I’ve spent the past couple of years changing my mindset on a lot of topics that I previously chose to ignore. One of these things has been the fight for equality. Call it growing up, or perhaps more accurately call it opening my eyes.
It wasn’t that I didn’t know how big an issue this is, or how massively it would effect my life or the industry I worked within, but simply that I didn’t want to face it. I was young enough that I didn’t yet feel the burden financially, and remained within a bubble that hadn’t yet seen the outpouring of female empowerment that is now pushing for better.
I would never have denied the fact there were massive problems of inequality, but I passively accepted them as the way it was and would always be. It’s the world I was surrounded by, and until I stepped back and opened my eyes I was fairly sure it was the cycling world all women would be raised in.
It’s a scary thing to put yourself out there and feels easier to leave it to others, but I saw women speaking out and that inspired me to follow suit. It’s tiring, time consuming, frustrating, saddening, and at the same time it’s a passion that surrounds you with amazing people and uplifts you.
I don’t think it’s ever too late to speak out about things that matter. I also don’t think any of us have to have all the answers or always get everything right. It’s as important to keep being loud and vocal on certain issues as it is to be open to debate and discussion on others. This is an ever changing environment, and one where you will be met with an outpouring of support while simultaneously being told to shut up and accept the status quo.
It’s hard to stay calm and composed in those moments, but it’s important to not let the vocal few stamp out the fire within us to make a better world for everyone. I don’t know whether it’s fear on their part, or perhaps just unpleasant people, but more for us doesn’t mean less for them. This is about the greater good and equal opportunity. That’s everyone’s right.
Having stepped off the bike, and away from the direct competitiveness I always felt with other women, I realised I’d been doing it wrong and I would go as far as to say I’m not the only one. I always had a mindset of ‘every woman for themself’.
It felt like there was less opportunity and less potential for greatness as a woman, financial or otherwise. Therefore competition felt higher. It was either me or her.
I now see how short-sighted and selfish that was, and ultimately how much of a disservice it did to other women in the same position and to those walking in our footsteps. I can work hard for the best possible future for myself while also supporting and encouraging others to do the same.
I watch racing now and I’m proud of all the women I see forging a better path and fighting for a better future. Those showing the next generations that we have the right to be successful and to demand fair acknowledgement of this success, and fighting for the fact that one day this will no longer be a hypothetical. If I see riders being honest and genuine and supporting other women wholeheartedly then it’s a pleasure to also support them.
I look around and see so many incredible people, no matter how they identify, fighting for a better and fairer industry for everyone. One where people will grow up free from the notion that because you’re a woman this isn’t for you.
It’s irrelevant to me now whether or not I’ll return to the peloton and personally benefit from any change that happens; it matters to me more that future generations don’t work in a system where you feel, and are treated, as if you’re worthless. That the amount of sacrifice and hard work you put in isn’t equal to your male counterparts, and doesn’t even deserve to be seen.
Demand better for yourself, but also demand better for the women alongside you.
Only by working together, and wanting as much opportunity for those around you as you want for yourself, will we see the change we all desire.
I believe with all my heart, and more importantly my mind, that we rise by lifting others.