We’ve spent a lot of time thinking of how we can improve the women’s fields at Boulevard, particularly increasing the number of riders and promoting growth and equality for women. We plan to increase the women’s P/1/2/3 field prize purse to a minimum of $1000 paid out 10 deep. There will be additional incentives for higher payout with increased attendance beyond 25 riders. This is a long post, but we believe it requires a rather complete explanation of our thought process.
You may have already seen that we’ve increased the prize purse for our Women’s 3/4 field to be equal to our men’s 3 field. Many people believe that not as many women show up to race the 3/4 as the masters categories. We found this to be false. At Boulevard, we had more women in the 3/4 field than in most of the masters categories, yet the women still had a smaller prize purse. We had to fix this. Even without this compelling evidence, making the prizes equal in this case is just the right thing to do. As a collegiate team, we are focused on growing the sport and getting new people involved. Promoting equality in prizes and encouraging women’s cycling is just part of that. As it only costs us $150 to do this, it was an easy decision.
Doing something similar for the Women’s P/1/2/3 field is more difficult. At Boulevard, we pay out $1999 to the Men’s P/1/2 field (which is the maximum allowed in the class of permit we use) for a category 70+ racers. We paid out $700 to the women for a category of approximately 20 racers. Closing that gap is nearly impossible without a generous sponsor or a large increase in attendance. We already heavily subsidize the Women’s P/1/2/3 prize money from the other categories we offer and can’t just put in $1300 more to equalize the prizes. We are a group of college kids who use this race to finance our team and our efforts to get young adults riding and racing.
A lot of promoters try to “give women a chance” by splitting their token P/1/2/3/4 women’s category into a P/1/2/3 and a 3/4 or by raising the prize money a small amount and then threaten “that if not enough people show up, things will go back to the way they were.” This isn’t beneficial and not the attitude we want to take because it is just an excuse to return to the status quo the next year. These are usually the same promoters who don’t realize the inherent sexism in calling the men’s field “Men’s P/1/2” but only calling the women’s field “Women’s 1/2/3.” Tacking on the “pro” label to the women doesn’t cost anything, but many neglected it on the flyers last year. Whatever policy we enact, we need to both avoid and counteract this institutionalized sexism that insinuates that women’s races are less important.
We also needed a way to calibrate our expectations for what to call “good” women’s attendance. Part of trying to come up with a creative and fair way to improve women’s race experiences has been collecting data. There are 16 pro, 57 cat 1, 102 cat 2, and 150 cat 3 women in the state of California who raced a road race in 2014 (you can find this info on the USAC rankings system) for a total of 325 women. Compare that to 28 pro, 262 cat 1, and 506 cat 2 men in the state of California who raced a road race in 2014 for a total of 796. This tells us that we should expect there to be more than twice as many P/1/2 men at a race as P/1/2/3 women. We had 68 men finish the P/1/2 race in 2014 and only 18 women finish the P/1/2/3 race. It appears that our women’s attendance could be better, but it probably is actually pretty good given that the difficulty of Boulevard drives a lot of women’s 3s to race the 3/4 field instead.
We also collected data (table below) for the payout for women’s races in SCNCA in 2014. Included is the total prize purse, number of stages, and a reference for the men’s payout at the same race. They are ordered by total purse size, although the Purse/Stage is also shown (obviously a $1500 that takes 3 days to win is not really as good as $1500 that takes 1 day to win).
|4||Barry Wolfe GP||1||$1,999||$1,999||31||$1,999||1.00|
|6||Tour de Murrieta||3||$1,500||$500||31||$4,350||0.34|
|9||OC Cycling Classic||2||$1,000||$500||15||$1,999||0.50|
|11||Ladera Ranch GP||1||$750||$750||26||$1,999||0.38|
|14||LA Circuit Race||1||$500||$500||29||$1,500||0.33|
|16||Roger Millikan Crit||1||$400||$400||39||$1,200||0.33|
|17||Chuck Pontius RR||1||$400||$400||32||$800||0.50|
|23||Poor College Kids RR||1||$200||$200||25||$300||0.67|
|24||Adrenaline Circuit Race||1||$200||$200||11||$1,000||0.20|
|26||Sherman Pass RR||1||$100||$100||9||$150||0.67|
|27||SoCalCup Crit||1||$75||$75||14||$75 & $20/lap||???|
|28||Nine Mile Canyon Omn.||2||$60||$30||10||$100||0.60|
|29||Turtle Creek RR||1||$60||$60||9||$100||0.60|
If we leave out Redlands (due to its incomparable size), we get an average attendance of 21 women finishing the race and an average payout of $852 to the women (about $600 if you exclude Manhattan Beach’s Chevron sponsorship which heavily skews the prizes). In comparison, Boulevard has average attendance and a per stage payout in the top 10. Prize money does seem to correlate with attendance, but there are some races that have large attendance even with a small prize purse.
Going by the general statistic that at least twice as many men race as women, and by looking at the attendance rates listed above, we can draw 2 conclusions.
- Any race that has at least 25 P/1/2/3 women should have at least 60 P/1/2 men. This is considered good attendance for a men’s race, so 30 should be considered “good” for the women’s race in the short term.
- Any race that doesn’t pay half the prize money to the P/1/2/3 women as is paid to the P/1/2 men is likely short-changing the women since a lot of races had upwards of 20 women racing. Yes, an argument can be made that there are fixed costs, thus causing a larger percentage of the women’s registration to go towards those costs. But we still think a pretty fair goal from a business standpoint is at least half the payout for women as men.
That was a lot of buildup, but we think it is worth getting a feel for the situation as well as showing explicit data and numbers to help frame the conversation. Now what does this mean for Boulevard? First, we are flat out increasing the payout from $700 to $1000 so it is half of the Men’s payout and paid out 10 spots deep. This makes Boulevard one of the highest compensated women’s P/1/2/3 races in SCNCA.
Next we are introducing an aspiration program that both gives incentive for above average attendance and helps to reward efforts to increase the overall number of women riding and racing bikes. We hope that over the years, this helps to encourage the efforts to help make women welcome and equal in this sport. We hope even more that some time soon we can drop this compromise and pay the women equally with the men. Until then, for every 5 women’s P/1/2/3 racers we get registered past an initial 25, we will add on ~$200 to the prize money and an extra 2 places in the payout. This maxes at 50 riders when the prize payout will be equal to the men’s at $1999 and 20 spots deep. Based on the numbers shown above, 50 is a reach goal that we don’t expect to meet this year. But we hope you will agree that this is a clear plan to work towards equality in the next couple of years and will help prize money tie into other efforts to increase female representation in cycling. However, should someone step up to help sponsor this category, 100% of their donation will go towards prizes. Contact Ian at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to pursue this option.