by Hannah Dobson
November 21, 2016
Last week Trek announced the start of its first ever ‘Expert Technician’ course for women, at its company Headquarters in Wisconsin. A good thing you might think? A course that will give 11 women the status of Trek Certified Expert Technician – not a qualification for beginners: you need to have at least three years’ experience in a ‘high performing service department’ before you’d qualify to attend the course.
Feeling like it was doing a good thing, Trek took the news to social media:
Yay! Everybody cheered that such a great opportunity was being offered by a multinational bike company in an effort to increase the number of women in the industry! Right? Er…no.
Lars was worried that there was some dumbing down going on. Which would be a bad thing, obviously:
Trek clarified the situation – this was not a women’s specific curriculum lower standards, it was the same course but aimed at women attendees:
Phew. So that’s Ok then. Lars’ sensible concerns about dumbing down had been addressed. Well done Lars for clarifying that. Er…not quite.
Face palm. Women. They’re so distracting. Is it their giggling? Their fluffy pink outfits? Or the way they’re just so astonishingly capable of doing their jobs?
Some thought there was no need for any positive action to get more women into the industry. Everyone has an equal opportunity to do what they want in life. At least in America anyway. The lack of women in the bicycle industry that Trek identified is just because women aren’t really interested in fixing bikes, or working in the industry doesn’t really appeal to them…right? Er…maybe not.
Trek’s social media team not pulling the punches there. We wonder how many keyboards were replaced after the day of vigorous typing? Or how many head injuries treated after head-on-desk moments. The grammatically questionable comments kept coming:
The reasoned responses kept coming:
The not so reasoned comments kept coming. Though by this point you have to wonder if this is actual cluelessness or trolling stupidity:
Trek kept the quality put downs coming:
We note that this comment was edited. Perhaps the urge to respond ‘Everyone is welcome in all of our courses except lecherous muppets like you’ proved too hard to resist before corporate sensibilities took hold.
What Trek endeavored to do with its course was to specifically target a training course to a group which it identified as being under represented in the industry. Usually when a group is under represented in an organisation or industry, it’s because some form of barrier exists to that group gaining access to that organisation or industry. These need not be deliberate or even conscious barriers, which are in most instances illegal these days (but think back to Apartheid in South Africa or Jim Crow laws in America for historical examples). But the lasting effects from when such deliberate barriers existed (for example when women were discouraged from pursuing ‘technical’ careers apart from ‘food technology’) can take time and concerted effort to overturn. Trek’s course for women is about taking steps to create more opportunities for women in the bike industry, which in turn should make the industry a more attractive place for women to work – creating a cycle which corrects the gender imbalance, whatever its original cause.
No doubt Trek’s actions are not entirely without commercial reasoning. Women’s cycling is a growing market, and being seen as a company which champions women and delivers what they want as customers will go a long way in winning the hearts, minds and spending power of this market. We’ve already seen Giant and it’s women’s specific brand Liv wise up to the market. Expect to see more of this kind of thing in the industry.
For the full thread on Trek’s Facebook page click here.
Update, 22nd November:
We asked Trek what it had been hoping to achieve, and what it thought of the response they’d received:
“This was the third women’s-focused course we ran here at Trek headquarters this year, and we saw an overwhelming response from all directions. From the number of applicants to the conversation it started on social media, it’s been quite a ride.
“These particular classes were offered to give an opportunity to an under-represented population of mechanics and technicians in our industry, as we realize this industry can be a challenging place for some to build a career.”
One of the participants, Talia Kemp, was interviewed by Trek about the course. She was asked what challenges she has faced as a woman in the cycling industry:
“There have been many times where people have been dismissive of my abilities as a mechanic, and occasionally outright insulting, purely because of my gender. Being a woman in a male dominated field means being held to a higher standard and higher criticism. It can mean being underestimated and underpaid. Sometimes it’s hard being the only female technician in a bike shop, but my passion drives me to push on. I know how important it is to have role models doing what you’d like to do.”
This is exactly the point we were making above – there are barriers to women being in the industry, but the more female role models there are, the more these barriers are broken down. So well done Trek for doing something to tackle the issue.
Trek said that it does hope that to run this course outside North America, however nothing has been confirmed yet. This course was run at the Trek Headquarters in Wisconsin, and you can see from the pictures they sent us that it’s a very slick workshop set up. And it’s huge! And very, very clean. Even before we were ram-raided our workshop didn’t come close to looking like this. Imagine being so good at fixing bikes that you could do it without covering the floor in oil and yourself in blood and grease!
We assume that any courses outside North America will also need similarly top end facilities to be available. Let’s hope Trek can get something like this up and running in the UK soon.