The UCI has released a set of new policies for women’s cycling, promising to add mandatory maternity leave and insurance options for women on top-level teams in 2020. It will also introduce minimum salaries for elite women that year, raising them gradually so that they equal those of certain men by 2023.
Women’s cycling advocates largely praised the announcement on Tuesday, though some cautioned that the sport still has a long way to go toward achieving gender parity.
Advocates had long called for the UCI, cycling’s international governing body, to institute minimum salaries for women in the professional peloton. (Last year, the organization raised salaries for men but left women out.) Starting in 2020, women on WorldTeams—those competing in top WorldTour races—will earn a minimum salary of 15,000 euro (roughly $17,000). That number will increase each year until 2023, when it reaches about 30,000 euro ($34,000), the same minimum salary for men on Pro Continental teams.
(Pro Continental teams are not the top-tier teams for men in the sport, being classified beneath men’s WorldTour teams.)
Women’s WorldTeams will also have to start offering riders mandatory maternity leave and insurance. Starting in 2020, riders will be entitled to three months of maternity leave with full salary, plus an additional five months at 50 percent of their salary. Their contracts will also have higher standards for general health insurance plans.
“I’ve advocated very strongly for this regulation within the Women’s WorldTour Committee and I’m really pleased the UCI took this wish of the riders into account,” said Iris Slappendel, executive director of the Cyclists’ Alliance, an advocacy group for women in pro cycling. Last year, an Alliance survey found that healthcare was a top concern among women in the pro rankings.
Self-employed women racers, who aren’t on any team’s payroll, will also earn maternity leave and health insurance under the new UCI rules, as well as higher minimum salaries (beginning at 24,600 euro, or nearly $28,000) since they have to pay their own taxes and social security.
Getty ImagesAndrea Kareth
“The new policies are a really big step in the right direction,” said Carmen Small, sports director of Team Virtu Cycling and a member of the Cyclists’ Alliance. “We still have a long ways to go, but little by little we are getting closer to the end result.”
Small thinks the next step is to help riders understand their legal rights and what to expect when they sign a contract. “Having a family and being able to feel you can get pregnant and still have a career is a beautiful thing,” she said. “I think this will help more women understand that it is possible if this is what they want to do.”
“Now cycling can be a career, and not just a passion.”
Former pro mountain biker and Olympic bronze medalist Georgia Gould, who has an 18-month-old, agreed that the new policies are an important win for women racers. “Anything that helps women’s cycling become more professional and lets women move toward being full-time athletes is good,” she said. “It’s great to have that support. It’ll make it easier for a lot of women who are wanting to have babies and then come back.”
She added, “Now [cycling] can be a career, and not just a passion.”
However, advocates interviewed for this story agreed that the fight for equality in cycling is far from over. Slappendel pointed out that maternity leave is already a basic right in most European countries where racers compete. Forcing teams to comply with existing maternity laws, in other words, wasn’t exactly the tallest order.
“Honestly, we need to remember that issues like maternity leave are a no-brainer,” said Kathryn Bertine, a pro racer and director of Half the Road, a documentary on women’s cycling. “The fact we have to celebrate this as news in 2018 is a reminder that we still have a long way to go in terms of equality. So, yes, let’s celebrate the news… but also keep the pressure on UCI to fix the rest of the broken issues in women’s cycling, like equal media coverage, race opportunities, and prize money.”
This content was originally published here.