Despite some steps in the right direction, like writing almost the same amount about women as for men in event recaps and not sending us out in the worst possible conditions, the PWA showed me once more this year that there is some catching up to do! After about 4 years of meetings (these are just the ones I personally attended) discussing how to improve the situation for women in the sport (not the financial discrimination), the women still ended up having a lot less events. Women ended up having a slalom world tour with only 2 events and as little as 3 finals and a freestyle world cup with 1 single event in the past 3 years! Not having events is another way in which women are disadvantaged from the start; less visibility, less credibility, less chance to gain experience. However, we were assured that the PWA would never again, under any circumstances, agree to have any new event with only men’s slalom, because they agreed that this would send the wrong message to the industry, the public, potential future events as well as the rest of the world and all women in the sport. So when, after all these years of meetings, a new men-only slalom event was scheduled to take place in Marseille in spring 2017, I was beyond shocked! In the end, the event did not take place due to financial reasons, but it is clear that in the moment where the organisation could have shown some spine and set the right example, they once again succumbed to ‘industry demands’. I hope that this article and speaking out loud about these issues will prevent such things from happening in the future and that more efforts will be made to overcome these outdated mindsets.
Women in windsurfing have to deal with a double standard constantly and most of the time the justification is that the men are more numerous or have a higher skill level. But this won’t change if we don’t create an environment where change is possible. Of course double standards for women are all around us not only in the windsurfing world but in windsurfing some of these standards are so deeply engrained that the people in charge don’t seem to be aware of them. For example, why should there be a rule that the maximum number of female world cup participants for women is 32, while the guys can have 64? We need to speak up more often about these double standards, so that they can be recognised and hopefully eradicated over time. It seems a miracle that while the rest of windsurfing has not grown much in recent years, the women’s side of things has indeed grown, and this is a change that needs to be seen, realised and acted upon.
Windsurfing is a tough sport. It takes passion, dedication and a lot of work, but we do it because we love it, men and women alike! I hope that more women will be given the opportunity to progress and take things to the next level. Since the degree of support has been so unequal, women have not been given an environment in which they were able to progress in the same way as men, but that also means that there is plenty of potential for progress and I feel that we are in a great place with many young talented female riders ready to push the sport. I hope the community will realise that there is some catching up to do and partake in this venture, especially by closing the pay gap in the windsurfing world. This will not only allow there to be a progression in athletic excellence, but, more importantly, it will grow the market in a way which will involve the other half of the world population! More professional female athletes will mean more role models for girls to follow. I never considered myself much of a feminist but over the years I have been shocked so many times by the gender inequality that persists at such an extreme level in windsurfing that I have found myself feeling more and more strongly about this. As Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai said at the United Nations on her 16th birthday, ‘We cannot succeed when half of us are being held back.’