“Feminist on the Court” is a monthly column giving voice to a variety of women, trans, and/or femme players (and those that support them) from around the world. This month Sarah Danya of Portland Bike Polo presents an analysis of NAH participation by gender. If you’d like to tell us your story, email email@example.com.
We spend a lot of time talking about women in polo, yet the unorganized nature of the sport makes it very difficult to quantify the gender gap. Knowing that there can be a perception bias favoring men, I set out to collect numerical data. For this analysis, I looked at the 11 events in the 2016 NAH qualifying series. I believe this simplified metric is appropriate for establishing a baseline with which to discuss women on the competitive side of the sport going forward.
I pulled team lists off Podium, or requested them directly from tournament organizers. I then categorized each team member as ‘male’, ‘female’, or ‘nonbinary’ in this spreadsheet. I communicated directly with several out trans and nonbinary players about how they’d liked to be listed for these purposes, however I am sure I’ve missed those I don’t personally know. I compiled this data in two ways: in terms of team composition and overall event participation.
There are two major opportunities for error in this analysis:
-A different team played the event than was registered
-I misgendered people in regions I’m less familiar with.
I welcome anyone who spots an error to correct me, it’s not particularly difficult to recalculate and update.
To analyze who qualified, I used NAH’s* initial allocation numbers and the commensurate top teams in that region’s qualifier, ignoring any instances of double qualification and declination.
NAH= North American Hardcourt
NAHBPC= North American Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship
CASQ= Cascadia Qualifier
ESQ= Eastside Qualifier
GLQ= Great Lakes Qualifier
GPQ= Great Plains Qualifier
HLQ= Heartland Qualifier
MEXQ= Mexico Qualifier
NSQ= Northside Qualifier
SCQ= South Central Qualifier
SEQ= South East Qualifier
SWQ= South West Qualifier
WTF= Women, trans, femme)
There was a pretty dramatic difference between regional attendance — Great Lakes had the highest with 26 teams, and Northsides had the lowest at 6 teams. There were 590 players across the NAH series- without separating out the same players in multiple tournaments or NAs. 493 (83.6%) were male, 93 (15.8%) female, and 4 (0.7%) nonbinary (see fig.1). Women and nonbinary participation varied from 5.6% representation in the Northside Qualifier to 24.1% participation in the Mexico Qualifier, for an average participation rate of 17.2% across all qualifiers. Amongst qualifying players, however, only 8% were female*. At NAHBPC 2016 12.8% of participants were female or nonbinary.
Most of the women who competed in the 2016 NAH series were on mixed gender teams. Only four regions had all female teams, while every region had at least one mixed gender team. There was no shortage of all male teams (see fig. 2 and fig. 5). Female players qualified in 5 of the 10 regions (Fig. 3).
(*According to statistician and Oakland Bike Polo member Katie Hay, “although each individual region didn’t have a significant difference in males vs. females from participating to qualifying, the total percent of females did. So: the decrease in female participation in qualifying from participating is significant.” 2-sided t-test, p=0.05. Her work can be found on this spreadsheet (on the KH stats tab): https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1tFRhewsmFChsGGY2CSGzjLGqOzEd-asU0fkBjRCSiuM/edit#gid=1181712200)
Out transgender and/or nonbinary players made up 1.5% of total participants in the 2016 season. The North Side qualifier had the highest trans participation rate at 6%, with Cascadia a close second at 5%. The only other regions with trans participation were Southwest (3%) and South Central (3%).
In the US, women make up 51% of the population, 24% of all biking trips, 27% of cycling commuters*, and 15% of USAC licensed racers**. With a 17.2% non-male participation rate, bike polo has already passed road cycling in terms of inclusion for 2016, but our gender gap is still wider than that of the cycling community at large. The conversations of the past weeks have led to a mixed gender mandate in several regions, and several elite male players publicly committing to including more WTF players in the future. Only time will tell if this has an impact on the 2017 season, but I hope to see the WTF participation rate reach at least 20%.
(*“However, women represented a much lower percentage of biking trips (24%) than men (76%). Among commuters, the difference varies slightly. Women make up only 47% of commuters (ACS 2013) and represent 46% of commuters who walk and 27% of commuters who bike. In large cities, their percentage is slightly higher, representing 49% of commuters who walk and 29% of commuters who bike.” http://www.bikewalkalliance.org/storage/documents/reports/2016benchmarkingreport_web.pdf “However, women represented a much lower percentage of biking trips (24%) than men (76%). Among commuters, the difference varies slightly. Women make up only 47% of commuters (ACS 2013) and represent 46% of commuters who walk and 27% of commuters who bike. In large cities, their percentage is slightly higher, representing 49% of commuters who walk and 29% of commuters who bike.” http://www.bikewalkalliance.org/storage/documents/reports/2016benchmarkingreport_web.pdf
**Summary of current license holders, accessed February 2017