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There has been some discussion recently among the randonneurs about demographics in randonneuring. I was pleased to discover that there's a breakdown of RUSA membership on the RUSA website, along several different axes, including age and gender. Hm! Eighteen percent women, as compared to the 5% participation rate by women at Paris-Brest-Paris. Of course, not everyone who joins RUSA actually rides in brevets, but it's a benchmark, at least. I believe that at some point the PBP organizers will provide more detailed participation statistics, so we can see whether the US participation at PBP reflects the RUSA membership. If so, this would mean that it's other countries who aren't bringing in women participants. I suspect the reality lies somewhere in-between, but that the US is doing a comparatively good job on this front - of course, that's not to say that we couldn't do better.

So, how does that compare to rowing, my other favorite sport (and, admittedly, first true love)?

Well, a website seeking to help people interested in monetizing the sport* declares that we've gone from 43% of the population as Master's rowers (ages 27+) to 75% Masters between 2004-2008. But note that participation in the sport has also grown, from 177,500 persons (+/- 9%) to 220,000 persons (+/- 9%). While things aren't broken down by both age and gender, it looks like the gender ratio has remained constant between the two surveys, at 55% men and 45% women.

So, wow. This supports my sense that rowing has done WAY better in the gender-balance department than long-distance cycling.

On the other hand, rowing is still overwhelmingly, tremendously white and privileged. But I'm pretty sure that cycling for sport is, too. This last link does a nice job of talking about good reasons to push for improving diversity in rowing, and many of those reasons are equally applicable to cycling.


*I mention this because there are so many potential sources of bias in this report. A quick skim of this site suggests they're trying to be transparent, but it would be useful to see how their numbers compare to USRowing's numbers (which I can't seem to find after an admittedly quick search).

Comments

( 9 remarks — Remark )
annikusrex
Nov. 10th, 2015 07:27 pm (UTC)
speaking as a cyclist who would never voluntarily subject myself to the distances (and sleep deprivation) required in long-distance cycling, i'm not sure that it's totally necessary to attain strict gender parity in long-distance cycling as opposed to cycling generally. defining the sport broadly is going to bring in a more diverse group of riders because different people like to do different things on bicycles!

i know it may not be how you see it, but for me long-distance cycling is a fairly extreme sport and one's competitive drive (to attain greater distances over specified times, if not beat co-competitors) must be quite intense to justify the sacrifices it entails. not everyone has that kind of obsessiveness about (or time to devote to!) sport or exercise, and when i observe that quality, at least, i observe it more often in men than women. but if it happens that women are more practical or modest in their exercise habits (or simply like their sleep better) than men, that's no great tragedy. and the numbers of women long-distance cyclists will naturally go up at least somewhat if more women are interested in cycling. shrug.
rebeccmeister
Nov. 10th, 2015 09:05 pm (UTC)
I don't think it's necessary to attain strict gender parity, either, and from a broader perspective the numbers are a bit better. The League of American Bicyclists says that, in 2009, women accounted for 24% of bicycle trips in the US (from what I gather, that was from a survey of household transportation, so it probably doesn't include recreation).

The thing is, and this is probably a biased perspective because of biased reporting, I get the impression that sexism is way more rampant in competitive cycling than in competitive rowing. Maybe it's just as bad in rowing and just doesn't get as much media coverage, but at least there's no creepy, gross history of "podium girls" in rowing!

And I think it's pretty darned interesting that the gender balance is that much better for rowing. Rowing also involves a lot of sleep deprivation, after all, plus it's a pretty intense time commitment, too. It also gets expensive in terms of travel and long days at regattas. I don't think people perceive the risks as being so extreme for rowing (are they? I dunno), and it generally isn't as socially isolating.
annikusrex
Nov. 10th, 2015 09:41 pm (UTC)
also on point: this wapo article on ultramarathon running, which shows some gender breakdown charts on marathons vs ultramarathons: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/health/ultramarathon/.

i don't mean sleep deprivation before/after engaging in the sport, i mean during! :)
rebeccmeister
Nov. 11th, 2015 03:57 pm (UTC)
Yes, that's really helpful for context. Heck, I think I'd be pretty satisfied with ~30% women, for randonneuring.

All that said and done - ieeee, I cannot imagine ever doing one of those stupid and insane ultramarathons. Blargh. They sound terrible! :-) I'd rather just go on a lovely hike and go camping.
thewronghands
Nov. 13th, 2015 11:03 pm (UTC)
I think they probably are terrible! [grin] But to me, camping also sounds terrible. I'm with you on the hike part, though!
rebeccmeister
Nov. 14th, 2015 05:40 pm (UTC)
I think this is connected to not being a tiny runner gazelle. My bones and joints just can't handle that much stress. I did a lot of trail running when I got ready for the one and only running marathon, and I liked the trail running aspect. It's just - if a person runs into trouble on a trail, the risks and danger are greater than if a person's on a paved surface used frequently by other travelers. (not that I have to tell you that)

What is it about camping that sounds terrible to you? Just the general discomfort?
thewronghands
Nov. 14th, 2015 06:37 pm (UTC)
I don't get anything out of the camping experience that I don't get out of hiking or a day adventure, so it's just sort of ongoing "you won't be clean, you won't eat well, you're always hot or cold or sticky" to no purpose. I can put up with super gnarly conditions if there's a hot shower and a hot meal at the end, but the camping versions of those are rarely good and so I end up just feeling grumpy and out of sorts.
rebeccmeister
Nov. 14th, 2015 10:24 pm (UTC)
Aha! You have not gone camping with me before, I see! You see, when I go camping, the food is excellent.

...I can't speak to the hot shower.

I think maybe some of this is associated with my being a morning person? I love waking up in a peaceful natural space. And I suspect I have a fairly high grime tolerance.
thewronghands
Nov. 15th, 2015 05:28 am (UTC)
I would bet that you would have good food! Stupid diet's constraints really pinch when applied to camping/backpacking food that is within my cooking/carrying capabilities. I end up carrying a mix of bars and raw fruits and veggies. Occasionally I find soup packets that are friendly. But fruits and veggies suck for crushability and rarely last past one day in a form you'd want to eat, and almost never past three. And they're heavy. Bars get old. And after a day of activity, I really look forward to being warm and just getting to eat a nice hot meal that someone else made. It lets me enjoy being tired, if that makes any sense. So it might be a temperament thing. (I am definitely not a morning person, heh.) I can put up with grime as long as I know I can get rid of it at the end, but having to go to sleep filthy kinda sucks when it's sleep and not a nap. (I can dirt nap with the best of 'em.) And I've never taken a wilderness bath that couldn't be described by "uncomfortable or worse", heh.
( 9 remarks — Remark )

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