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.

>>
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.

43 comments:

  1. Thank you for all of the work you do for us, Amy! I absolutely love the event and will continue to support it for as long as I can!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very well explained. I also could have earned a belt buckle, although, it was the year prior to Any taking the helm. I earned a plaque for completing the run with the cut-off time. I am very proud of that plaque as the "Award" is NOT the reason I run, it's the personal "Rewards". We all have our vices. Each one of us could have a complaint of every event as they are all directed and organized differently, but that is why we run Ultras, every one of them brings a new and exciting personal challenge. I embrace the adventure and "Personal Rewards", awards or not. Well unless the awards is beer or home baked pies....hahaha. Amy and organizers, keep up all that you do and the great work. Without you VT100 would be a distant memory.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm a woman and an ultrarunner. I have no issue with your rationale for top awards, and appreciate your explanation about why you do what you do. It is fascinating to see the time gap and the percentage of female participants. Hopefully that might change in the future but in the meantime, no matter what, you are doing a wonderful job with VT and it is much appreciated! Looking forward to another excellent VT 100 weekend spent crewing :) Hope to see you out there and keep doing what you're doing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Damn straight- if more women want awards, more better run!

      Delete
  4. Kudos to you Amy! Being an RD sounds so difficult. I’d like to see an equal number of awards for each gender but I appreciate the pickle you’re in this year. Gender and age-group awards matter and are greatly appreciated as incentive and recognition by those not in the top-tier overall podium ranks but who feel inspired to compete in other divisions. Good luck this weekend!

    ReplyDelete
  5. As an ultra-running woman, I appreciate all the thought you put into this decision. It seems logical to me. I'm also proud to be one of the relatively small percentage of women who does crazy endurance things. I don't think there are many of us who just do endurance events for an 'award'. I do it for the personal challenge and the camaraderie. Although it's funny how many times I have been both second and last female finisher. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Beautifully put Amy. Thank you. I'm in a marginalized group. I'm old. But rather than look for different rules for my species (more generous cutoffs?) I take inspiration from icons like Gene Dykes, and the late Ed Whitlock. Similarly, the species that lacks a Y chromosome could look to Pam Reed, overall Badwater winner in 2002 and 2003. Pam was more than gender equal. She was the best!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great explanation, this discussion often ends up being more an emotional issue than a rational one and it looks like you have thought this out.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Amy....I read your explanation and although part of my brain thinks there should be equal awards, I completely understand the logic with why they are not equal. As a former RD, Michael and I both realize that no matter what you do (as you said) someone will have something to complain about. The fact that you guys are a volunteer group raising money for an amazing organization speaks of all the good in your heart. Please don't let the negative comments phase you. If they don't like the fact that the awards are not the same number than they can run another race. VT 100 will continue to fill up because it is a well run, super supported race. Keep up the good work and when you need a break, come visit us in Bend!!

    ReplyDelete
  9. So well thought out and clear, Amy. The RD job is not trivial by any stretch and you and the VT100 race committee do it so well. I also know that your interest in supporting all runners and women in particular is genuine and authentic. I am running my first 100K largely due to your leadership, friendship, and tremendous example. In fact You stand tall as a woman in both your personal and professional life as a gifted ultra-runner and an engineer. If anybody knows the hurdles that women face, you do. I am no contender for a prize, but the explanation makes sense to me. And if women keep showing up, we can change the statistics that way and then the awards will follow. I am just so excited about sharing miles out there this weekend with other runners and spending my Saturday (and Sunday) in a beautiful place with great friends. Thanks for your detailed and clear explanation especially amidst all you are doing as the RD.

    ReplyDelete
  10. No complaints here. Great job by you and all people involved in the monumental task of putting this amazing adventure on. 👊💐

    ReplyDelete
  11. What's more disrespectful than calling out a woman on social media for not giving more women awards. Get out and train and earn it. Or stay inside by your computer and complain about it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. arent you doing exactly that ? pretty confident the "other women is calling her out for a valid reason nt because she came in 6th !

      Delete
  12. Thanks for all your hard work on this event! I love this race, and you are a fantastic race director. And thank you for addressing this concern, and although I can clearly see your reasoning behind this decision, I support equal awards. I actually never knew the award structure at Vermont, as I would not have been in danger of winning an overall award and didn’t bother to look. But I personally boycotted a race in my state for the same reason. I didn’t harass the race directors online (although I sent one email expressing my opinion), but as a female in the sport and a fellow race director, I felt obligated to vote with my race entry on what I believe is fair and best for the future of this sport. Sorry that you were harassed — that is not in the best interest of the future of this sport either!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lisa, I agree with you 100%. Thank you for speaking up.

      Delete
  13. Very well said! I have been to numerous road races where they did awards based on the percentage in your age group: 7 or fewer usually only meant top-2, while 10 or more meant top-3. Hence, you logic here is perfect:

    "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."

    ReplyDelete
  14. Math! Makes perfect sense to me!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Keep up the good work Amy! You're so supportive of women in ultra running and those thay know you know that you do everything you can to make it a great event!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I find this incredibly embarrassing for our sport. The only solution I see that is brining our sport to the level of excellence and equity we should hope it can reach is giving equal awards to men and women and raffling the extra mens jackets. How would you explain your rationale to a 10-year-old girl watching the awards? That she can aspire to be half as valued as a male? Are you going to read your percentage crunching aloud at the award ceremony to justify this inequity? In order to overcome women's inequality, sometimes you have to do things that cost money and that might not make sense to your number crunching. I'm sure the woman who has brought this to your attention gave countless examples of how this is not empowering women nor our sport--quite the contrary. You community service efforts are laudable, and I've heard the course and race is wonderful. But, I will say very clearly that I will never run a race with unequal awards based on gender. Please reconsider how your representing our sport to girls who aspire to be trail and ultrarunners. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
  17. Thank you, Amy, for taking the time and energy to thoughtfully address this issue during an incredibly busy week. As a female runner and lifelong athlete, I agree with the dissenting minority that fostering gender equality in sport requires that we be proactive rather than reactive. As an RD, you are in a privileged position of power to help steer not only the direction of this race, but also the sport and millions of girls’ attitudes towards athletics at large. While not your intention, award inequity inherently promotes the message that males are superior to females, that they deserve more of a place at not only the VT 100, but in ultras, trail racing, and sports in general. Using statistics to bolster the claim that disparate awards accurately reflects the performances of athletes fails to acknowledge the underlying structural barriers that prohibit more women from participating and excelling in the sport. To your point about how adding top 5 female awards hasn’t directly boosted female participation: correlation doesn’t equal causation. There are innumerable confounding factors that could skew those results. Plus, since the awards continue to be unequal, the message of equality has not been sent and the incentive for women to enter isn’t really there anyway. I ask that you consider taking on this leadership role in the future to help change societal attitudes and actions to empower females in athletics. This request doesn’t belittle the magnitude of your role as RD; it respects your job’s significance. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Excellently said Abby. Today's actions for a better tomorrow.

      Delete
  18. Regardless of the justification I think it is important to also recognize that going forward the current award practice will ultimately be unsustainable. You can’t invite the toughest women in the country to an event and not expect them to demand equal representation.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I believe that this is discrmination. It was actually more fair when the awards were just top ten finishers, no mention of gender. However, once you separated out out the males and females and then gave them unequal conditions based upon how you separated them (gender), you are discriminating. People who discriminate make up all kinds of excuses as to why it's okay (percentages of population, income, education, etc), but call it what it is--discrimination. Don't believe me? Try this--what would your awards ceremony look like if the top 15 finishers were women? And why have you not considered this situation?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How us it discrimination if you are saying top 4‰ of both gender are awarded?

      Delete
  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Bravo Amy.. as I saw this story break, I knew this type of well-considered response would be forthcoming. May you and Brian have a great race weekend! Next time you're out Seattle way, holler :)

    ReplyDelete
  22. You wrote. ......"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. ".....So the question is: do you even know the difference between the word "equity" and "equality" (or is that a bad typo?!). You can make an illogical comparison of people complaining about aid station products (which logically really has nothing to do with the more important issue of equal prize giving between genders). Could you imagine if a a big competitive race like WS100 only awarded the top 5 women (But awarded top 10 men)! UTMB did the same thing several years ago and we called them out on it. I can't even believe this is an issue in 2018...this isn't the 1950s anymore....

    ReplyDelete
  23. Great explanation of your decisions Amy. I am a race promoter in sunny southern Ca. We have battled these issues for quite a while. To be honest the only solution we’ve found is to award the top percentage, whatever that percentage may be. Which it sounds as if you are doing. How can someone be upset when they are receiving the same treatment as any other group. The top 10% to either gender. Or whatever percentage. After reading your Blog response here and reading the reply’s. I can bet you that the majority of people still complaining have never supported you or your events, yet they still have an opinion. The life of a promoter is awesome and amazing, it sounds like you positively influence many people through your events. Bottom line is that if ladies want more representation at awards, then they need to support the events and come out and race. How many of the criticizing reply’s here are taking a leadership role in that direction??? Probably none. They just want to sit behind the computer and talk. Why would we want to belittle the sport or an event just to award a consumer an award. Why not award everyone something. That is where we are headed. Why take away the achievements of others to simply award a lesser achievement. I like the top 10 awards. with no gender base. Will people still complain about that??? I am all about women’s racing and achievements, my wife is an elite racer. But it essentially comes down to women towing the line and attending more events.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I encourage you to read my response to this/your logic, and to reconsider your own race awards structure. Sure, I'm sitting at my computer. Are you not? I am also winning international ultra races and I will gladly choose races other than the few archaic ones still out there that give unequal recognition to men and women. It's innately discriminatory.

      Delete
  24. I’m a Vermonter, I identify as a female, and I’m an ultra runner. I don’t run for awards. I run because I love it. As a little girl I grew up playing competitive soccer and it was crushing when I realized that no matter how good I was I couldn’t make a living off playing soccer when I grew up. Your logic and reasoning are off and you really aren’t seeming to grasp what equity is. Did you grow up in the era of Title 9? Maybe start there with a Wikipedia search. Also, have to made any effort to recruit females to your race? Lastly, it’s offensive that you’d compare a complaint about the lack to tailwind to gender equity in sports.

    ReplyDelete
  25. This is frustrating to hear that VT100 uses this logic. As a female and ultra runner - I am less likely to support this race because of it. Good luck this weekend. You should rethink this policy moving forward.

    ReplyDelete
  26. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I made it very clear in my blog, "I don't want to pounce on this race director or this race, but I do want to elucidate how important it is for races to give equal awards recognition to men and women." This is not about Amy and I never shamed her. Please, that is a gross inaccuracy and I please ask that like me, you only use accurate information in your comments. That is incredibly important to me and to this topic at large. Not once have I shamed Amy or even talked about her personally. I feel that your comment is out of line and detracts from the important issue at hand, the big picture: WOMEN NEED TO EMPOWER WOMEN!!!!! Why have I spent hours fuming over this race director's decision? It isn't right, it demotes women, and thus, I respectfully and accurately stated why it is not right. This is such an easy fix. Let's hope that the right decision is made!

      Delete
    2. I'm sorry, but if the leadership of the race truly believed in the % of entrants logic then it would have been applied to the 100k race and to the disabled athletes division in the 100 mile race. The 100k race offers top 3 awards to men and women. The disabled athlete division exists (which is great!).

      While Any has outlined the logic behind why only half as many women are honored as men, it's inconsistent application across this one race series undermines the arguement from the start.

      I fail to see how this is an example of women hating on women. If another member of the leadership team had written this response it would have been equally pounced on. Additionally, folks like Clare and Sage have been quite respectful in their stating disagreement with the RD's explanation. To claim mere disagreement is a form of shaming undoes our ability to have discourse on complex topics and talk out differing points of view.

      Delete
  27. I absolutely agree with Clare and Sage. There should be the same number of top places awarded for both women and men. It is sad to see so many women defending the flawed outdated logic... Let's only support the races that do the right thing!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Wow - this bums me out. I was hoping to run VT100 one of these days. There is a high percentage of men in these races compared to women for a reason. When I first started trail running I remember being so timid and felt like I wasn't good enough to ever be a trail runner like the male runners I knew. Over the years I built up confidence as I became a stronger runner and also by seeing other female runners out there kicking ass on the trails. We need to encourage women to get out there on the trails and increase that percentage (not discourage!!) Amy - please reconsider your decision!

    ReplyDelete
  29. I'm sorry, but by your own logic the 100k awards need to be changed to honor less women and the disabled athlete division needs to be removed.

    Yes, the gendered awards for V100 are better than they were. But are they where they should be to meet the basic standards of gender parity in our sport... no.

    You received criticism for the way the gendered awards are granted in the 100 mile race and sought to backwards justify the rationale with a logic you don't believe (or you would have applied it consistently across races and divisions). Own up to your bias and make the changes that promote the best interest of our sport. V100 has been a leader in treating disabled athletes with equal respect, its time we extend that equality to women as well.

    Until then, I know i'm not the only strong female runner who has removed V100 from my bucket list.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Hi Amy! Given that the race fills up so quickly, I’m wondering if you might save space for more women to register? It would be fun to get creative with women’s participation. Loon Mountain Race ran a promo this year with Trail Sisters with this same goal and ended up with about 50% (or more??) participation from women! Maybe an idea for next year....

    ReplyDelete
  31. There is no justification for this. What an embarrassment. I am a RD and I make my awards fair and equal for both genders. The fact that you had to post such long winded justification is absurd. It was painful to read. Pony up the money like the rest of us RDs and have some respect for the women racing. If you have to justify your actions, perhaps something is wrong here. Unbelievable.

    ReplyDelete