Growing up, as a rule, I didn’t have many female friends. Blame it on the fact that my neighbor was a daredevil boy who baited me into being part of his adventures, or a clique-y middle school (think Mean Girls but not as well dressed/without people actually giving a shit). Whatever the reason, female friends came and went—with one exception—but the guy friends I had when I was 12, I still consider friends today.
Even when I got into cycling, my world was still predominantly male. My close teammates were men, and we traveled in a non-lady-friendly pack. And when I started working in the cycling industry, all of my coworkers were men.
Now, don’t get me wrong. My teammates and former coworkers are an amazing bunch of dudes, and I love them. But I was definitely lacking in women role models, and lacking in female friendships.
The friendship side came along in large part thanks to Gabby Day (now Durrin). It wasn’t intentional. Someone set her up to stay at my house for her first trip to the US, and when I picked her up at the airport, short hair and tattoos comfortably on display in sharp contrast to her preppier style, I don’t think either of us expected to become immediate friends. But we did, and that kicked off the season that brought me to Western MA, home of some of the coolest, strongest, most badass women I’ve ever met. You know who you are.
And after I made that move, I found myself being the one planning nights out for just the girls—something I never thought I’d get to do.
But still, work was a male-dominated world.
Fast-forward to two years (only two?!) later, I’m still working remotely and now I just live with one boy, but thanks to the ladies in Massachusetts, I’ve found myself more capable of forming female friendships outside of that bubble. I have running buddies and female cyclists and yoga friends I hang out with in Collingwood. It’s a huge shift from just a couple of years ago.
That said, women still terrify me. That same voice in the back of my head that panicked when I went to invite a girl to a sleepover in second grade is still right there.
But this post—despite my best intentions to derail it with nostalgia—isn’t about me being able to have female friends, though that’s certainly a huge part of it.
About eight months ago, I started working with Bicycling Magazine.
For all anyone says about the cycling industry being male-dominated, Bicycling clearly missed the memo. The last time I was in town and organized a women’s night after work, we got to the bar and realized that we comprised so much of the staff that we worried we were discriminating against the men. (We still didn’t invite them, of course.)
But it’s not just that there are women on staff. There are awesome women on staff.
These women—like the women I’ve become close with in Massachusetts and Ontario—are amazing. They’re incredibly driven, hard-working, and wicked smart. They offer criticism, share ideas, and make great writing happen.
Sometimes, I have to admit that it’s tough—I’m used to being the only woman in most spheres of my life, social and work-related, so this has been a shift. It’s sometimes hard to remember that I’m not in a direct competition—something that I think is particularly tough in the cycling scene, where we’re all at least somewhat used to a culture dependent on winning.
But now that it’s been almost a year (!) working with these kickass ladies, I really feel like—for the first time in my life—one of the gang. Even when I’m not in the office, I don’t panic that people are talking about me, I don’t panic that people have forgotten me, and I don’t assume that people hate me. It’s a pretty awesome head space to be in, and I owe it largely to the women who are now a major part of my life.
Last week, I was at the National Bike Summit for the Women’s Day in DC, and man, it was eye-opening to see how many women are so incredibly passionate about bikes. The theme of the day seemed to be that we need to stick together and we need to be more visible in the bike industry, and for that day, we were. And I honestly think we are a lot more visible than we were 10 years ago. It feels like that, anyway. And to be honest, I think some of the sexism that was/is rampant in the industry is partially responsible for the fact that now, there are so many women in my life, as colleagues and friends. I think when you’re in an industry, or when your hobby/life, is a really male-dominated one, you gravitate towards the women that you do see around you, and you are more inclined to be friends, to work together. It’s not automatic, but I think it helped smooth the way for someone like me, who’s shy-er than you may realize and who has trouble making that first step towards becoming friends with someone.
So, in conclusion:
Thanks, ladies. Keep being awesome.