Once, a very wise individual told me that more often than not, people made decisions based on emotion and then they looked for the facts to justify their position. He tried his dead level best to make sure I knew that "People are emotional beings." Before, presentations, he wouldn't ask me what I wanted the audience to "Know" but rather, he'd ask me how I'd like them to "Feel". He was almost a broken record on the point. People are emotional beings. Remember, people are emotional beings. To a large extent, I disagreed. Through the years our educational system had conditioned me to think that humans were generally thoughtful, logical and rational. Even topics laced with emotion such as marketing, advertising and design could be broken down into formulas and equations.
In fact, there’s even an equation for happiness. Seriously. There is. It’s long but it starts with:
Happiness (t) = W0 + W1 Sigma y-j CR, + W2 Sigma…and it goes on from there.
Then, over time I began to realize that while we (as a species) may aspire to be completely rational, in reality, we are far from it. Time and again, I saw how my view could change on a topic based solely on how I felt on a particular day. Someone might ask me if I was happy with my job. If I’d had a good night of sleep, had been eating cleanly and hitting my workouts, then the answer was clearly “yes!” Sure there were challenges but I was glad to be employed and after all, I didn’t let work define me as a person. Yay! Sunshine, rainbows and butterflies. Everything is great.
If however, I didn’t feel great and was short on shut eye, the answer could change 180 degrees. No butterflies here. Mosquitos yes but not butterflies. I was perpetually, over worked and underappreciated!
It turns out that my old mentor was right after all.
I think University of Virginia psychologist, Jonathan Haidt summed up this concept best in his great book The Happiness Hypothesis. He draws a picture of boy riding an elephant and states that the elephant is our emotional side and the boy riding is the rational part of our being.
Sure the boy is holding the reins and appears to be the leader but if the gigantic elephant and the boy happen to disagree about the direction to go, the boy (i.e. the rational side) is going to lose big time.
You may be asking what on earth does this have to do with gender equality in Kona. Well, dear reader, the answer is this. At Coeur, we are of the opinion that depending on where you stand on the topic emotionally, you can find a rational decision to back up your point of view.
Now to be clear, there is no doubt where Coeur stands on the issue of equality at Ironman Hawaii. We completely and absolutely believe that there should be an equal number of professional women at the start of Kona as men. The reason, we wanted to open the discussion with this little detour into psychology was to make sure we acknowledged that this is an emotional topic for all parties involved. We're no different and we want to pre-acknowledge the dynamic before we are bombarded with ratios, equations, and "facts" explaining the error of our ways.
That all being said, here are a few of the points we would respectfully make to the WTC if they ever asked us why they should have an equal number of professional women at the start.
It’s just good business. Most people in the industry know that women are entering endurance sports at an increasingly high rate. In some events like the half marathon, women frequently make up the majority of the participants. What some people don’t realize is that studies indicate that women also make 80% of consumer buying decisions in a household! Or that in America, women spend about $5 trillion annually—that’s more than all of Japan’s buyers (men and women combined) spent in 2008! In fact, women over 50 years old are the healthiest, wealthiest, and most active generation of women in history. The Mass Mutual Financial Group reports that over the next decade, woman over 50 years of age will own more than ¾ of the nation’s financial wealth and will spend 2.5 times more than the average person! We apologize for all the exclamation points but seriously…these numbers are astounding! In our humble opinion, there is no way on this green earth that anyone in business would want to alienate this constituency. For that reason alone, we’d think that finding 15 extra slots for female pros in Kona would be a 10 second decision with the last nine seconds being unnecessary. It seems to us that the cost of adding the extra slots pales in comparison to the potential for lost revenue.
It will secure your legacy. Now, this is a slightly more esoteric point but it seems to us that there is an almost unstoppable force at play when it comes to social justice and equality. It clearly takes a while and there are casualties along the way but we believe that over time, things have a way of working out as they should. Trying to stop this tide is like trying to keep water from equaling out when a dam is cracked. You can slow it but you cannot stop it. We have little doubt that equality will prevail, so wouldn’t the leader of WTC want to be the person who ushers in the new era, not the last person trying to plug leaks before the dam bursts? Now we know that it is slightly hilarious to compare slot equality at Kona with the cold war but just as an example of the point, think about Mikhail Gorbachev. He was the eighth (and last) leader of the Soviet Union. He saw that Communism was on the way out and decided to guide the process and not fight it. Now, his place in history is secure and he’s made a ton of money on the speaking tour!
Again, we are not saying that equality at the start line is the league as other movements but we think there are parallels and importantly, we believe that the person at the helm when the inevitable change occurs will get the credit for taking that step.
The Optics Matter. Finally, we believe that optics matter and having an uneven playing field just sends the wrong message to both young women and men for that matter. Look, the reality is that at Coeur, we love endurance sports and especially triathlon. We want the sport to grow and we'd like to see more people give swimming, biking, and running a try. It would be a shame if someone on the proverbial fence decided to not sign up for their first event because they had heard, read, or seen something about this issue and we lost them forever.
Now, you may be thinking, "That's silly, why would someone who is just thinking about getting into the sport decide to not do a triathlon just because of this one issue?"
To that, we'd say, "Well, dear reader, you may not think that makes sense but people are emotional beings..."
Happy training and racing everyone.
Your friends at Coeur