Later in the week following Interbike,
I'd been sent to Interbike with a client and some of their staff team. I was in utter awe the first day I walked into Interbike- it's hands down the largest conference I've ever attended. The sheer overwhelm from the size never ceased to amaze me all week, I simply adapted at navigating the space which felt similar to the size of downtown Calgary.
At Interbike I attended seminars, outdoor demonstrations, sales pitches and discussed 2015 sales outlook and marketing strategy with the client. I sat through hours and hours of meetings and wandered through the maze of cycling-triathlon-bike-related booths. Considering the sensory overload of the entire experience (including a pretty fantastic night at Cross Vegas) what struck me about Interbike the most was the lack of females. It's true, there were women attending, exhibiting, selling, but they made up a noticeable minority of the attendees. I asked a number of people what they thought the percentage split was. "90%/10%" said one, a female at a nutrition booth. "80%/20%" said another, a male sales rep. "70%/30%" said two gentlemen assisting me at a gear booth. My unofficially poll never resulted in a split higher than 30% female representation.
Mid-week I sat through a seminar entitled, "The Seven Deadly Sins of Selling to Women" and noticed again the lack of female presence. While the presenter walked through the best practises of selling to women I frantically jotted down notes on statistics. 70% of new customers of bike shops in the USA this year will be female. Women have 75% of the purchase power in a household. Women will spend up to double their budget on a bike if proved valuable. The single biggest market for growth is women. It was this moment where I started to feel frustration creep up. If women are such an important part of the mix in cycling now and the year ahead, why aren't more women making the decisions?
While it's not to say that male bike shop owners don't know what female customers like or tend to purchase, and it's not to say there aren't some incredibly astute male business owners that understand and are working towards educating, empowering and assisting women enter the sport. In no way am I implying men can't and don't know their audience- I was simply baffled at the lack of females present. If our gender is so important and we make up a substantial part of the industry growth and spending power, why are we so underrepresented in this sort of scenario?
I met a number of women at the event. Some were from other bike shops as attendees, some where exhibitors. I met triple the amount of men. Maybe quadruple. I have pondered endlessly on the topic of women in cycling. I pondered endlessly on the topic of women in sport. More over I have wondered, how can I make a change so more women are impacted positively and empowered by cycling?
It's a complicated question with no easy answer. As I work in building a marketing plan for the client for the year ahead, I wonder how we can make small changes - or huge ones- to add more women to the mix.
Perhaps the single best outcome from my observations, note-taking and thoughts (besides an excellent conference and a deeper understanding of the industry I am working to market) was my true and clear understanding of a personal belief I have had brewing for a long time: I am a feminist! I have tended to steer clear of the word for my own true lack of complete understanding, but now I emotionally know it to be true. I imagine many of the staffers I work with at Calgary Sexual Health Centre (another great client) will be offering my high-fives as I tell them this story.
Maybe they will have a few suggestions on empowering women in cycling too.