However, that does not mean that there is not considerable effort on the part of the PWA to expand the women’s side of the sport. We have pushed quite hard to try to set up women only events in order to better showcase the skills of the women’s division and we have created several initiatives to try to encourage and educate our event partners in how to “sell” the women’s division more successfully and start to generate the significant value that we believe the women’s division is yet to fully exploit. We totally agree that there is much more room for growth in the women’s divisions and we have advocated this for years. Lena knows from her own experience of trying to set up a women’s only event that it is not always easy though.
Undoubtedly there is a lack of support from the industry, and yes, much of that is chicken and egg, but anyone involved in the industry knows that the brands also do not have money just lying around to spend. The circular nature of the problem also exists in events – less events = less support = less women competing. But without a significant injection of external funding to break the cycle we can only continue to try to change things through persuasion and education. With regards to policies on men only events, yes, we do not offer new event organisers the option to run men only events. We stipulate quite clearly that this is not an option which is the standard policy, and taking a stand on that has cost us events – events that would still have been good for the sport and for the industry, but that were lost because we were defending the rights of the women’s division, rights that we believe in. However, we do not only represent the women, we also have a responsibility to the men’s division (and industry). We have refused men only events, yet at the same time we have pushed to have events with only women, with no compensation for the men’s division. In the case of Marseille, we made it clear that a men only event was not an option for over 8 months, and the organisers understood this. In the end, last minute funding shortages, after a huge amount of work had been done on both sides, left us with 2 options on the table – either cancel the event or run with only men. We are talking here about an important event in an important market that would have been a big boost to the men’s division and to the industry as a whole, regardless of gender. Whilst the thinking was split on the correct course of action, can it be considered to be representing the men’s and women’s divisions fairly – as well as the industry – if we cancel an event for the men on the grounds that the organiser / sponsor is unable to fund the women’s division alongside it?
So to the suggestion that the PWA “show some spine” I ask Lena, when evaluating our spinal rigidity, to look in detail at the history of events over the last few years and the hundreds of emails where we have pushed this issue and lost events as a result (or at least severely damaged relationships) and not just evaluate us based on one occasion, where the decision was public and did not go the way that we might have liked. On balance, we have heavily supported this concept. As a footnote to the discussion, if there is anyone reading this article who is interested in women’s events or anything to do with helping us build the women’s side of the sport, then please contact the PWA at [email protected]. PWA.