When I was hired at the shop in Seattle, I became one of two girls out of a sales team of fifteen. At the time, I thought myself pretty bike-savvy. I was riding everyday and doing most of my own repairs. But my male colleagues were playing in a different league. These guys were building their own wheel sets for fun. They were competitive polo players and cyclocross racers. They took pride in passing one another on the road into work.
It quickly became clear that I’d been hired to correct an imbalance. Were I a man, my resume would have never passed muster.
I never felt like the guys at the shop treated me with a lack of respect because I was a woman. But I did feel they treated me with a lack of respect because I was so far behind them in terms of bike experience. Admitting ignorance about something that in all honesty a bike shop employee should know, inevitably earned me eye-rolls and snarky remarks. Often being the only woman in the room compounded my feelings of incompetence and inadequacy. Even though my gender likely had nothing to do with the way I was received—in fact, it may very well have saved me from worse treatment—it did have something to do with the way I regarded my own work performance. It’s impossible not to feel like a representative of your gender when you’re the only member present. And I felt like I was doing a crappy job of proving that girls do have a place in the shop.
Eventually I caught up. I never reached the level of expertise of my male colleagues, but I leaned enough to get by and made a few friends on the sales floor. Still, the
Name: Hannah Drake
City: Denver, CO
Shop: Salvagetti Bicycle Workshop
Experience: 4+ years
Gender does play a role with certain customers. I have had men not let me help them because as a women, how could I possibly know more than them about bikes? This has been a rare occurrence and seems to be almost exclusively limited to older men. I have also run into a few women who feel like they need a man to help them and have trouble accepting the fact that I am perfectly capable, if not more knowledgeable, about certain bike related things.
I think that being friendly, knowledgeable, and having confidence in your abilities can go a long way. I have been able to make friends with most male coworkers and then work as a team, each of us working with each other’s strengths. As a woman you just have to work a little bit harder at first to get past the stereotypes, and once you do everything runs smoothly. I have never let being a women deter me from being a valuable part of my bike shop.
Women bring a new element to the shop that men cannot. How many women do you know that have a man pick their clothing out for them? So, why would you want a male bike shop employee to pick out all the women cycling clothing? Bike shops with women employees are better suited to meet the needs of other women and this will help grow the female cycling market. The more people we can get to fall in love with riding bikes the better.
Photo by Lenny Maiorani
Name: Katlyn Hershman
City: New York, NY
Shop: Bike Works NYC
Experience: 4 years
I think that a “macho” attitude is in most environments, it’s really not just subject to bike shops. I come from a background in metal work and machining where a lot of that attitude is present. I suppose I don’t really waste my time in dwelling over it. When I come across that type of personality, I realize it is mostly coming from a territorial place.
I am just grateful to work at a bicycle shop where everyone is pretty honest and genuine about their work and interactions with people. In the end, it’s just a bicycle. There’s no reason to be pretentious about knowing how it functions. Maintaining your bike is a learnable skill and there shouldn’t be anyone in any shop making you uncomfortable enough that you wouldn’t want to acquire that information.
All in all, I know our regular customers in the shop and all of them treat me with the utmost respect and gratitude. There are instances that are a little strange to me though. For instance, people automatically assume you aren’t a mechanic since you are female. This happens a lot over the phone when people call for advice but sometimes you do get the rare occasion where it happens in person. I’m pretty forgiving about it—I just correct them and say I can help.
Photo by Ed Glazar
Name: Annamarie Cabarloc
City San Jose, CA
Experience: 2+ years
Ninety percent of the customers that enter our store are guys. Approaching new customers is always hilarious to me because their reactions are usually total surprise that a girl works here, that I actually know what I’m talking about, and that along with my fiancé I own the shop.
What guy wouldn’t want to talk to a girl out of a shop full of guys? It doesn’t bother me at all how people come in here and are surprised to see a girl working at iMiNUSD. It takes a little bit more coaxing on my part to earn their respect or for them to even approach me because this industry is saturated with male riders, especially the fixed gear scene, but I’ve noticed more and more ladies are coming in and showing interest in the sport. This is when it really helps that I’m here because they don’t feel intimidated and can ask all the questions they want.
Everyone who works at iMiNUSD are good guys, good friends, with good hearts, and when I don’t know how to do something or if I can’t answer a question they help rather than discourage me. The guys always tell me that they love that I’m here because with a shop full of testosterone, it’s nice to have a hint of estrogen in the air.
Photo by Jeffrey Pepito