“A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” That most iconic of quotes can really polarize people. Easily, I can edit out some words and change it to something we can all agree on: “A woman needs a bicycle.” Isn’t that better? Women, however, only make up about 35 percent of our membership. With half of our potential membership pool being women, we’re clearly missing out on a large number of potential members. Apparently Potomac Pedalers needs more women to connect with the bicycles they need! That’s why I’m the new head of the Women & Bicycling committee. I want to recruit more women to join us. (Of course, this in no way detracts from the assortment of rides and other programs that the Club organizes on behalf of all its members and the cycling community in general.)
A quick Google search will bring up references to many academic studies that show that organizations that work towards diversity in a conscience manner prosper. A peek at our list of past Club presidents shows just how few women we’ve had in that particular leadership position. Historically, women have been underrepresented in our membership and volunteer pools. As a member of Potomac Pedalers, I’d like to see our organization prosper by adding a diversity of viewpoints and a diversity of people to our membership. In order to achieve that goal, the committee is looking at various ways to increase the number of women in PPTC.
First, we’re working with the Washington Area Bicycle Association (WABA) and its Women & Bicycle Initiative. We did this last year and found it useful. They have a Facebook page of thousands of women cyclists, and we were able to tap into that network. They promote our organization, and we promote theirs. The women have access to two great organizations that promote bicycling. PPTC promotes biking through creating and leading rides. WABA promotes bicycling through its advocacy. We complement each other.
Second, we’re organizing women’s rides this year. As this article is going to press we’re working on the first ride for April 23. Last year, this ride attracted over 70 women, all of whom were introduced to Potomac Pedalers and what we do. We’re hoping for a similar turn out this year. It’s an ALL class ride with an emphasis on being social — a place that women can ask questions and receive advice. I’m also recruiting women to lead women friendly rides. This is new this year, so the concept is fluid. Let me know if you have any ideas for these types of rides. We can go stereotypical and focus on chocolate, wine and color coordinating your bike, or we can go realistic and focus on fit, form and function of your bike, or we can go easy and just list one of your regular rides as women friendly. I’m good with any of these methods. We can also work with WABA on these rides, and they will publicize these rides for us.
Third, Potomac Pedalers is sponsoring a rest stop and running a workshop on knowing your bike at the Wild Goose Chase on the weekend of May 14 and 15. Friends of Blackwater sponsors this ride to help support the Blackwater wildlife refuge. We’ll have the workshop followed by a ride on Saturday afternoon staffed by PPTC volunteers. On Sunday, we’ll be ambassadors for our Club with the women riding the Chase. Many of these women will be local cyclists that we can introduce to Potomac Pedalers.
Fourth, well who knows. If you have some ideas on how to increase the number of women in our club, please let me know. We haven’t been focused on recruiting women for very long, so we welcome new ideas.
Deborah Turton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ed. note: Deborah was one of this year’s recipients of the Peter LeGrand Good Shepherd Award, given to ride leaders who go out of their way to ensure that everyone on a ride feels welcome.