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McQuaid speaks at conference on women and sport

UCI president Pat McQuaid addressed the 5th World Conference on Women and Sport in Los Angeles, California this weekend, finally making public comment on how his organisation has addressed the inequalities between genders in cycling after facing harsh criticism from the women's peloton last month.

McQuaid ignited controversy when he made statements last September opposing the institution of a minimum salary for professional female cyclists. The comments prompted a vigorous reaction from the women's peloton, some reactions well-considered, some not so much.

In reaction to the recent criticism, McQuaid has until now refused to address the topic, and in a carefully worded speech at the conference this weekend he continued to dodge the issue of wage equality, stating only that, "Growth of visibility of the sport can be expected to have a direct affect on financial resources and raise athlete wages."

Instead, McQuaid focused on the elevation of women's cycling since it was introduced to the Olympic Games in 1984, and gave as evidence of the UCI's commitment to improving gender equality the creation of the women's World Cup and the more recent changes to the Olympic track cycling programme, where men and women now compete in the same number of events.

The UCI has also instituted rules governing women's teams that call for bank guarantees, but admitted that, "much work remains to be done and the UCI is committed to creating better visibility for women and to providing the best possible conditions for the development of women's cycling."

McQuaid called for more participation from women in the sport as a whole, including in sport media, roles with teams as coaches or directors, and as referees and administrators in sport.

Toward that end, McQuaid said the UCI "has decided to enforce an equal opportunity recruitment plan which has led to 49% of its staff being female. Further over 35% of its managers and directors are women. The voice of the athletes is also well represented by women with just under 50% of the athlete commission being female."

A new working group, "Women in Sport" was also created "to explore industrial and institutional change".

In closing, McQuaid acknowledged that sport is as important to women as to men, and that they make the majority of consumer purchasing decisions and so have a great deal of untapped economic power, but offered no future plans for directly influencing women's racing by requiring minimum wages from teams, encouraging races to hold women's events or getting more television coverage of women's races.

The full transcript of the speech can be read here.

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