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Engaging & Elevating Female Leaders

When Melissa Balmer invited me to the California By Bike Summit next month, I was immediately excited and honored.

But then I started looking at the program…

Sessions on closing the gender gap in cycling leadership; fostering female-centric bike culture; new advocacy for changing times. Presenters like Renee Rivera of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition; Jenna Burton founder of Red, Bike & Green; and Alexis Lantz, president of the CalBike board of directors. In fact, I did a quick count, and it looks like the majority of speakers at this statewide Summit may be women.

Um, where do I sign?

It made me think back to a lively dinner discussion with a number of female leaders after the 2012 National Women’s Bicycling Summit in Long Beach. We need more women at the podium — making the keynotes, presenting the sessions — at bike events around the country, we said. Plenty of women have the expertise and the knowledge to be the top decision-makers and trend-setters in advocacy, planning and industry, we agreed, we just need to make sure their voices are heard and their leadership duly recognized.

Certainly we have a ways to go, but it looks like the Golden State is heading in the right direction.

In the final section of our Women on a Roll report, we make the case that engaging and elevating female leaders is a critical step in mainstreaming bicycling in the United States. Across the bike world, women are still dramatically underrepresented in leadership and membership — despite the fact that we are influential political constituencies and highly engaged in peer-to-peer encouragement.

According to our report:

  • In 2012, 45% of paid staff at Alliance for Biking & Walking members (state and local bicycle advocacy organizations) were women, but…
  • Women are underrepresented in the membership of many national organizations, including USA Cycling (13%), the International Mountain Biking Association (18%), Adventure Cycling (21%) and the League (30%)
  • Women are underrepresented on the boards of directors, as well: IMBA (1 of 11), People for Bikes (2 of 18), Alliance for Biking & Walking (3 of 18)… and the majority of local and state advocacy organizations
  • In addition: A 2011 study found that only 28% of members of local bicycle advisory committees in California werw women
  • And, by our count, in 2012, only 18 of 51 state bicycle coordinators were women
  • On the federal level, though, women make up 22% of the Congressional Bike Caucus, while only 18% of the U.S. House of Representatives
  • And, nationally, female bicyclists are more likely than their male counterparts to have a Facebook acount (85% vs 64%), Twitter account (34% vs 24%) or personal website (28% vs 20%)
  • Have we mentioned that there are a staggering 630 blogs related to women and biking?

We’re just at the beginning of our assessment of women’s representation and leadership in the movement — and we need your help. Take a moment to tell us about your organization, club, bike shop, etc, in our Women & Equity Survey.

We’re also starting to plan for the 2014 National Women’s Bicycling Forum and want to hear from you: What leaders would like to hear from? What topics would help you advance your professional and personal development to get more women on bikes? Share in the comments or shoot me an email: [email protected].

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