states:

Elite Women, 40 min, $40 fee: $2,013.00 “25 deep” (saturday) and then $1,319.00 “15 deep” (Sunday)
Elite Men, 60 min, $45 fee: $8,494.00 “30 deep” (saturday) and then $2,013.00 “25 deep” (Sunday)

I also noticed that for Cat 3, men get a monetary prize ($500.00), whereas for women it’s lumped into other categories and they don’t get a monetary prize.

In full disclosure, I have never raced before and I have no idea what “25 deep” etc even means. Nor do I get why there were different prizes for different days (both were for Elite races?) So, clearly, I have much to learn. Regardless, you cannot deny that the difference between pay is HUGE! For the Elite group, that’s $6,481.00 more for men than for women.

Now, I’ve purchased a nice road bike and accessories and clothes and so on. So has Jason (my partner). We pay the same price. There are no discounts for women’s merch or bikes. So, women and men need to pay the same price for things. Women also work their ass off just as much as men. While training, I am sure women don’t “take it easy” just because they’re a woman. They put in the same amount of work, same cost…yet, when it comes time to actually race, they get over $6,000.00 less money just because they’re a woman? If you wanted to argue that men had to do more during the race than woman…$6,000.00 more? No. This should not be tolerated!

Sexism in Cycling

Unequal pay for equal work is a consequence of a sexist society. A society where all things male and “manly” are valued more so than women and “womanly” things. Sports are “manly” things to do. Women can play, but we (society, spectators, other cyclists) don’t enjoy it as much because they aren’t men. At least, that’s the message that gets sent when there are different prizes based on gender.

I think that what Richard Fries (a man!) G-Form did was laudable. Him, and the company, acknowledged the problem with gender-based prizes and sought to change it. I am glad that someone stepped up in an attempt to make change.

I hope that people don’t think it’s equal now, though. This move, in no way, made things “equal” for women. If we can move towards a goal where the actual sponsors of the race mandate equal prizes for men and women, then we will be a step closer to equality. Leaving it up to small, local companies–or even bigger companies that sponsor individual cyclists–wont actually change the problem. Because, the problem is that cyclist people in general don’t value women as much as men right now.

(Note: photo source: here)


18 responses to “unequal pay in racing

  1. Do you think it might be prevalent in sports prizes but not as much in professional jobs. I’ve actually never witnessed any differential in pay between the sexes, working in engineering, the sciences, and teaching, both governmental and private industry. I’ve also noticed over the years many more women working in what was years ago all-male and high-paying professions. High paying jobs that require a lot of muscle still are almost completely male. For e.g. oil derrick workers, and some construction type jobs. But even in the oil and gas drilling environment, you’re seeing more and more women (just not roughnecks and drillers). Mountain biking: in Nevada at one time I got into it pretty seriously and rubbed shoulders. It’s a macho thing, but I saw so many FAST women it didn’t make sense to be biased.

    • Well, as they say, ignorance is bliss.

      Perhaps you may not have noticed that women have never earned as much as men, and that this is a consistent problem reported in the news. On average, women make only about 70-80% of what men make. Simply because of their gender.

      And, contrary to what you think you’ve “witnessed,” the rates are even worse in more professional jobs like financial managers, CEOs, etc (women only make 50-65% of what men make in those jobs). Here is one article, and another, that took me about 5 seconds to find.

      The exact rate depends on the study, but the message is crystal clear that women make less than men due to discrimination. Perhaps you also did not realize that is why a Federal act (The Lilly Ledbetter Act) was needed and signed by President Obama.

      The rest of your comment didn’t make much sense, so I’ll just say that it’s really important to remember that “I’ve actually never witnessed…” is never a logical, accurate, or sufficient argument to make. ever. at all. for anything. Why?

      For one, social psychologists have conducted research for decades on all the problems with human bias. Confirmation bias, in particular, occurs because people only tend to (a) notice, and (b) remember the things that confirm the stuff we already believe to be true. An easy example is: “I believe that men go through a middle age crisis and purchase sports cars as a result.” If that’s what you believe, then you’ll often only notice the middle age men in sports cars. What you WONT pay attention to, are all those middle-age men surrounding you driving the boring Toyotas or Fords. You also wont notice the younger drivers in sports cars, or the women, and etc.

      We all do it. No one is immune.

      Second, and this relates specifically to income inequality, you simply don’t have access to all of the information needed to determine whether or not there is a discriminatory difference in earnings based on gender (and/or race, as there is also a disparity in wage based on race). That’s why we need scientists to do systematic research on the matter.

      So, in the future, if you ever find yourself thinking “Well, I’ve never noticed that…” when you read something that challenges your point of view…perhaps before you actually say that out loud to other people, do a google search about it. Educate yourself.

      • I think I am pretty objective, being a science person who has studied logic and philosophy in depth, and one who does careful thinking. Besides, I really didn’t mean to make any sweeping generalizations based on my experience. I do believe I asked a question about it, to get you thinking in case you were extrapolating and making assumptions. You’re right, it’s wrong when people use personal experience to make sweeping generalizations. But you’re wrong to say someone should never EVER use personal experience in thinking about various aspects of life, including this one. For one thing, it is something that people will always do no matter how much you jump and down and stamp your feet about it. That’s leaving aside the obvious, that you should never presume to tell others how to think about things. I agree confirmation bias is common and misleading, but it is certainly avoidable even while using personal experience as a sort of reality check. The two do not go hand in hand, not at all. I’m just wondering if you mean to say that my mentioning personal experience in talking about an issue necessarily means I am suffering from confirmation bias. If so, then you are demonstrating a very similar (if not the same) sort of bias. I really did not think I was baiting you, so I was surprised at the vehemence that was obvious between your lines. I’m guessing you are easily worked up on this subject. I actually am very much an advocate for equality – for everyone. I’ll just say I don’t know a lot about the studies that have been done (it would take me far longer than five minutes to fully evaluate them). And in fact I am skeptical when you say you have so easily investigated these studies (I suppose by googling) and come to conclusions. Did you look into their methodology, the overall quality of their sampling and statistics. Or did you just read the (possibly subjective) conclusions?. The internet can be a real trap you know, one (I’m sure you know) that really makes it easy to fall into confirmation bias. But really what I thought about your original post is simply that if unequal pay in racing is a problem, then it should be addressed. And also, that it MAY be possible that the problem in sports might not translate throughout society to the degree you think. And that’s really all I said, other than relating what I’ve seen, including places where women have not penetrated into the workforce yet. Again, I made no conclusions based on those observations, no generalizations. You read that into my comment, so be careful of making accusations until you read the words again, carefully. Essentially, I’m a natural skeptic, not some sort of sexist pig, and I actually resent having some woman I don’t know at all make insulting accusations. Lighten up and try to give people the benefit of the doubt. I know it’s hard sometimes, but realize that making assumptions about people reflects poorly on you, not on them. One more thing: I actually read and commented on your blog, instead of including it in some rapid-fire “liking” binge. When people comment on my blog, even if I don’t like what they say, I start out by thanking them for actually taking the time to do more than hit the ultra-superficial like button. Try that next time; It’d be a start toward giving them the benefit of the doubt.

      • If you are truly dedicated to creating systems of equality and dismantling the status quo–awesome! I can get behind that cause! The problem, though, is that it is exactly those people who say that are the most likely to perpetuate it. It sucks, I know. I was pretty saddened when I learned about this research because I had, for some time, identified as someone who was fighting oppression.

        But it’s not an individual problem. In fact, this is such a widespread problem that I decided to write a whole post about it. Many of the things I was planning on saying to you here I decided to use for that post.

        In my post, I talked about the top ten ways that people with privilege perpetuate oppression. Specifically, the people who tend to identify themselves as those who want equality. You will find that many of the things you said in your original comment, and this reply, are there. Review, specifically, the following ones: 10, 8, 5, 4, 2, and 1.

        As for my direct response, I will be specific and refer to some of the things you said. However, it may be helpful to read that post first (then take a few days even) and then feel free to reply again.

        1. No one is objective. Bias and values permeate everything that we do, and objectivity is a myth. For example, read Stephen J. Gould’s Mismeasure of Man.
        2. As someone who studied science, logic, etc, then you should know it is important to understand the historical and sociopolitical contexts that influence the present. As such, thought processes such as “Well that’s not my experience.” allow people with privilege to ignore systems of privilege, power, and oppression. Ergo, it’s annoying.
        3. My comment about confirmation bias was used as an example of why “In my personal experience…” is not legitimate for disputing an argument.
        4. “I really did not think I was baiting you…” is irrelevant. One way that people with privilege minimize their offensive statements/actions is by saying, “Well I didn’t MEAN to do that.” Intentions don’t really matter.
        5. “…so I was surprised at the vehemence that was obviously between your lines. I’m guessing you are easily worked up on this subject.” Another way that people with privilege minimize the offensiveness of their statements/actions is by telling the person whom they have offended is that they’re being too emotional.
        6. It is the people who identify as advocates for equality that are those MOST LIKELY to engage in the annoying, offensive, and subtle behaviors that perpetuate ongoing oppression (racism, sexism, heterosexism, etc). Have you heard of the amazing research on aversive racism? Benevolent sexism? Paternalistic prejudice? Reviewing the research on these issues will further explain what I mean here.
        7. I am a social scientist who has been studying systems of oppression for some time now. It’s what I do. It’s my job. Hence, I have spent countless hours studying the research and methodology and etc of these matters. Most of my detailed writing and summarizing (and critiquing) is saved for scholarly publications. It was quicker and easier to do a quick google for the purposes of a blog post.
        8. “Lighten up and try to give people the benefit of the doubt.” Again, it’s another way that people with privilege discount the experiences of people in marginalized groups and further their own privilege. Even just suggesting that I give you the benefit of the doubt is a great way to use your privilege.

        Finally…I have a question. Where, exactly, in my response did I call you a sexist pig? I re-read it, and I didn’t see anything like that. So, you “resent” me for something I never did. That’s fine. But keep in mind that by doing so, it will allow you to dismiss my arguments entirely and, therefore, you’ll never see how you actually are perpetuating sexism–even though you do not intend to do so. And there’s a difference between perpetuating sexism (i.e., it’s a socialization process that is only addressed through specific self-reflections and so on) verses BEING a “sexist” (i.e., a personality problem–something I never even bother discussing as I look to societal and cultural level causes for things)]

  2. Pingback: You perpetuate oppression if you call yourself “anti-oppressive” | women.cyclists·

  3. I would love to see equal pay in cycling and tennis for that matter and any sport I suppose.
    It’s tricky I suppose, I’ve attended stages of Le Tour and of The Giro Donne. They take place during about the same time of year and honestly… The Giro is kinda the top of tour racing for the ladies as the tour de France is for the gents. Both are huge and a blast to attend and for me the Giro was more fun. That being said, seeing Cavendish win a stage with his power and acceleration is amazing and watching Schleck climb was likewise.
    I am a huge fan of Emma Pooley and loved seeing her place second overall. But truth be told the girls don’t ride like the guys. It’s honestly just not the same.
    The Giro is ten stages the Tour is twenty-one… And draws a must larger crowd, I’m sure partly because of sexism but also partly because the boys are faster.
    I don’t know, I love women’s sports and attend as many women’s tennis events as I can and rarely watch the men. Track cycling I watch both, tour cycling the same. Soccer, I rarely attend a women’s match but try to catch some European futbol everytime I go see my family. As for world cup well team USA ladies have my heart.
    It would be nice to see equal pay for equal work… Maybe it should be equal pay for equal performance… However, women’s cycling on the performance level isn’t equal.
    I am a woman cyclist, I race on occasion, I commute by bike (I don’t even have a drivers lisence) I bike tour, I ride for fun. Just a disclaimer that I’m not bagging on women cyclist.
    I guess it’s just a tricky deal… The money comes from sponsors, who make more money off their male teams. So, if we wanna see the pay equal we have to get the attendance and support equal. Which may be hard to do since the fellas are faster.

    • Thanks for another comment! yay! By the way, Can I just I say that I love your title–makes me smile EVERY time I read it.

      Very cool that you’ve had a chance to be at all those races! What an experience!! I’d be lying if I said I’m not a tiny bit jealous =)

      In regards to some of the other things you mentioned, my partner actually wrote a guest piece on my blog recently that is a response to the VERY commonly-stated argument that women are less exciting than men: see here, if you haven’t already! In general, he argues (and I, clearly, agree) that maybe men are a bit faster than women, but everything else is there–the overtaking, the technical skills, the unpredictability, the sprinting, breakaways, etc… And sometimes I think that it’s really these aspects that are more exciting anyway. If everyone is all fast, and the race is predictable, and nothing really happens, that sounds kinda boring (to me, anyways).

      Besides, people still win and the performance is the same. Men don’t work harder than women. Women don’t work harder than men. They are pumping out equal levels of passion, drive, and adrenaline. Equal pay for equal for work, indeed!

      So, everything else is there that we love about the sport, except the entire group is a little slower. Well, I guess not everything else. Men also have a much larger community of support and interest. I’ve never been to a race in person (except a few local cyclocross races), so I’m just guessing here. Are the crowds smaller at women’s races? Maybe that’s where the problem is…Not with the women being less fun to watch, but with a smaller crowd and therefore less energy and excitement that you get from a crowd? Less screaming and cheers and so forth?

      But then again, perceptions are really strong and powerful (lots of cognitive research on this) and if the overall society –men and women– perceives that men are more exciting (through cultural avenues, such as financially supporting men’s sports, commercials with male athletes, best TV coverage given to male sports, etc) then people will be more excited about seeing the thing that they think is (or is supposed to be) more exciting. When we know that we aren’t supposed to be as excited to see women’s races, then we will be less excited.

      He also addresses the issue of sponsorships in that article–if people demand that women’s racing should get equal treatment and support women’s racing more, then we’d (hopefully…) see more sponsorship for women’s racing.

      Please keep commenting and talking about this issue! It’s very close to my heart and blogging is SO much more fun when people comment and my posts turn into conversations!

  4. Thank you for the compliment on my title. When all the SRAM double-tap stuff came out I was not sure if one lever shifting was for me. I had always used Campy shifters. Then I tried it out… And now There is a SRAM Red Frog on most of my sprockets. Honestly the Campy stuff does have a slightly more quality feel to it but Shimano and SRAM are so much more cost affective and I really dig the single shifter and the frogs pretty cute… ; P

    Seeing the big time tour races is a blast but honestly as a spectator I like track cycling best. Downhill mountain biking is thrilling though. Anyways, it’s all fun.

    Okay, back to the subject. I do see your point and the ladies are exciting and in MTB there really isn’t even much time difference. You bring up very good points. I hadn’t seen your partners post but now that I have and with your comments I see your angle.

    Women’s races do draw a smaller crowd generally, or at least those I’ve been to. I am certain partially because people ‘think the men are better’.

    As for the sponsor issue, it’s true we should demand equal sponsorship. While we pay the same for bikes as men as you pointed out, it’s still a fact that more men buy bikes. An example, Cervelo sponsors both male and female teams but out of everyone I know who rides I’m the only girl that owns one but I know about seven male riders with one. So, while I am glad Cervelo sponsors a women’s team on a marketing standpoint I believe their men’s team is more lucrative for them. It’s sad that it’s always in the end about money.

    Ultimately for the pay to become equal not just the prize money women’s racing will have to become as popular as men’s. For this to happen people do need to push for it. An example to me would be espn covering the men’s Tour De France but not even mentioning any of the women’s races. USA Today doesnt even post the results of women’s races but follows some of the men’s stage by stage.

    They would argue the interest isn’t there so they can’t afford to spend money covering it. But how can we show interest in something we don’t even know about?

    As a fan of sports that aren’t as popular as those like the NFL it’s kinda something I’m used to. However, your right it shouldn’t be this way. For it to change, for equal prizes and equal pay there will need to be equal following. It’s kinda like Mark Cavendish makes more than Emma Pooley. I love them both and actually have a cool 60 by 85 photo of Emma in my room but honestly Cav has way more fans and a larger following thus he gets more cash. By the way Emma has won more events. As you pointed out the work equally, at there passion. It really is sad.

    One other thing sometimes it’s tricky when looking at overall event payouts. What I mean is in some men’s events the top thirty will get prize money while only the top twenty women. At first glance this seems incredibly unfair but then when one looks deeper you notice that there are 132 men’s riders in the event and only 60 women. This means a higher percentage of the female riders will get prize money. And the money gap while present isn’t as large between women’s first and men’s first as it first appeared.

    All and all you make every good points and in the future my support will go to women’s events, in hopes to help bust the following and maybe someday the pay can be equal as it should be. One thing women cyclist should do is never buy a bike manufactured by a company that doesn’t sponsor a women’s team. You and I are safe there Trek has ladies teams and Cervelo, as well as a couple of the other bike brands I own do as well. I however, just bought a Pinarello who last year there was no women’s team on them but I heard a rumor that quick step was forming a women’s team and theyed be on Pino’s… Hopefully, I’ll just have to wait and see.

    By the way I love your blog and this post. Sorry for the excessively long comment… Thank you for opening my eyes to a new perspective. I’m fairly young and still figuring out my viewpoints so the perspective of others when valid, is always important. Thank you again for everything, including visiting my blog and the lovely comments. = )


    • I had a chance to read this yesterday, but couldn’t respond. But I’ll have you know, that this comment totally made my day!! Never apologize for long comments! I certainly don’t mind.

      Unfortunately, I don’t think I have much to add! I think you added some great examples in your responses here (some I might use in later posts! Crediting you, of course!). And one of the key points you made, that I totally agree with, is: They would argue the interest isn’t there so they can’t afford to spend money covering it. But how can we show interest in something we don’t even know about?

      I couldn’t have said it better myself!

      And very good point about the payouts–I didn’t think of it that way before, and looking at the % is something to keep in mind!

      I’m so glad that you found my/our posts interesting and useful for thinking about things in a new way. =) And if I get help get people even more jazzed about women’s cycling. Well, then, I be happy with that! Look forward to more blog-chats in the future!

      Oh, and I would love to see a track race one day as well! That does sound like a blast. Geez…I sure have a big “to-do” list, don’t I?

  5. This is an absolutely wonderful account of women’s cycling written by Nicole Cooke


    It highlights the gap in pay even more as there is no “minimum wage” for female road cyclists whilst there is for men. It also highlights the pressures for doping place on young impressionable cyclists just starting to make headway in a very adult world.

    Personally I think that women should receive the same pay. The same amount of effort goes in, the same training and I guess the pressure would be higher as anyone who did have any family (I cant think of any examples here, I know a pro and his scedule is astounding and I cant imagine a woman racing pro and pumping out even one kid) to support would be doing so on a lot less money. I imagine that the kit and cost of team management would be less as there are less female riders currently, only the projected benefit mentioned by our froggy friend is far greater.

    Scott sponser Orica-green edge, they have girls. I don’t own any or covert any but they should get a mention.

    Nicoles article has made me a little sad now because of the difference and has left me wondering what I can do about it. Hopefully it has the same effect on a lot of people, mostly execs in the UCI?

    • Thanks for the article, I’m about to check it out! I was not aware of the minimum wage at all, not even that there was one for men and not women. That’s absolutely ridiculous!

      And I of course agree that women should receive the same pay! And thanks for mentioning another pro-women company, it’s good to know about examples!

      It can be very sad to read about inequalities, and hard to deal with it sometimes. One thing that gets me through is to get angry. Anger can lead to action (I was angry, and I started this blog, for example!), whereas being sad tends to make us withdrawal and retreat–feeling numb or paralyzed.

      Thanks so much for all the comments! Please continue to do so! =D I LOVE COMMENTS!

      • It denpends how you deal with your emotions. I do get angry about these things, but maybe a little too angry so I try to tone myself down a little 😉

      • True. Maybe it’s one of those where moderation is key. Too little anger and why bother? Too much anger and all you want to do is physical violence. But juuust the right amount to get you fired up, but still able to think? Now that’s the right level 🙂

      • Yeah, Im one or the other. That happy medium is hard for me to find. In the end I get a little too evangelical and scare everyone!

    • What are the UCI to do? They don’t pay cyclists. Teams pay cyclists. Setting a minimum wage for women assumes the teams involved have the ability to pay a minimum. I very much doubt any pro womens team does. This is not the fault of the UCI, it certainly isn’t the fault of the mens teams.

      These teams source their money from endorsments. Investors consider the amount of money they pay verse the ‘product placement’ they would get when considering if sponsoring any team is finacially worthwhile. You also seem to assume that only a woman could feel extra pressure when it comes to families. But that is the typical feminist view of a family: woman, child – Men are not needed (and for many feminists not wanted except for their income) in a feminist family.

      Investors are not interested in womens cycling because they do not see the product placement it offers valuable. Instead of blaming the UCI or the Mens teams for this ask other women why. Ask them why from the bottom levels of cycling to the top tier why they show no interest. In the UK a common amature womens race includes all catagories from 4th cat to Elite simply to get enough competitors to actually stage a race. The last 4th cat mens race I attended, racers where turned away as the event was deemed ‘full’. Same for the 3rd cat mens race. Same forthe 1,2nd elite cat mens race. The same number of slots (was around 60ish for each race staged) for the only womens race on the day, a 4th cat to Elite race, was put on, Only 15 girls showed up. Is that the fault of the UCI? Is that the fault of the Mens pro Teams? Is that the fault of the Investors? Is that the fault of the fans? Or is it the fault of women for the most part having, overall, little interest in cycing?

      Remember this minimum wage only affects mens ROAD cycling. There is no minimum wage for XC or DH mountain bike riders, there is know minimum for BMX riders. There is no minimum for bromptom riders.

      • Rather than post our response here, we co-wrote a whole series of posts. The first post will go live tomorrow (Feb 23 2013) . I hope that you read them.

        What I will focus on in my response here is a little bit of feminism 101—something that it appears you do not quite understand. No big deal. Most people really don’t know much about it, and I’m happy to clarify.

        I’m not sure what “feminist families” are, or where you heard that “feminists” only want men for their money and don’t think they’re important (RushLimbaugh.com? GlennBeck.me?)…but this is flat out a myth.

        First of all, research (a.k.a. science, systematic inquiry … not thoughts-that-I-think-in-my-brain) has already shown that feminists are LESS HOSTILE towards men and hold LESS HOSTILE views about men than non-feminists. Here is a post I wrote about that: https://womencyclists.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/non-feminists-more-hostile-than-feminists/

        Second, (and this is also included that post) here is a more accurate way to describe feminism:

        Feminism is a commitment to achieving the equality of the sexes. This radical notion is not exclusive to women: men, while benefiting from being the dominant sex, also have a stake in overcoming the restrictive roles that deprive them of full humanity.

        I don’t know about you…but I sure don’t see anything about “man hating” in there. And there is certainly nothing about “men are only good for the family because of their money.” In fact, if you look carefully, you will see that feminists acknowledge that there are certain costs to men when we live in a sexist society (and this is tied to why feminists are actually less hostile than non-feminists).

        I certainly hope that this helps clarify the true nature of feminism. To show that it’s not something designed to attack men or families. It’s a movement that aims to promote equality and to add a little more faith back into humanity.

  6. Pingback: Top 5 Worst Reasons Against Promoting Gender Equality in Pro Cycling: Stage One Denial | women.cyclists·

  7. Huh. I don’t need feminism 101 on any subject. You mention science. Feminism blatantly ignores science when it doesn’t support the feminist ideology. If you believe feminism is about equality then I suggest you check out these feminists protesting a mens issues talk.

    This is what feminism looks like

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