Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Gender Equality

Update to the below - at the 2018 VT100 awards ceremony, we did call up the top 10 men and the top 10 women in the 100 mile race.  Sorry to disappoint those that supported the published awards structure.

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I have been recently called out on social media regarding the number of awards given at the Vermont 100, specifically the decision to award to the top 10 men and top 5 women.  This conversation has come after a few weeks of discussion with an individual who doesn't agree with the decision made.  She has since taken to harassing me and trying to bully me into a different decision.

Below is the information that was sent to her:
"I appreciate your feedback on this topic as I know it's a charged issue for many.  I will point out that as an RD, there's no possible way to make everyone happy, so I just do the best I can and hope to not make too many mistakes along the way.

I will first start by letting you know of the history of the top runner awards at VT100.  Before I took over the race, they only acknowledged the top 10 overall (regardless of gender) - some years that was all 10 men (and no women), some years it had up to 2 women in the top 10.  Most years, only the top female would crack the top 10 overall and get anything other than the same belt buckle as everyone else.  Back then, the top 10 would get a special 'top 10' buckle rather than any awards, and everyone else got the same buckle regardless of whether you finished in 18 hours or 23:59.  I've finished 4 times on the podium at VT100, placing as high as 2nd place (missing winning by 2 minutes)...I have 6 of the same belt buckles, having never cracked the top 10 and never getting anything different than anyone else.  So, that's where things started only a few years ago.

Now, I'm a numbers person.  I want there to be more women running, and want stronger female competition.  However, I define equity differently than some others (including you two) do.  I think equality is recognizing the same percentage of the two genders, which in an ideal world would be the same number but at VT100 is not.  Perhaps I should change it on the website to state that we'll recognize the top 4% of either gender (but never less than 5 and never more than 10), as that's actually what we do.  Here's the numbers that have run the VT100 over the last 5 years:
2018 - 76% male
2017 - 79% male
2016 - 79% male
2015 - 80% male
2014 - 79% male
The numbers have been fairly consistent, at more than 3/4 of the race being men, therefore the top 3.7% of men each year get recognized and the top 6.9% of female every year gets recognized.  How is that unfair to the women?

Also, the results show a similar gap between the 1-5th female as the 1-10th male:
2017 - 1-5th male gap - 1:52; 1-10th male gap - 3:07; 1-5th female - 3:11, 1-10th female - 5:24
2016 - 1-5th male gap - 1:17; 1-10th male gap - 2:49; 1-5th female - 2:53, 1-10th female - 5:00
2015 - 1-5th male gap - 2:33; 1-10th male gap - 3:48; 1-5th female - 1:50, 1-10th female - 4:17 
This is when only the top 10 overall were awarded anything differently:
2014 - 1-5th male gap - 1:50; 1-10th male gap - 2:53; 1-5th female - 2:00, 1-10th female - 4:06 (0 female in the top 10 overall)
2013 - 1-5th male gap - 0:41; 1-10th male gap - 3:36; 1-5th female - 2:53, 1-10th female - 3:55 (1 female in the top 10 overall)

So, in the years where we at least award the top 5 female as opposed to only those that fell within the top 10 overall, the women's field has gotten less competitive...showing that offering additional awards to more top females has not resulted in a more competitive race (as the argument that if often cited is that the race would get more competitive if we recognized more women).

Again, only my opinion, but as this is my race to direct I can chose what I think is fair.  You are welcome to RD your own events and award things how ever you want, and I will respect your decision to do so.

The tough spot we're in right now is that:

awards are already purchased (and yes, they are purchased, not donated...so money has been spent) - the only thing we could do at this point is reduce the number of men getting awards...and then I'm stuck with extra men's jackets that I already paid for.

the award structure has been advertised since folks signed up for the race, so it doesn't seem fair to change the structure at this point even if I was inclined to do so.

This is a discussion for November and December, before awards are purchased and before registration happens.  

Trust me when I say that no matter who you talk to about this race, everyone thinks that there is 'just one thing that could be improved'.  For you, it's the awards structure.  For someone else, it's the fact that registration filled up in 12 minutes but we don't have a lottery.  For others, it's that we don't have Tailwind on course.  Some folks think that 100k finishers should get belt buckles.  There was one guy that blasted me for still requiring the 8-hours volunteer service to participant.  I've had (and will likely continue to have) angry emails from folks who believe that a male-to-female transgender runner shouldn't be awarded a top spot if that's where she finishes.  Everyone has an opinion on how to do things better - and every change makes some folks happy and some folks unhappy.  

I do listen and consider each piece of feedback that is offered.  We will continue to watch the men's vs. women's participation numbers, as well as the time gap from 1-5th and 1-10th for each gender, and hope that women become a larger percentage of the field in the future."

At this point, with only a few days before the race and numerous tasks to complete in that time, I wish that folks would respect that while they have a different opinion than the VT100 that it doesn't automatically make this decision wrong.