Hello, San Francisco FrontRunners!
When the 2012 Board sought input on women’s recruitment, we looked in all directions. Our neighbors to the north, at Vancouver Frontrunners, happily shared their success stories with us.
Back in 2004, when Vancouver’s current president, Jag Bilkhu, joined the club, there were only a few women running with them. Then, oddly, from 2006 to 2011, the women no longer showed up. About a year ago, he and the club as a whole made a conscious attempt to get more women involved, and female participation has slowly been growing.
They gathered around all the women they knew who like running to find out if there were any barriers to joining Frontrunners. Two interesting points emerged: (1) a misperception that all men run fast, and (2) the discovery that the women they talked with didn't necessarily want a women's only running club and enjoy the company of the men among them.
The first point was an important one because it validated the fact that there are plenty of both men and women who enjoy a slower pace or a walk/run combo. They try to always have slower pace groups now so that there is "no runner left behind". They also started a very successful Walking Group about a year ago, and an option again embraced by women and men. They also made some successful strategic linkages with other women's sports clubs—notably the Women's Outdoor Club and the Mabel Softball League. They average about five to seven women on a Saturday morning vs. 35+ men, which is a significant ratio. They currently count about 25 women on their distribution list and are aiming to grow that to 50 by the end of the year. A very respectable goal!
One of the keys to success has been the addition of Kathy Scott, Vancouver Frontrunners’ Vice-President and Women's Coordinator, who is an amazing runner and avid promoter of the club within the community. Kathy freshened up the Women's web page last year to make it more fun and engaging. Kathy has also organized women’s socials (men are welcome) and a women's only run/walk. She is consistently at Wednesday and Saturday practices so new women always feel they are never alone. Kathy fields at least half a dozen emails per month from women who visit that page.
The Vancouver club also benefited from advice from Front Runners New York. Their President, Megan Jenkins, was very forthcoming about how that club has made great strides (pun intended) on recruiting women.
Women comprise 20% of the membership of Front Runners New York, though they are far over-represented in races—back in April, 34 of 95 FRNYers at the 5K race in the city were women! They also tend to come out in full force at social events, too.
(We should add that FRNY, though it includes its fair share of walkers, includes a high number of competitive runners. Speed and distance clinics with multiple coaches are as integral to their lineup as fun runs. They’re sort of a combo of SF FrontRunners and SF Track & Field.)
About six years ago, a core group of FRNY women committed to always being at events so that a new woman would never be the only woman at a fun run. It also took the work of men who were very committed to increasing the FRNY women’s team. FRNY reminds us that making new members of any sex or background requires the whole club’s getting involved.
Some specific FRNY cultivation events include:
· Wild Women’s Wednesdays happens the first Wednesday fun run every month (the run leader, the men's VP chooses a special secret female host);
· "Big Girl Breakfast" after some races (formerly a women's only event, but now open to men as well);
· Postcards given out after races to women, featuring our women’s team;
· A coach who cultivates the women’s team in particular, for example, with a women's team meeting this past January.
Ask yourself what you can do to get more women involved with San Francisco FrontRunners! We welcome your participation in our efforts.
The 2012 SF FrontRunners Board