This morning my friend Wendy, who runs the 700-member Los Angeles-based women's mountain biking club Girlz Gone Riding (GGR), tagged me in a post on the GGR Facebook page. The subject of the post read, "Do YOU think this is fair for the PRO purse?". Wendy's post went on to point out that the pro women's purses for the upcoming Mammoth Kamikaze Bike Games were substantially less than the men's purses in the Enduro, cross-country, and dual slalom events. In the case of the Enduro event, the winning man would receive $700 while the winning woman would only receive $150. Wow. That's not just a little disproportionate...that's a LOT!
Comments on this post from GGR members were flying in faster than I could keep up with reading them. The vast majority of them were outraged that such a disparity could exist. "Women train just as hard as men" read one of the comments. "So lame" and "Boycott" read others. While there was a lot of discussion about women's race fields generally being smaller than men's and therefore receive a smaller piece of the prize money pie, most everyone agreed that it sends the wrong message to have the scales tipped so far in the men's favor.
As a former pro racer (albeit a pretty crappy one!), this subject really hit home for me. While very few professional mountain bike racers (male or female) are getting wealthy from racing their bikes, it's especially difficult for women professional racers. I know many who are "in the red" each season trying to train enough to be competitive, travel to events all over the globe, and somehow make ends meet without totally depleting their life's savings.
Wendy urged her members to write to the folks at Mammoth, so I decided to write an e-mail to Bill Cockroft, Senior Vice President of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and offered to help.
As you might be aware, there is currently a a big stink being raised about the Mammoth Mountain Games women's prize money purses on a prominent women's mountain bike club website that has over 700 members.
As a former racer myself (I did the NORBA series...now I am truly dating myself!), I fully understand the women's fields tend to be smaller so paying the same prize money as men isn't always feasible. However, with all of the attention being given to this subject thru the efforts of groups like the Women's Cycling Association and the news earlier this year that the US Cycling US Cup Pro Series will be offering equal prize money, I think an opportunity was missed by the Mammoth Mountain Games to support women's MTB racing...and leverage extremely positive PR out of it!
Many thanks for offering equal prize money in the Pro GRT DH events! It would have cost you an additional $2,075 to make the prize purses equal in the Enduro, DS, and XC categories. I understand that race promotion is a business and you need to make money...and that the $2,000 needed to make the purses equal would eat into your bottom line. However, with a little creativity, I think you still could have made this happen and it would not have cost you a dime had you called in some sponsors to help bridge the gap. I'd like to think companies with product dedicated to women would have been more than happy to contribute.
I know this offer comes in at the 11th hour, but I would be willing to kick in the $565 to make the 2014 XC prize purse equal to men on behalf of my own company, Petal Power (www.petal-power.com...we are a brand new company making women's specific chamois cream). Please let me know what you think!
As I hit "send", I honestly figured I wouldn't hear anything back from him since the Mammoth Mountain Games are already technically underway with racing starting tomorrow. But low and behold, about a hour later, I got the following response:
I will take you up on your offer and in return advertise your company here at the event. Please send me the notes as you would like them read…short paragraph. My address is below and the check can be made out to Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. I have also changed the prize purse for the entire event and am sending out this statement. BTW it was your note that caused me to rethink.
The prize purse for the Kamikaze Bike Games was published months ago. The cash amounts, to be paid out, for Pro Men and Women was a business decision mostly based on the level of entries…money in and a percentage of the money out. As it turns out the ratios were quite close given the registered riders to date, for example in the pro enduro the total prize list gave 79% to males and 28% to females while the registration was 86% male to 14% female. Never the less the negative reaction from the female community has caused me to rethink the current prize list and make adjustments. The prize list of the 2014 kamikaze Bike Games reflects equal distribution of cash for Pro Male and Female riders.
Senior Vice President
Mammoth Mountain Ski Area LLC
Wow, I really need to give HUGE kudos to Bill and Mammoth Mountain Ski Area for stepping up and graciously supporting women's mountain bike racing. Equally huge kudos to Wendy and all the other GGR members who also took the time to write e-mails. I am still blown away at how quickly Mammoth Mountain took action...action that will be appreciated not only by the women they hand checks to on the podium this weekend but also by women in general who fight the gender gap in their personal and professional lives on a daily basis.
The moral of the long story is the squeaky wheel DOES get the grease! There IS strength in numbers! Josie Smith (Life On Two Wheels) said in her comments in the GGR post after hearing the prize money would be matched: "The awesomeness of women taking action NOW to help future generations of women riders find more balance in the industry = INSPIRING and wonderful! Who says change can't happen in the present? IT JUST DID!!! Rock on!".
So here's to a brighter future for women's bike racing! Together we can make a difference...and today was living proof of that. I challenge each and every one of you to take a stand in your own bike racing communities and speak up for equal women's prize money! People do listen...and change can happen.