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with Isabell Eberlein, Managing Partner, Velokonzept

Gender Diversity within the Cycling Sector

28 Jun 2024

The bicycle has been a powerful tool for emancipation – yet the industry itself is largely male dominated. We talked with Isabell Eberlein, an advocate for equality in cycling, about why this is a problem (and a missed opportunity) and what we can do about it.

Status Quo: Women as the Largest Underrepresented Majority


Women are still heavily underrepresented in the cycling sector, or as Isabell Eberlein - Managing Partner of the Berlin bicycle agency Velokonzept GmbH and initiator of (among others) Women in Cycling Germany - puts it: "We are the largest underrepresented majority. In the German mobility industry, there are more executives named Thomas and Christian than there are women."

In 2019, the European Commission estimated that across Europe, the share of women in the transportation sector was mere 22%. Yet, finding precise data for the bicycle industry specifically is difficult. "It would be vital," Isabell Eberlein stresses, "to generate solid data, also for monitoring future progress."

The Bicycle Association in the United Kingdom launched the "Diversity in Cycling" project to unite the cycling industry to address issues of inequality and promote diversity and inclusivity. It brings together industry associations as well as brands such as Brompton, Cannondale, Schwalbe, Specialized, Trek, and Liv/Giant. Surveys in the UK reveal that only 8% of staff in bicycle shops are women. While women fulfill 40% of administrative roles in the industry, few make it into leadership positions.

Yet why should we challenge the status quo when the British study also indicates that just 21% of companies believe in women as a growth segment. So why should manufacturers, retailers, media, and service providers transform? The Bicycle Association's answer: "We cannot afford not to do it." 

The Potential: Untapped Growth Market and Workforce


As the industry grapples with post-Covid challenges, women and other underrepresented groups constitute a large yet strongly neglected growth market. Companies that embrace diversity gain access to a wider range of viewpoints, experiences, and areas of expertise within their workforce. This expanded knowledge base fosters a deeper understanding of the unique needs, preferences, and use cases across different customer segments. In turn, this insight drives innovation.

Diversity pays off - a fact not just acknowledged by experts from Boston Consulting to McKinsey. However, the cycling industry appears to be lacking a broad-based awareness of these challenges and the economic opportunities of greater gender diversity.

A recent study by Fraunhofer ISI - commissioned by the German Cyclists Association ADFC - shows that cycling in Germany for distances under 30 kilometers could triple by 2035. That is if certain requirements are met. " This encompasses more than just the required infrastructure, it also involves the question of who is qualified to handle the service," says Isabell Eberlein, alluding to the acute shortage of skilled labor in the industry. Persisting stereotypes, lack of role models, discrimination, and gaps in recruitment are just some of the points that make it so difficult for women to enter the cycling sector. Capitalizing on the talent pool of underrepresented groups remains a key hurdle.

Counteracting: Initiatives, Projects, and Engagement


Yet, how can we increase the female representation in the cycling industry? "I believe companies need to transform themselves internally - and that includes the general corporate culture," says Isabell Eberlein. "Where and why are women missing? Where are women already present in the company and what needs might they have? How can we position ourselves as an even more attractive employer?"

In addition, there are various projects and organizations working towards more heterogeneity. In 2021, the Europe-wide initiative Women in Cycling was established - a networking platform and point of contact for women in the industry, as well as for all those looking for female experts, speakers, etc.

"Anyone who claims they can't find a woman for a panel should reflect and reconsider - or reach out to us. We will find a female expert."


Also, national groups are emerging, such as Women in Cycling Switzerland and Women in Cycling Germany. Both were founded in 2024 to better address country-specific challenges, legal frameworks, etc. and to enable exchange in the native language. "We are reaching out to all women who are professionally involved with bicycles, whether they work in municipal bicycle traffic planning, in a bike shop or for an association," explains Isabell Eberlein. "Thus, female mechanics have joined Women in Cycling Germany as well as CEOs, women from science, tourism and trade." Within a span of just six months, the working groups cover topics from municipal administration to bicycle culture in companies to mentoring programs.

For all those who want to address Gender Diversity within their own organization or company, who have questions or input, feel free to get in contact with Women in Cycling. 


Isabell Eberlein (36) is Managing Partner of the Berlin-based consultancy agency Velokonzept GmbH, which also organizes the VELOBerlin trade show. Further, she is a member of the board at Cycling Industries Europe and co-founder of Women in Cycling and Women in Cycling Germany.