I have been aware of the lack of diversity in triathlon for years. You would have to be racing and spectating with blinders on to miss the shortage of representation of women (and people of color, but that is not the topic of this particular blog). And although I have a passion for inclusion in our sport, I still I was able at different times to not fully see the discrepancies due to my personal privilege, our team being women owned and led, and half of our team membership female.
Since working with the Feisty Team I feel like not only have any blinders completely come off, but at the Ironman Wisconsin full and 70.3 distances I felt there was a giant spotlight on the amount of male versus female competitors— roughly 70% to 30%.
Why is this?
I am not, nor am I claiming to be a researcher. I understand there could be several contributing factors. I am writing from the view of an experienced and aware coach and athlete who has been in the industry for nearly 15 years. Today I am going to focus on my educated opinion of one of the potential reasons. I believe the cultural conditioning and expectations for women has a large impact, and is a big part of what sparked a passion for me and led to me where I am today.
As I have mentioned a few times, I love the sport of triathlon. And I can honestly say that being a triathlete has made me a better mom, wife, coach, friend, etc. I very much enjoy the three sports and practicing the art of putting them all together. I love the physical, mental, and emotional challenges that present themselves and the satisfaction of overcoming them, either in success or failure. I thrive on the camaraderie and in the community. But, I will be honest (incase you didn’t know this yet)— triathlon is my vehicle for encouraging self awareness, personal accountability, and empowerment to live a life that serves yourself, your loved ones, your acquaintances, and humanity best. It is my catalyst for creating change in individuals and globally.
The truth is that women often have a hard time considering their own needs and wants ahead of others. We are taught that being called “selfless” is the highest complement we can receive. And according to Miriam Webster the definition of selfless is “having no concern for self.” How can you train and race an endurance event that requires months of preparation with time and energy focused on your own needs if you have no concern for yourself?
I am here to tell you: you can be unselfish AND still have concern for yourself. You can train for and race in an endurance event (or insert other big goal here) AND not be selfish.
And if you want to, I am here to empower you to take on your goal.
Women heap exceptions on ourselves, some due to cultural conditioning and some from the pressures of partners or exceptions established by other women. We are often saddled with this idea of “mom guilt” if we take any amount of time to build up ourselves. Although men face their own societal pressures, they do not include this idea that we spend every available moment in the presence of our children. Has anyone ever heard a man say that he is suffering from “dad guilt”?
According to many recent research studies, women do roughly two hours a day more unpaid housework than men. Whether chosen or expected, the cleaning, cooking, laundry, kid shuttling, caring for elders, etc takes a lot of time and physical and mental energy. Not only do women feel that they are lacking the physical time to have big personal goals, but they are often too emotionally exhausted and mentally spent to have the bandwidth to consider their own wants and needs.
I do want to be very clear: I am not at all suggesting that women must choose to work or have hobbies away from the home. Telling women what they should do is the exact opposite of what I aim to accomplish in this blog. I am also not naive to the fact that it is not simple for all women to implement a plan to realize their dreams, especially not quickly. And regardless of goals it is always important to practice unselfish behavior often, putting the needs of others over your own. But, trust me— doing so is more genuine and full of love when it comes from a place of abundance in yourself.
Today I am urging my female readers to allow yourselves to start with thinking outside of the culture’s defined roles and your own conditioning. If you so desire to choose to take on more unpaid work and care for the home and/or kids. And when interested in and capable of doing so to be able to choose to prioritize your career or to tip the scales toward your hobbies. When you are living the most authentic version of you—the person you were created to be—you will be able to care for and give back without resentment and bitterness. There will be no need for a mid life crisis, but instead you will have more daily personal respect and compassion.
I urge you to take some quiet, undistracted time and truly consider what do YOU want to do? What are your dreams and goals?
If you feel stuck don’t blame your kids for your choices. If you don’t want a goal, own it. If you do, make a plan and someday, you can own it.
Is this selfish? NO. Does it help you, your loved ones, and all of humanity? YES.
And while you are considering, why not think about racing? If you talk to a female triathlete you will almost never hear them speak of regrets in trying the sport. There are so many distances and race options to choose from as well as chances to borrow gear and earn race scholarships. If possible, save $1 a day until you have the financial freedom to give it a tri. Even if it can’t be actualized immediately, don’t dismiss your desire toward a goal. Goals have loud voices and they are damn persistent.
Cultivate trust in your circles of women. Be honest with yourself and others. Look at your own cultural conditioning and practice listening and allowing yourself to think differently. Support each other by allowing women to make the choices that work best for them, in whatever roles they choose. Stop letting comparison and perfectionism get in the way of your goals and relationships. Women and men need to consider how we perpetuate these ideals and work together for change.
Let’s get more women in the sport while building all of us up to be our true selves.
See you on the start line.