WITSUP speaks with four time Ironman World Champion, Chrissie Wellington about the state of play for women in triathlon, with particular regard to the disparity of the number of slots allowed for professional women versus professional men at the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.

We will follow up this discussion with a chat with Ironman CEO, Andrew Messick in the days to follow.

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Stef Hanson. Chief.

Chief and founder of WITSUP

Serious about what I do, but don’t take myself too seriously

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6 Responses

  1. Matilda Raynolds
    Waltzing Raynolds

    Such a great discussion! Great comment regarding WTC morals … imagine if one our big 4 banks said we will only allow 5 female managers but will have 15 males managers or if Wimbeldon Tennis decided to reduce the womens qualifying rounds – it is just so backwards. The trickle down affect also effects young’s women’s perception that we are not good enough – that men having greater opportunity is the norm and that women #likeAgirl aren’t strong enough, fast enough etc or deserve the additional spots. Was interesting to also look at the number of DNFs in the mens Vs the women’s at Kona – only 4 women DNF’d compared to 30% of the men’s field not finishing – the arguments just have no foundations for having more men then women at Kona – our pinnacle triathlon event, which defines the year.

    Chrissy is just such a great spokesperson for women and equality … great work WITSUP team!!

    Reply
  2. Alyssa Godesky

    Thank you WITSUP!!!!!! Awesome interview, and thanks to Chrissie for taking the time to be a spokesperson for this very important issue! Hoping this brings the discussion back to the table at WTC and changes can be made for 2015.

    Reply
  3. Dan Weatherly

    Great interview and the points are all really well made. It’s just very sad that this topic is even having to be discussed. The starting point for a sport should be equality of opportunity full stop. Ironman is a relatively new sport so isn’t burdened by a long history that would “offend” people to change. It is simple – just make things equal and whether the pool of women athletes increases or not (and I agree with Chrissie that surely it will) at least it can hold its head up high as a sport that people can aspire to and challenge themselves to participate in.

    Reply
  4. Carson Boskow

    During the triathlon season, each pro male triathlete is battling to secure one of 50 Kona slots, and each pro female triathlete is battling to secure one of only 35 Kona slots. It surely sounds reasonable and proper that, well, there’s 50 Kona slots for the pro men, so, naturally, the pro women should get 50 Kona slots, too. That’s equal. That’s fair.

    But let’s look at the facts. Even under the 50/35 slots allocation policy, it is actually 18.5% more likely for a given pro female to get a Kona slot than as compared to a given pro male. How can that be? Let’s do the math:

    First, look at the number of Ironman Pro Members (who are eligible for Kona Pro Ranking points) as of October 22, 2014:
    — 297 men
    — 176 women

    So 16.8% (i.e., 50 divided by 297) of the pro men get a Kona slot. But 19.9% (i.e., 35 divided by 176) of the pro women get a Kona slot.

    That difference means that any pro female, chosen at random, is 18.5% more likely to get a Kona slot as compared to a randomly chosen pro male. (The 18.5% figure results from: 19.9 minus 16.8, divided by 16.8.)

    So it is misguided to think, with respect to Kona, that the pro women are not given the same opportunities as are the pro men. As far as earning a Kona slot under the current rules, pro women have a clear and significant statistical advantage over their pro male counterparts.

    Further, the foregoing doesn’t even take into account the difference in competitiveness within each of the pro men and pro women fields.

    To quote Ms. Wellington in the above video interview (around minute 14:00): “I do agree with the fact that, at the moment, there is not the strength and depth in the female ranks [as] compared to the male ranks.” So, not only do the pro men have a statistically smaller likelihood (based on mere headcount) to qualify for Kona, they have an even greater uphill battle because there’s more competitiveness within the pro men division. That means it’s more difficult than the 18.5% disadvantage suggests for your average pro male to qualify for Kona than it is for an average pro female.

    Before we make assertions about fairness and equal opportunity, let’s make sure our opinions are grounded on the facts. And one hopes that any respondent to this post also grounds his or her response on facts, rather than spouting superficial generalizations. Let’s see if that happens.

    Reply

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