A slight detour: Women’s prize money

Nadine was understandably happy with finishing yesterday. Her impeccable manners means she has not, and would not, consider posing this question – but I will:

Is $100 total prize money for first female in the Melbourne to Warrnambool sending the right message about how we value women in our sport?

Here’s some numbers:

  • The female winner of the M2W is still $35 out of pocket after subtracting her winnings from her entry fee.
  • First male gets 20 times the prize money of first female.
  • Women-specific prize money is 1.11% of the total. This leaves 98.89% of prize money that, realistically, only men can win.
  • There is fifty two (yup, 52) times more prize money for the sprint primes and 18 times more for the KOMs along the route than for first female overall.
  • Third place in D grade gets more than twice the prize money of first female. (Not one D grader rides for a living; how do you expect to attract professional women to the race when they know the prize money places a greater dollar value on amateurs than them?)
  • The Victorian Government gives the race $50,000 per year AND pours money into women’s participation programs elsewhere.  An unimaginative bureaucrat missed an opportunity by failing to place a women’s specific earmark on that funding. (Besides which – the race gets a fifty grand donation from taxpayers and they only spend 0.4% of it on total female prize money?)

Consider pro tennis: Wimbeldon has had equal prize money since 2007, even though far less money is made from the female side of the event. Now, I’m not advocating totally equal prize money for the Warnie; the 230+ males vs 1 female in 2012 makes that unfair in terms of $ redistribution – but it needs to be closer than 1.11% vs 98.89%. Even so, I can hear the cries of derision: “But there were over 200 of US and only one of THEM in the race! Why should WE subsidise their prize money?”  Well, “we” should, and here’s why.

  • Build it and they will come.
  • The vast majority of men don’t want to feel complicit when they think about sexism or inequality.
  • The women’s prize money wouldn’t necessarily come from men’s entry fees. There are many funding sources; the aforementioned $50k government payment, private sponsors etc.
  • It’s 2012. Aren’t we all more civilized than this? Does this really need explanation?

All I’m saying is that the first female should at least break even with her entry fee, maybe cover petrol for her feeder and be able to buy herself a parma and a glass of red on the way home. I doubt there would be a huge backlash if the sprints only paid $175 and the KOMs $75 to fund this.

Equality doesn’t mean treating everyone the same, it means treating everyone fairly.

Is $100 fair?



26 thoughts on “A slight detour: Women’s prize money

  1. That’s rubbish but good to note that the Shipwreck Coast race in Warrnambool the following day (which is a women’s NRS race) offered EQUAL prize money for men and women. Progress is being made but perhaps women need to vote with their feet and ONLY enter races where they receive equal (or at least better) treatment.

  2. People I spoke to at Shipwreck thought it was an absolute joke that out of $18,000 in prize money, first female didn’t even get her entry fee back. Just getting 1 of 20 sprints got you more money.
    If there was even $500 for first chick, I think you’d get at least a few having a crack. $1,000 and even more so. I’d be there with bells on! It’s just not worth the risk of getting in a hole for a month just to say I’ve done the Warny. Money changes that. 

  3. I agree that the prizemoney should be raised, but…

    Would the top local women race the Warny if the prize money was increased, given that that Shipwreck Coast (which is an NRS event) is on the day after the Warny (which isn’t)?

    If your entry pool is women who are strong enough, experienced enough, and doing enough k’s in training to finish the Warny within the time cut, but aren’t required by their teams for Shipwreck Coast, that’s not a large group.

    Perhaps that’s an argument for rescheduling Shipwreck Coast – I reckon it’d be great if more of the stronger local women could enter the Warny.

  4. There are events out there that support the women’s racing scene better than the Melbourne to Warrnambool. Next year it is moving to a weekend in November, so the tough day out in Warrny will toughen the women up for some hard riding in Mount Gambier SA a few weeks later!

    Bring the fellas over too!


  5. Hi Nick, massive thanks for expressing out loud what I have been thinking for years about the 1stF M2W prizemoney but felt was inappropriate , even in 2012, to say myself in written or spoken words because I am female.

    “Build it and they will come” is exactly the point.

  6. here is also some stats:
    over 233 entries with close to 100 of those the best domestically from all over Australia, 1 was female
    So you can work out the prizemoney split??? (yup)
    Womens Road world championships distance is ~120km
    Women had a NRS race with equal prizemoney the next day
    Drapac won the event and many sprints throughout the day, to think them or any other NRS team came out with a profit from the weekend would be nieve.

    Anyway, who races solely for money, yes winning money is good but what about the achievment of finishing to the best of your ability and saying i did the “Warnie”.
    If you were so concerned about prizemoney why wasn’t she racing shipwreck – a womens specific race with equal prizemoney?

    Anyway Good on Nadine for a great ride, and very well done. huge KUDOS.

    1. Re: Finishing to the best of your ability and being able to say you ‘did the Warnie’.

      It’s a race. Not a Gran Fondo.

      The prize money is set, it doesn’t change as more women enter.
      I know (and was 1 of) 12 women who drove all the way to Mt Gambier the weekend prior to race a 100mile race because there was very good money on offer. If those same 12 entered the Warnie, that would represent 5% of the entries and therefore does that mean they should be entitled to 5% of the $18,000? That would be a very respectable $900 up for grabs. But unless it’s on offer up front, you won’t get entries..

      1. There’s ‘prize money’ for the AGF Gran Fondo Amy. Coin on offer isn’t the difference.

        Although I do agree on the point that the Warny is a race, not a GF (a fact that is getting a little lost recently).

        But both these points are besides the point, apologies.

        Nadine certainly rode better than a lot of C and D graders (sorry guys), so in my view deserved more for her efforts. Not that I care about prize money and am amused by those whose sole focus is racing for it, but if you’re going to put it on offer at least don’t leave such a huge disparity.

      2. I rode the Warny. i attacked on the camperdown Hills. Rode viscioius tempo in the cross winds. Attacked multiple times with 40-50km to go and help chase the winning move. And i got no prize money!!!
        waaahh waaah waaah…

      3. If its a money issue, then take out all of the C+D graders and the $9000+ they contribute to the event, also I saw a photo of the finish and the the only female who entered, coincidentally in D grade was finishing with a bunch of C & D graders and had been with them for over the last 40k to the finish.
        Elitism in any sport id not needed, remember we all had to start somewhere & we all have to finish somewhere in this great sport, the sliding doors seems to be C & D grade at this event due to the toughness of the event, crits its B grade.
        So instead of slinging mud, is there a solution, hands up anyone…. maybe a sponsor comes on board just for the women’s race, that would create promotion for the grade and also help with prize money, sprint money for the women & Kom for the women… has any one else got any positive ideas.

  7. Yes it is a race, but it’s still an achievemnet to finish to the best of your ability and something you can look back on fondly, i know i will as i finished in the top 50 on Saturday. (Also those who complete a grand tour etc)
    women represented <0.5 % of the field but yet there was $200 on offer for them, 0.9% of total prizemoney, that seems perfectly respectable. So in fact the men were getting ripped off percentage wise.
    I could be wrong on this, but the first i saw of prizemoney was after entries had closed. So im pretty sure if 20 or so women entered the prizemoney would certainly correlate to those entries.

    1. Graham,

      Following your logic, we shouldn’t provide free public education for 5 year olds because they don’t contribute to the Government budget.

      Rights, funding and education are not a matter of numbers or contribution, but of need. That’s why we invest in our kids; so they can grow and one day flourish. The social contract is not a 1:1 investment/return model – some pay more, some pay less, some receive more, some receive less. It’s called redistribution and it’s one of the key economic foundations of the successful democratic state. I hope you see the implications for growing women’s cycling.

      And anyone who argues that women shouldn’t care about prize money are totally missing the point. Do you think Rosa Parks really cared about sitting at the front of the bus? She really cared about the message that segregation conveyed about her value as a member of society.

  8. The recent National Masters Road champs had unequal prize money between genders. Prize money was c$100, so not huge $s. It’s a disgrace that the national body should perpetuate this imbalance in national championship events. The cost of rectifying would have cost Cycling Australia maybe a few hundred dollars vs sending a message to female members that their efforts aren’t valued equally.
    Ps Look at the prize money at the upcoming Noosa Tri: it’s equal. If they can do it why can’t cycling?

  9. We just don’t have enough women’s road races. When you have to race in what are essentially men’s races, then this will be the outcome. Thanks for raising this because it pissed me off mightily just a few months ago. Only one prize for women and lots for everyone else. We spend money on our bikes and kit too!

  10. there was only 1 female in the race, and womens races arent legally supposed to go over 200km. it says in the UCI regulations

    1. don’t let the facts get in the way of a good beat up story Jordon, the event clearly wasn’t supported by womens racing, but it appears that STR wants to take the gloss off Nadine’s great achievement by creating some negative press.

  11. Maybe we should ban prizes for all and any sports?

    Then only the serious would race.

    I had to stir up the pot a little.

    I do not think that is fair. But, I wouldn’t compete in a sport I did not consider fair. I am old fashioned that way.

    But, keep up the hard work!


    1. I’m not against this. In fact, coming to cycling late meant I’ve found the whole idea of prize money (and being solely motivated to race because of it) quite amusing.

      How about you ditch the prize money and roll that into lowering the cost of the event.

      Have local produce/speciality for the prizes (the cheese around there is excellent, I’d have a wheel of it!) and that way you would have; more people financially able to race, greater exposure for sponsors (both in prizes and attendants to the race), more people inclined to race and those racing actually doing it for the real desire to win the event.

      Maybe I’m a naive idealist. But given the grief prize money seems to cause and the better uses it could be put to I say scrap it.

  12. By market logic it was perfectly rational, but is that all we want out of society? We dont accept it in work or other areas of life.

    In addition to ‘build it and they will come’ (we are doing it in mountain biking) I say ‘ Ignore them and they will have no option but to change’.

    So I point a bony finger at all the men who turn up and support events these events with thier overtly discriminatory prize policies and ask them: ‘Are you happy for your partner/ mother/ sister/ freind to be paid less for similar work?
    And if you cant bring yourself to stay away, how about wearing a purple armband in protest.

    BTW I think there are plenty of overly female dominated sports that could do a little more to encourage men to participate. I would be the first to advocate equality there.

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