As the newly-formed “Women for Tri” Board of Advisors sat down for their first meeting this week, a number of concerned citizens of the triathlon community penned a letter to the board members asking them to consider the question of equal slots for female pros at World Championship races. A number of influential people are among the signees including Multiple Ironman Champions and World Champions, Olympians, high profile coaches and industry leaders.
As the Board continues to debate the issues, the many who support equality feel that this is a fundamental question of right and wrong. As such, the letter is now an “open letter” inviting all members of the triathlon community to go to www.womenfortri.org to comment and show their support. The authors recognize that it is one of many discussion points on the table for the women on the board and that time is required to discuss all the issues.
Dear Women for Tri Board of Advisors:
 
Congratulations on being named to the Women for Tri Board of Advisors.  We applaud you for taking on the important task of increasing female participation in our sport.  While we recognize that there are a multitude of approaches to increasing female participation, we want to bring to your attention the ongoing issue of inequality for our female professionals.
 
Ironman currently offers 50 slots for the professional men and 35 slots for the professional women at the Ironman World Championships and 70.3 World Championships. Ironman claims that the reason for this inequitable treatment is that the male-to-female percentage of all athletes competing in 70.3 and 140.6 distance races globally is 67 percent to 33 percent and that the professional women’s field is not as competitive as the professional men’s field.  
 
Regardless of the reasons Ironman uses to justify this inequality, the disparate treatment of professional women at the very highest levels of the sport has a trickle-down effect on women of all ages and abilities. How can anyone, let alone a female triathlete,  justify to her daughters, sisters and friends that “Anything is Possible” when opportunities for women are less possible than opportunities for men?  We ask you to consider this issue as one of the many important issues on the table.
We hope that as you sit down in Tampa this week to discuss broadening the appeal of triathlon to women, you will consider both the benefits of offering professional women equal representation at the Ironman World Championship and the perception of discrimination that accompanies Ironman’s current policy.  In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like additional information about the points we have raised, please do not hesitate to contact any one of us.
We have all given detailed consideration and analysis to this topic and can offer a full evaluation of the issues should you as a group or as individuals like to learn more.   We look forward to receiving a formal read-out from the meeting and actionable recommendations to taking forward the objectives of the Women for Tri Board of Advisors.  
 
Very Truly Yours,
Corinne Abraham – Professional Triathlete
Paolina Allan- Professional Cyclist
Sue Aquila – Entrepreneur, Coach, 3x Kona Qualifier and 10X Ironman Finisher
Sally Bergesen – Founder and CEO of Oiselle
Kathryn Bertine – Professional Cyclist, Filmmaker and Author
Jordan Blanco – Entrepreneur, Investment Professional, Writer, 4x Kona Finisher
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Lori Bowden – Multiple Ironman Champion
Ruth Brennan Morrey-  Professional Triathlete, IM 70.3 Champion and Psychologist
Kelly Burns Gallagher – Attorney, Writer and 7x Ironman Finisher
Katie Button MScPT – Physiotherapist, Professional XC Cyclist and Triathlete
Leanda Cave – Ironman World Champion
Haley Chura – Ironman Champion
Marilyn Chychota- Elite Triathlon Coach
Emily Cocks – Professional Triathlete and Swim Coach
Jessica Cohen – Saucony Triathlon Manager
Jeanne Collonge – Ironman 70.3 Champion and Embrunmen Record-Woman
Kevin Collington – Professional Triathlete
Linsey Corbin – 5x Ironman Champion
Ben Cotter – Professional Triathlete
Justin Daerr –  Ironman Champion
Matt Dixon –  Elite coach and founder of Purplepatch Fitness
Tim Don – Ironman Champion
Jessie Donavan – 3x Ironman Champion
Mary Eggers RN – Nurse, Coach and 3x Kona Qualifier
Lauren Fleshman – Founder of Picky Bars and 2x USA 5K Champion
Helle Frederiksen – Olympian and Professional Triathlete
Joe Friel – Elite Triathlon Coach and Author
Julia Gajer – Professional Triathlete and Ironman and Ironman 70.3 Champion
Beth Gerdes- Professional Triathlete and 14x Ironman Finisher
Alyssa Godesky – Professional Triathlete and 14x Iron Distance Finisher
Dr. Lucy Gossage – 3x Ironman Champion
Caroline Gregory- Professional Triathlete and 16x Ironman finisher
Dede Griesbauer – 2x Ironman Champion
Sara Gross PhD – 2x Ironman Champion
Monique Grossrieder – Professional Triathlete
Jennie Hansen – Ironman Champion
Stef Hanson – Editor in Chief of witsup.com
Ryan Heisler – Retailer, Writer and Marketer
Mike Hermanson – Professional Triathlete
Ben Hobbs aka The Real Starky -Provocateur and Host of TRS Radio
Kebby Holden – Founder of Coeur Sports and 3x Kona Qualifier
Tenille Hoogland- Policy Analyst,  Coach, 2x Ironman 70.3 Champion
Jeremy Howard- Professional Triathlete
Mareen Hufe – Professional Triathlete and Kona Qualifier
Chris Hutchens – Team Director, Maverick Multisport
Kirsty Jahn (Smith) – Professional Triathlete
Lisa Mensink- Olympian, Professional Triathlete and Head Coach of Kronos Triathlon Club
Jessica Jones Meyers – Captain, US Army, Combat Veteran and Professional Triathlete
Rachel Joyce – 3x Ironman Champion
Danelle Kabush – 3x Xterra World Championship Medalist
Rebekah Keat – 6x Iron Distance Champion
Meredith B. Kessler – 7x Ironman Champion
Stephen Kilshaw – Professional Triathlete
Silken Laumann-4x Olympic Silver and Bronze Medallist, Speaker, Writer and Child Advocate
Sarah Lehman – CEO, ENVE
Ana Lidia Borba – Professional Triathlete, 70.3 Amateur World Champion and 3x Brazil’s LD Elite Champion
Emma-Kate Lidbury – 6x Ironman 70.3 Champion and Journalist
Clint Lien – Ironman Champion Coach and Co-founder of Mercury Rising Triathlon
Caroline Livesey – Professional Triathlete
Mark “Dark Mark” Machell – Iconoclast and Podcaster
Doug Maclean – Professional Triathlete
Amy Marsh – 4x Ironman Champion
Brandon Marsh –  Professional Triathlete
Katya Meyers – Professional Triathlete, Endurance Coach and 5x Kona finisher
Luke McKenzie-6x Ironman Champion
Melanie McQuaid – 3x XTERRA World Champion
Catriona Morrison – 2x Ironman Champion and Sports Marketer
Angela Naeth – Ironman Champion and Multiple Ironman 70.3 Champion
Tara Norton –  Triathlon Coach and Registered Massage Therapist
Jake Pantone – Director of Marketing, ENVE
Jillian Petersen- Professional Triathlete
Sarah Piampiano – Ironman 70.3 Champion
Ben Powell – Ceramic Speed
Tawnee Prazak – Endurance Coach, Sports Podcaster and Ironman Finisher
Thorsten Radde – Entrepreneur, Blogger, Podcaster and 4x Iron Distance Finisher
Anjana Rajan – Team USA Triathlete and Duathlete
Cristina Ramirez – Writer TriathlonMami.com and Co-Founder ThumbsUp International
Lisa Roberts (Ribes) – Professional Triathlete, Principal Landscape Architect
Molly Roohi – Professional Triathlete, Coach, Kona Qualifier and 6x Ironman Finisher
Matthew Rose – Coach & Founder, Dynamo Multisport
Kim Schwabenbauer, RD – Professional Triathlete and Kona Qualifier
Laura Siddall – Professional Triathlete, 4x Amateur World Champion
Jess Smith – Professional Triathlete
Lesley Smith – Professional Triathlete
Karen Smyers –  Ironman World Champion and Multiple World Champion
Nicola Spirig – Olympic Gold Medalist & Ironman Champion
Professor Sarah Springman
Brett Sutton – Elite Triathlon Coach
Sonja Tajsich – 3x Ironman Champion
Karen Thibodeau‎, RN, Professional Triathlete
David Tilbury-Davis – Elite Triathlon Coach PhysFarm Training Systems
Chrissie Wellington – 4x Ironman World Champion
Heather Wurtele – 6x Ironman Champion
Trevor Wurtele – Ironman Champion
Suzanne Zelazo, PhD – Professional Triathlete
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Kelly Burns Gallagher

mccarter english employment litigator / oiselle team runner / coeur sports triathlete / sonic endurance coach & race director / witsup.com writer / dartmouth '02 / emorylaw '05

1 Comment

Grace · February 10, 2015 at 7:27 pm

That’s a great initiative and I hope they manage some progress. ” Ironman claims that the reason for this inequitable treatment is that the male-to-female percentage of all athletes competing in 70.3 and 140.6 distance races globally is 67 percent to 33 percent and that the professional women’s field is not as competitive as the professional men’s field.”

I snorted my coffee when I read that. Look at it this way. What if Ironman said that globally, Caucasian triathletes make up 90 per cent of the field, while Asian and African triathletes make up 10 per cent (I’m making these numbers up of course), and the professional Asian field is not as competitive as the professional Caucasian field, and therefore they are limiting slots to a 9 to 1 ratio of elite slots for Caucasian vs Asian and African athletes? Yeah…they’d be lynched.

The market is not static, although Ironman seems to want it to be. It’s only good business for a large brand to try to grow its market – and given that most recreational triathletes only want to do one or two long-course triathlons a year, if that, they’d better find new markets pretty fast. What’s true today, due to lack of opportunity, lack of resources and lack of encouragement, may not be the case in the future, and I don’t know why they can’t see that.

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