Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) president Pat McQuaid has presented a speech at the World Conference on Women and Sport in Los Angeles, USA, this week dealing with the issue of gender equality within cycle sport.

During the speech, McQuaid outlined the advances made by the UCI in creating and integrating women’s events into professional cycling – but said that there was still a lot more work to be done in preventing the prejudice and discrimination of women.

“Women are challenged by many barriers based on prejudice – not only within a political, economic and social framework but equally within the local, national and international sports environment,” said McQuaid during his speech entitled ‘Equal opportunities: How to make it happen’.

“This is particularly true for endurance sports which have at times in history, including in modern history, been considered too difficult or even harmful for women,” he continued.

“The heritage of these stereotypes has been damaging to the advancement of women and it has deeply affected decades of coverage by sport media, decisions of sport organizations, access to education and the participation of girls and women in recreational and competitive sport.”

Last year, British professional cyclist Emma Pooley openly attacked ‘sexism’ in cycling, saying that the UCI had been “extremely backward” in addressing the issue.

In January, Australian professional Chloe Hosking was forced to apologise to McQuaid after calling him “a dick” for saying that there should be no minimum wage for female cyclists, as there is for male riders.

In his speech, McQuaid outlined the work that the UCI has undertaken in recent decades to strengthen the position of women in cycle sport.

He cited the addition of women’s cycling events to the Olympic Games, culminating in the decision to create equal numbers of cycling events for men and women at the 2012 Games in London, as an example of the advances made to eliminate discrimination.

“Female athletes from a large number of nations have now won Olympic medals in cycling disciplines which means that Olympic role models have been created for girls and women across the globe and the number of role models can be expected to grow significantly in 2012 given that there will be more women’s cycling medals up for grabs in London,” said McQuaid. 

Despite this – and although the Olympic disciplines themselves are equal – the London 2012 road race test event last August only featured a men’s race.

McQuaid quoted that the number of elite women cyclists has increased 153 per cent since the inception of the UCI Women’s World Cup road race series in 1997. He also said that television interest in the womens World Cup has grown across Europe, Asia and Australasia.

Working conditions for women professional cyclists were also dealt with, with McQuaid citing the introduction of the scrutiny of women’s teams to ensure they adhere to UCI criteria for financial guarantees.

More introspectively, McQuaid stated that the UCI has committed to an internal equal opportunities policy, with 49 per cent of current employees being female.

Rather than resting on its laurels, McQuaid admitted that “much work remains to be done and the UCI is committed to creating better visibility for women and to providing the best possible conditions for the development of women’s cycling.” 

“To quote a thinker who has had no small affect on changing the world: Albert Einstein who put it quite simply when he said ‘Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving’

“Even if riding a bicycle is somewhat easier than moving forward with change, let us keep up the momentum so that we get our balance right.”

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A transcript of the full speech is available for download from the UCI website

Related links

Pooley attacks cycling’s sexism