“Sometimes it can feel like you’re entering a club that’s not yours”
Jenni Gwiazdowski, director, London Bike Kitchen How did you become involved in the cycling industry? Ha! For some reason, as someone who worked in charity marketing, I thought I’d set up a DIY bike workshop. And then I became a mechanic. I like to think I snuck in sideways. What is your proudest moment to date? Getting my book, How to Build a Bike written and published. What are your experiences of being a woman in the cycling industry? Good and bad. It’s funny dealing with people who ignore you because you’re a woman, and try to talk to your male colleague who’s obviously busy working on something else. But they are few and far between. Cycling as a thing is very niche, and women, gender-variant, and POC in the industry are like a minority within a minority, so it feels like you know everyone. But sometimes it can feel like you’re entering a club that’s not yours. I feel like I have to prove myself in order to have a mere conversation. It’s up to all of us to welcome different people to join in. Some shops really get this, and others feel like you’re walking into a time machine, and not in a good way.
their game. Scholarships targeting minorities are great for getting rid of barriers to entry and encouraging people who may have never thought of getting into the industry. I really wish someone like Cytech would create a programme, we would see such a step change in a short amount of time. Also, psychologically speaking, people need to stop thinking of equality (or in this case, the industry) as a pie. It’s not a fixed amount of work that’s available. Technology and trends are changing all the time. People retire or find jobs elsewhere. There are so many opportunities for businesses to grow, we should be doing our best to attract talent from previously untapped areas, not fighting over what’s perceived as the last bone.
Do you feel that the gender gap is closing? No. In eight years I still rarely see female mechanics, wheel builders and frame builders.
To what extent do you think this differs from other industries and also perhaps from other sports? I’m not a sporty person, and don’t know much about other industries, but I recently have been thinking about how similar guitar shops are to cycling shops. The cycling industry could learn a lot from Richer Sounds. An employee owned model that values both the staff and the customer is the way forward. We can’t compete with the internet, but we can be better than the internet. Imagine a chain of shops that were worker owned and operated, and that treated customers with the utmost service. It’s definitely possible.
What more could we be doing to encourage women to be part of the industry? I think targeted programmes like the ones that QBP and Trek offer in the US are sorely needed in the UK. They’re not just for beginners, but for mechanics at any level looking to up
If you could give one piece of advice to women entering the industry, what would it be? Use the web to find like minded people if you’re feeling alone. Working in cycling is extremely rewarding and your presence will encourage others to get in as well. Be a pioneer. n
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