MTBA Board Celebrate International Women’s Day

Posted by jo-2, March 8, 2019

We asked the female directors on Mountain Bike Australia’s Board their thoughts the important role women play in an organisation for International Women’s Day.

Lee Brentzell

I joined the board of MTBA so that I could give back to the sport that has been awesome to my family and I over the past 20 years. Local cross country events are great for us to ‘socially compete’ in, catch up with friends who we have met through the mountain biking community and when there is travel and camping involved, a great chance to disconnect from the busy city life.

I work in corporate governance, strategic planning, risk management and stakeholder engagement during the week and ride my bike most weekends, so saw this as an opportunity to combine both my expertise and passion by influencing the sport I love with some professional, commercial and international skills and tools.

As a female engineer in oil and gas, and mining I have been in the minority since leaving an all-girls private boarding school in Year 12.

Fortunately, confidence is not something I have ever lacked even when I was the only female in my engineering class in first year university. My parents said my sister and I could do anything we wanted as long as we put our minds to it and worked hard.

With those words of encouragement and a lot of support and sacrifices we both represented our State and Country in sport and have enjoyed successful international business careers with the full support and encouragement from family, close friends, role models and coaches.

As my daughters reached the critical age of seven years old, I became aware first-hand of the gender bias that existed at school and in society and their lack of confidence and willingness to try new things, often because it was simply not what other girls did. I now look for opportunities to be a positive role model and inspire them to try things they are good at and to challenge what people and traditions expect them to do.

They have enjoyed living in different countries and know I go to work every day in an office so I take every opportunity to show them my workplace which is not always in a city building, openly talk about what I do each day, share my passion for the outdoors and sport, and include them whenever I can so they too can experience amazing things. 

I was asked to attend the National Championships last year in Armidale and instead of having a weekend away from my family for my ‘MTBA job’, I took my daughters with me and included them in the activities all weekend. 

They handed out medals to the winners, helped the event staff run errands and gave bottles of water to the athletes as they finished. I know they will ultimately choose their own careers, interests and passions, but I have an important role to play and directly influence them with my behaviours, attitude about work, sport, volunteering and through the opportunities I expose them to.

Parents, participants and leaders in organisations and sporting teams have a critical part to play as role models, mentors, coaches and superheroes for all children to look up to and learn from as they can’t be what they can’t see.

MTBA might be a small organisation in numbers but it has a big remit with members from all over Australia, and a very important role to play in mountain biking which is a rapidly growing sport and social activity for people of all ages and abilities.

The team on the ground is energetic, experienced and excited about the bright future, and we have an amazing board of directors with diverse skills and depth of experience that will guide and challenge them along the way. 

Two years ago, the then recently formed board realised they needed to do things differently in order for MTBA to be a successful and well run national sporting organisation so they appointed three female directors with specific skills that were not present on the board at the time.  I was one of those ladies and was very excited to see two more member elected women put up their hands to join us at the recent AGM which has meant we now have 55% female representation on the board and we have 58% representation in the organisation as well.

People may say females in mountain biking are the minority, but if you consider every male participant (young and old) is supported by a wife, sister or mum, then in reality the women are still in the mountain bike community, but more often than not as the support crew, cheer squad, first aid officer and shuttle driver.  

One of the pillars of our five year plan includes providing more opportunities to participate in mountain biking, so with some diverse thought, gender and experience on the board now, we are challenging the organisation to reach into new areas of the market and have started to see an increase in women and children taking up mountain biking for pleasure, fitness and mental health motives.

We are passionate about supporting this, and increasing numbers further so that our member base, organisation and board are truly representative of society which is gender balanced. Positive role models play an important part in this, as well as access to skills, events, facilities, coaches etc in a safe, friendly and supportive environment.

Women are great supporters of women and we see this camaraderie in the women specific bike skills classes and out on the trails during social rides. We need to showcase more amazing ladies in the sport in whatever role they play so that more will follow, and we can get to the tipping point of change.

Alison Blyth

I have business, legal, and governance skills and love all things mountain biking.  Being on the MTBA board gives me one more reason to be involved with, and hopefully to contribute to, something I love. 

Mountain biking may be male dominated but my experience of it, is that it is becoming increasingly female intensive.  The strong representation of females on the MTBA board may be reflecting what’s happening on the trails.  This change in gender ratio on the board and the trails should not be the focus, because as Claire Buchar says in ‘Shifting Perceptions’ “…the end goal is just to be a part of mountain biking, whether you’re a guy or a girl.”

Women in leadership bring balance, whether at a bank or a sporting organisation. The balance comes through their diversity of perspective and their capacity to build relationships. We don’t live in a same sex world and neither should our leaders be same sex.

Gender equity in leadership is in no way about evening up the sexes, or meeting quotas. It’s about achieving the best outcome for everyone.

It’s about forgoing entitlement and seeking the best contributions that can be made. There are some old guards who cannot accept this, who want to compete and criticise, and they have no place in the boards of the future.

MTBA’s board has been composed and selected on merit and is a board of the future.

Robyn Walker 

When I first got into cycling the only kit I could buy was black, black or white tops and maybe a bit of yellow. Now there is a plethora of awesome colourful kits with pineapples, skulls,  flamingoes, paisley all bright and colourful!

I think the movement of female cyclists into racing and riding  changed all that and  made cycling fashionable and stylish. Bikes now sparkle, have glitter, change colour, quotes have appeared on social media. ( ‘I have enough cycling kits’ said no cyclist  ever!)

Sock doping is now out of control.. I have so many socks. It covers two drawers. I can take my bike apart, service it, rebuild it, change a tyre and teach others. I am a woman, hear me roar!

So apart form the wonderful fashion opportunities that riding a bike brings to women, it is also about the camaraderie, the friendship, the no drop ride and the lets do this together! Let’s register for a stage race, or the longest ride you have ever done. Get a band of girls together, train, support, lets do this.
We are all scared, we all have feelings of uncertainty, but together we feel stronger, unified. 
I have ridden on trails and been on adventures only accessible by bike or foot. I am passionate about riding and teaching others  to just get out and try the sport. Questions like what to buy to get started, where do I ride and what do I bring and what do I we are all covered!
I see myself as role model especially for the over 40’ as I am a regular rider and racer. There is still only 20% representation of women racing and riding. My goal is to change thi and make mountain biking more inclusive..
Due to the lack of  representation of women in mountain biking what better way to achieve this goal and be a role model for others and apply to be on the Board of Directors of a National Sporting Body?
What have I got to lose? absolutely nothing…
As a mother of three children, I hold a Masters Degree in Health Science, I have been a University lecturer, I have written a book, I have learned to ride and race a mountain bike at 45!
There is nothing we can’t achieve if we don’t try. “Behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women who have their back”. One of my favourite quotes from a local women’s cycling clothing company.
So here I am now helping shape the future of mountain biking in Australia. My son came home from school after he told a few mates his mum was on the BOARD. ”NO WAY was their response that is pretty cool.”
Yes lets all strive to be cool Women. Celebrate all things women can do.
Just get out and give it a go. Do your best and that all we can ask.
Support each other. Find your girl gang! 

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