Back in October, I wrote about the buzz of activity surrounding women’s cycling as the UK National Hill Climb approached. It felt like an important moment, and we had the chance to turn it into something long lasting. A record number of women were racing and a huge number of them were competing for the first time. Women were engaging and sharing stories on social media, and noise about women’s cycling was growing.
The hill climb season had once again highlighted the presence of prize inequality in the sport, and sharing experiences online had pushed some into seeing what action they could take to change it.
Haddi Conant was one of those individuals, and images of them with cardboard signs at races became synonymous with the push for change. Backed by their team Lifting Gear Products Cycles in Motion, an open letter was written which looked to request a rule change in time trials.
An Open Letter for a Rule Change
The letter requested that a rule be introduced to ensure equal prizes for the top three finishers of each sex in any event. Momentum gathered, and over 4,300 people signed the open letter – amongst them thousands of competitors, hundreds of event organisers and a handful of Olympians and national champions. The letter also brought together a group of individuals from across the country with a common passion for equality in cycling. This working group became Equality and Parity in Cycling (EPiC), and it is something I am proud to be a part of.
The open letter and list of signatories was submitted to the governing body for the sport, Cycling Time Trials (CTT). They communicated that a rule change was not within their capacity at this time, but that they would be looking into equality issues in the sport in other ways. Initially, this was disappointing, but it paved the way for an alternative approach to the issue. This approach is one which celebrates those already achieving prize equality, one which is more ambitious, and one which is more versatile – working beyond the amateur time trial scene. This is the EPiC Kitemark.
The EPiC Kitemark
The EPiC Kitemark is a way to celebrate events which provide equal prize money to men and women. It is a symbol that can be awarded to events, series, or clubs which signifies that a set of equality criteria has been met. These criteria are based on what we see as the gold standard for prize equality at cycling events, but also ensure equal recognition of male and female competitors and require the use of appropriate terminology. Waving goodbye to listing categories as “overall” and “ladies”, and bringing in standard terminology recognising women as an equal and distinct category to men. The full criteria are listed on the EPiC website.
Once awarded, the Kitemark symbol can be displayed on the event’s promotional materials, results sheets, or club website. The symbol itself is distinct and recognizable. It is based on the UN symbol for gender equality, made a little cycling specific. In addition, the clubs and events that have been awarded the EPiC Kitemark will be listed on the website, to showcase those promoting equality.
Whilst the kitemark was initially conceived to encourage and celebrate prize equality in time trialling in the UK, we’ve aimed to make it as flexible as possible. We’d love to see it being used for any competitive cycling event that offers prizes, anywhere in the world.
This will take time
I know that change takes time. There are some great clubs and events already achieving prize equality and leading the way. But, cycling lives in the shadow of its history, and that is one where ‘male’ has been the default. Changing perspectives and attitudes is a long process. Women may still be the minority in the sport but that doesn’t mean they should be valued or recognised any less. Perhaps there is even more to celebrate for those who succeed in a sport where they are the outsiders. Regardless, women’s participation in cycling is growing and ensuring equal prizes is one small change we can make to send a clear message that women are welcome and valued.
I also know that there will be some who are not ready for this, and some who will be against it. The kitemark is also about starting conversations and discussion, and for those who aren’t ready, we hope it can provide a goal to progress towards. Progress is important and being on the right trajectory matters.
Cause for optimism
Pushing for change is exhausting, especially when you’re arguing for your own validity and worth in the sport. This is not unique to me. Last year was not the first year that women have raised the issue of prize equality in the hill climb or time trial scene. In fact, we have had messages from veterans of the sport saying they were frustrated that we were still having to push for this given they’d done so years before. I’m hopeful that we’re at a real turning point now, spurred on by everything else that’s happening in women’s cycling. It’s just as much for the women who fought for this before us as for the girls learning to cycle now.
I’m optimistic; we’re doing this against a background of other landmark changes. This year has already seen the publication of the first women’s edition of Rouleur, the first women’s edition of Cycling Weekly, and fans crowdfunding to equalize prize funds at the Strade Bianche. Messages of support and enthusiasm from the cycling community have been much appreciated, and we already have some ‘early adopter’ clubs who have signed up to use the EPiC Kitemark. We can’t wait to see who else will join them.
Find out more, and sign up for the EPiC Kitemark here.