Together, we have the power to make all of the changes we want to see happen. That’s the thought I was left with after leading a panel discussion about women’s issues in the sport of MUT running with Cat Bradley, Clare Gallagher, Gina Lucrezi, Silke Koester, Ryan Smith, and Sage Canaday.
Each year I’ve been in the sport I’ve seen positive changes made only because people had the courage to say something, even when they knew they’d be faced with criticism. We now have better coverage of women’s races, Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc now recognizes the top 10 women and men (instead of 5 women and 10 men), most races now offer equal prize money, women and men now run the same distance and have the same team size at the World Mountain Running Championships, etc. For this I am grateful, but like many other women I’m not yet satisfied. In the discussion, the panel did a wonderful job not only talking about the current issues in our sport, but also giving some solutions we can build off of.
-Why men normally make more money from sponsorships
-The concern about men making less money if women start to make more
-Pregnancy in contracts
-Women’s purchasing power
-Women’s specific gear
-How companies play a role in gender inequality
-Field sizes in relation to prize money, team size, recognition, etc.
-Why it’s important to have men discuss this topic
-Participation of women vs. men in mountain, ultra, and trail running (MUT)
-Why talking about this matters on a larger scale is important
-What we can all do to make the changes we want to see happen
While we covered a lot of ground, it would have been easy to go in much more in depth on any one of these topics. There’s also a lot we didn’t have time for. Here are some examples of what else we could have talked about:
-Reasons why there’s so many more men in MUT Running
-Why are some women afraid to speak up? The negatives of social media (i.e. the YouTube comments on the video)
-The consequences women often face when they admit to being competitive or “owning” a good race, yet males often get praised for this.
-Do men and women get the same amount of attention during (i.e. cheers at the finish line) and after races?
What else can you add to this list?
As my sister, Ray, said following the discussion, the changes made so far are mostly due to “gifts attributed to women: brains to intelligently discuss controversial topics, heart to prove their strength and ability to go the distance, and peacefully (but powerfully) protesting injustice. Bobbi Gibbs, Kathrine Switzer, Miki Gorman (and so many more) didn’t fight for us to settle for “good enough” but so we could continue to strive and achieve equality.”
The conversations we have with each other are powerful, sometimes more powerful than we realize. In fact I only got the courage to host the event after having a wonderful discussion hiking up a mountain with my friend Silke. She expanded my own thoughts that day, reinforcing my belief that we need to keep having deep conversations with one another to grow individually and to make positive change together. I don’t expect everyone to always agree with each other while discussing women’s issues in MUT running. However, I fully expect that disagreements happen with respect and kindness towards one another, otherwise it’s hard for others to respect opposing opinions anyway. With that said, listen to the discussion posted below and then if you’re moved by it, share it and keep the conversation going!
Video/Podcast: Women’s Equality in Mountain Ultra Trail Running (also in landing page sidebar)
Special thanks to the panel as well as Nicole DeBoom who graciously let Sage and I hold this discussion in her store. I truly meant what I said at the beginning of the discussion – “This was a dream panel for me not because I got to talk to talented runners, but because each person on the panel is incredibly kind and intelligent.”