SRAM outlined their commitments
to pursue gender parity in the sport of cycling yesterday ahead of International Women's Day on Sunday, March 8th.
We spoke with SRAM CEO Ken Lousberg about why SRAM felt this was an important announcement to make and to find out what the company is truly doing to increase gender parity in cycling.
What are some of the challenges that you’ve had hiring women in the bike industry?
Our number one challenge would be engineering. Engineering is the number one position that we have at SRAM other than manufacturing positions in our factories. Frankly, there just aren't enough women graduates from the engineering programs.
We try to work with some of the universities that have good STEM programs to make women aware of what we do and get the ones that are graduating to consider SRAM first. But I think that’s number one issue we face today.
How many women are there currently working at your company?
I don’t know the exact number off the top of my head, but globally it’s about 40%.
What’s the most senior role that a woman holds at SRAM?
The most senior role at SRAM would be one of our Board of Directors, is Nicole Piasecki, a former executive at Boeing. As for someone that comes into work every day at SRAM, our Vice President of HR, Eileen Mulry, is a direct report of mine, and she would be the most senior woman.
How do you see this changing in the next couple years? Do you think we’ll see more women in more senior roles in the coming years?
We’re always trying to add more diversity to our team. We definitely try hard. We’ve made good changes, like requiring all interview candidate pools to have at least one woman in them. We’re making progress so I think it will change.
Have you done an analysis on pay at SRAM? Do you pay female employees an equal wage to their male counterparts for similar roles?
We do an internal review every year to make sure that we’re paying people appropriately and fairly and then every time we have an opening we do the same thing. We also don’t ask for past salary history as we felt this could perpetuate the problem if it was preexisting.
We pay people for the job not based on what they got paid before or what gender they are. I think we do a really good job of that.
How can we come together as an industry and create equality in it? How do we get more women working in the bike industry?
That’s a good question. Our theory would be, if we have more women working at SRAM, they’ll have better ideas of how to get more women riding bikes. So we start there, trying to make a difference with that.
What are your corporate policies at SRAM for women who want to take maternity leave?
We’re a global company and every country has different policies around maternity leave. Obviously we follow the local guidelines and laws and meet the minimum, but we try to do better than that.
I would say the US probably has one of the less generous maternity policies, so we do more than is required in the US. I’m sure we could do more. We have a SRAM Women’s Leadership Committee that helps us navigate that: what do the women at SRAM want, what helps them? We make our culture really open and when we have a good idea we try it.
How do you think that taking maternity leave can affect a woman’s trajectory through your company?
I personally think it has little to no impact. We have some awesome moms and they’re awesome at their job. We miss them when they’re gone and we’re happy when they’re back.
You’ve worked around the world, how do you see opportunities being different for women in North America compared to other places you have lived?
I spent a lot of time in China and I was the President of a pretty large business and half of my leadership team were women. Roughly half of the population of the rest of the team were women. I was talking to the women on my team and told them that we really struggle to do this in the US and yet here it seems so easy, what’s the difference? One of the women who reported to me said ‘Well women are half the population, why wouldn’t we be half the team?’ It was just so easy there.
I also worked in Germany for quite a while, and I worked in Switzerland for a fair amount of time. As far as women represented on teams I had there, I would say they were more like the US. I don’t the exact reason, but it’s clear women can do the job, so if they want to do it, why shouldn’t they?
I’ve read that you have three sons, how is the world they are growing up in different to the world you grew up in?
I think they’re probably growing up in a better, more open world. Unfortunately, it feels like sometimes it’s a little more dangerous world too though. But they don’t see colour, they don’t see man/woman as starkly as when I was raised, which is super cool. The school my oldest son went to in China, I think there were kids from 68 different countries, so they didn’t even think of colour or accents or any of that. They were just kids that played together.
To me, the coolest thing ever would be to if he and his five best friends back then, who are from five different countries, become the President of their country. That would be the path to world peace. Because they just see each other as people, they don’t see the differences. I think that would be pretty cool.
How do you think we can increase participation in women’s mountain bike racing?
I think that the funnel that feeds racing has to get bigger. We need more women mountain biking to get more women racing. For us, we have more pro women road cyclists that we sponsor than we have men that we sponsor. But the funnel is bigger. There are more women that ride road bikes than competitively mountain bike.
It’s that equation where we need more people feeding into the funnel. What we do, with Sara Jarrell, is we have the SRAM Women’s Program where we want to introduce women to mountain biking and then once they’re in it we help them with training clinics to help them get better, feel more comfortable, and have fun. Programs like that are good. I wish more people would do them.
I think NICA is another great example. That’s a great feeder for future women. Kate Courtney, one of our sponsored athletes, she got introduced to mountain biking through NICA. NICA has their GRIT program that we’re excited to be helping with. I think things like that are how we get more women on mountain bikes and then that eventually leads to more women racing mountain bikes.
How do you think we will start to have more equal pay for women athletes?
That’s something that we as an industry, we need to do it. We were pretty successful at helping make that happen at Crankworx but we need more actions like that.
What are your goals with the video that you're releasing on March 2nd and speaking about getting more women into the bike industry?
I think it takes all of us to make changes like this. Everyone benefits. It just feels like it makes so much sense, but it’s a real effort and we need to do it together.
Are you hoping that other bike brands and other manufacturers in the bike industry will follow your lead on this?
I don’t even know if we’re leading, but yeah for sure. I would love that. If all of us are doing it together, it has to have a bigger impact than 5 or 6 companies doing it. All of us are smarter than one of us and a critical mass can have a huge impact. It would be great if everyone did it.