So on a recent Saturday morning I found myself in the very glam W Hotel at Sentosa Island, Singapore. I was wet, correction, I had been wet since 5.15am, when my husband (perhaps soon to be ex-husband) dug me out of bed to ride my bike in the dark, and in the rain. At 9am I had moved to "soggy" draped in a towel. I’m was wearing lycra with a nappy-like-seat that cyclists call “knicks” and due to being soggy the airconditioning felt arctic. I’m sitting with a group of other cyclists, mainly soggy men, listening to a 23 year work champion cyclist give us career advice. And she is good. She is articulate. And I’m glad I’m here despite being cold and soggy.
It’s hardly in these situations that I expect to learn and to be inspired but that’s what ended up happening. I was at the International Cycling Executives (ICE) breakfast and the guest speaker was Annette Edmondson. From Adelaide (Australia), Nettie has now racked up a large number of titles including Commonwealth and Olympic medals and individual and team world championship medals and I'm pretty sure most people, including Australian's, have never heard of her.
Did I mention she is 23? She is the one on the right below (in case you weren’t sure, I mean I’m looking pretty young and sporty here, hey?)
Any-hoo, I felt inspired to share three things I took away from listening to Nettie speak in my soggy pants.
1. If something is not working, make a change
Five years ago when Nettie was eighteen, she found she wasn’t enjoying her training, her sport or her life. After agonising for a while and progressively becoming worse in a sport she used to love, she gave up cycling, indefinately. The 3 month stint working in a cafe made her realise she loved the sport but needed to change something. She realised she liked variety and she liked training with others.
She did some soul searching and belly button contemplating and with some help from others, changed it up! She has added more variety to her training and the events she competes in. Since that time her career has gone from strength to strength.
Keeping doing the same thing and expecting a different result is stupidity. Or more eloquently, if something isn't working for you then work our why that is, and then refocus to play to your strengths. It was important for Nettie to have variety in her training and in her competitions, so she refocused on the Omnium event which caters to that.
Of course this applies to elite athletes, couch potatoes and improving your career generally.
2. Men still earn more than women
Elite sport is no exception and perhaps it is even further behind the Corporate world.
As it currently stands the gender pay gap in Australia is 18.2% (and this is not that different in other developed countries). Overall that means women earn significantly less than men over their lifetime and that is a massive difference.
Nettie relayed a story about her brother Alex, two years her junior, who is also a cyclist and a member of the Australian track cycling team and Orica-GreenEdge. Nettie was signed to Orica-AIS. Nettie’s brother’s contract was ten times the value of hers.
I think most of the room felt collectively sick about this. How could this amazingly talented, articulate, determined woman (who was performing extremely well) be worth a tenth of the amount compared to the same job being done by a man?
There is obviously much work to be done to bridge the gender pay gap across the board.
3. Support Networks are Important
Nettie was able to thank and be grateful for all the people in her life from her parents who provide both moral and financial support, through to the the professionals (coaches, dieticians, psychologists, exercise physiologists and so on) and her team mates.
This is not that different to those of us who have developed careers in our chosen field. We have mentors and coaches, colleagues who support us and Managers and Leaders who help us set goals and give us feedback on our progress. We also have people in our career who show us how NOT to do things. Often these people are as important as those who show us the positive things!
So despite being in an arctic room with soggy pants, I took a lot away from learning about an elite athlete's career, that is not that different from what all of us experience in ours.