Ashley Peters is renowned for her huge smile and infectious love of bikes. I consider her one of the most incredible role models for women in leadership in sport and recreation in New Zealand.
Since first learning to mountain bike fifteen years ago, she has set up multiple bike organisations in New Zealand, largely focused on helping others achieve independence. Ash is a PMBIA Mountain Bike 2 instructor and an NZOIA level 2 mountain biking assessor.
In this episode we chat about the joys of biking and the positive things we’re seeing in the industry, including the development of New Zealand mountain bike qualifications. We discuss gender equality in sport and recreation, including strategies to increase female participation in outdoor recreation activities. We discuss the differences between competition and recreation and how these different styles play into long-term participation. Enjoy!
Increasing female participation and empowering women in mountain biking in Aotearoa New Zealand
Ash has been the driving force in initiating some amazing bike programmes and organisations in New Zealand, largely focused on helping others achieve independence. She’s the co-founder of Revolve Cycling Club, and the founder of Diamonds in the Rough, JoyRide and WORD.
WORD stands for the Wellington Off-Road Riding Department. It’s a non-profit kids mountain biking organisation, providing after school programmes and holiday camps for kids and teenagers. Their holiday camps are so popular that they sell out in less than five minutes!
WORD is now one of nine organisations that are recipients of Sport NZ’s Young Women’s Activation Fund.
The Fund’s goal is to create opportunities for young women to increase the time they spend being physically active and to take up leadership opportunities in play, active recreation and sport.
That’s a big deal! A small non-profit bike organisation that started in Wellington is sitting at the table with Cricket New Zealand. Outdoor Recreation has typically received far less funding than traditional sports, despite higher numbers of people participating in outdoor recreation. Statistics show we have a drop off in sport participation rates, partly as a result of competition. So Outdoor Recreation fills a really important gap – and often turns into lifetime participation.
Towards the end of this episode, Ash talks about what WORD has specifically done to increase female participation in mountain biking. Many other outdoor organisations and clubs could adopt some similar strategies:
- Have some girls-only programmes available, including ones that are not only for beginners.
- Have programmes run by female leaders (visible role models). As part of this Ash has advocated for women in the professional industry.
- Increase visibility of girls and women – ‘you have to see it to be it’. Ask yourself – in public messaging and marketing, what stories is your organisation telling?
- Have mentoring programmes and pathways in place that empower women
It’s a really exciting time for mountain biking in New Zealand. The sport is growing rapidly and it’s proving to be an amazing activity to get more young people engaged in lifelong recreation. As a side note, Bikepacking has also been chosen by the Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand (FMC) as their outdoor sport to promote and support this year. Watch this space!
- Wellington Off-road Riding Department AKA WORD