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Discussion: Proposal for equal winning times for women and men

in: Orienteering; General

Sep 8, 2016 11:38 PM # 
When I started orienteering 27 years ago, one of the peculiarities I noticed was that participants in the sport seemed to be predominantly male. Another was that the winning times specified by the international rules of the sport were shorter for women than for men. I assumed that this latter feature of the sport was a holdover from a bygone era and that it would be corrected any day. 27 years later, the Swedish federation made a proposal to the General Assembly of the IOF to correct this anachronism...and it was soundly voted down.

I was resting after the Long Distance race and was not in attendance at the General Assembly, so forgive me if I'm misrepresenting what might have transpired, but it appears that in a sport that is mostly by and for men (I mean this as an empirical statement, not a value judgment), those men have decided that women should not be running as long. Is there any way to see this except as blatant sexism? Why are we not behaving like the rest of civilized society and engaging in Twitter campaigns that result in the responsible people becoming such pariahs that their employers are forced to let them go because of the negative publicity? That might be an overreaction, but isn't no reaction an underreaction (or are we just that sexist)?

For reference, here is the relevant part of the minutes of the recent IOF Ordinary General Assembly:

"14.7 SWE: Winning times in international championships and the World Cup
SWE presented its proposal to make winning times for men and women in Foot Orienteering equal. SWE furthermore amended its proposal to be in line with the Council response, that the winning times, in principle, should be equal but that the actual times should be determined by the IOF discipline commissions and Council.

MD presented the Council response to the proposal.

DEN stated that they were against the original SWE proposal. They did not want longer Long Distance winning times for women as they feared this would reduce participation.

AUS stated that they agreed with the SWE proposal in principle and with the Council position. However, they felt the normalization of winning times should have an extended implementation time.

LAT expressed support for the position of DEN.

ISR also expressed support for the position of DEN, i.e. winning times for women should not be made longer.

HKG noted that the proposal was in line with what athletes want, i.e. more orienteering.

USA supported the proposal since longer winning times would change the nature of the competition favourably.

NZL stated that they sympathize with the position of DEN, but they could accept the proposal with an extended time for implementation. They noted also that it was important that the winning time for JWOC be extended.

NOR stated they were not in support of the proposal.

CHI noted that the winning time for men could also be made shorter to enable the equalization of winning times.

AUS noted that the growth in endurance sports was stronger among women than men, which should indicate support for the proposal.

The amended proposal, i.e. that winning times for men and women should be equal, but the actual time should be determined by the discipline commission and Council, was voted upon by the General Assembly. The result was 10 FOR, 21 AGAINST, 9
ABSTAIN. The proposal did not carry."
Sep 8, 2016 11:58 PM # 
Maybe a silly question but, how do federations decide how they vote on such proposals? Are the questions to be voted upon circulated well in advance of the GA such that federations have the opportunity to gather opinions from their members and then vote accordingly? Or do the delegates arrive and get hit with questions like this and just wing it?
Sep 9, 2016 12:51 AM # 
Eric you'll be pleased to hear that part of the sport does have equal winning times - MTBO.
Sep 9, 2016 12:56 AM # 
Not yet in Australia. Well most national events do but the guidelines we have published don't yet allow for it (we just ignore those if the controller lets us).
Sep 9, 2016 1:18 AM # 
There is no reason of merit to not have equality in orienteering between the sexes. To say otherwise is sexism cloaked in laziness and fear of changing the status quo in terms of how events are run. Which is an abhorrent reasoning for entrenching sexism.
Sep 9, 2016 1:50 AM # 
Might I suggest that we start locally? Screw the IOF, let's just get up the courage to fix our national rules. Maybe it will be the start of the avalanche, as has happened with other social equality issues recently.

For OrienteeringUSA, it looks like we need to modify A.19.4.3, A.20.4.3, A.21.4.4, and C.35. It's possible that this would also require an additional course, if there's a concern about the male age classes on Red being too long. This addresses only the M21 and F21 classes; trying to get time parity for other classes is pretty complicated due to our limited course structure.

And if this can't happen because of concerns that "we need to conform to the international standards", then we're a bunch of wimps and I'll be sorely disappointed. We should lead. (Needless to say, for certain events that have to operate under IOF rules, we'll have to use their numbers temporarily, and yeah, that includes our most important races. But we can push the times as much as the controllers will let us get away with.)
Sep 9, 2016 2:38 AM # 
Sweden more or less did the latter for WOC 2016...women's Long winning time was only 7 minutes and 3 seconds shorter than the men's, despite the specification being 20 minutes shorter (70 to 80 versus 90 to 100).

Would doing as JJ suggests help or hurt American women? Would it reduce female participation as those down under worry? (We do so little Long that it may not matter.) Would the length assist women's WOC preparation (closer to what they'll run at WOC, even if IOF doesn't equalize winning times), or not? Maybe American women could opine.
Sep 9, 2016 3:35 AM # 
Yes its important that participants should decide. And since by far the greatest amount of orienteering is done domestically, and in non-elite age classes, there is plenty of scope for countries to make independent decisions. (There might be physiological reasons at certain ages, I don't know, but there could be a case for veteran women to have longer winning times than men:-))
Sep 9, 2016 5:01 AM # 
I think the IOF General Assembly is an awful place to make decisions like this, and don't think that the decision necessarily reflects anything. The decision is too complex and so should be entrusted to a smaller group of people who specialize in "small details" like this. A group of people such as the Foot O committee.

The process is a problem right now. There have been a string of General Assembly decisions that don't make sense to me. For various reasons (I speculate) the General Assembly just isn't set up for making complex decisions that require tons of specialized analysis and understanding and knowledge - and a certain amount of passion for the topic.

I don't criticise the General Assembly here, rather suggest that there are bodies within the IOF that are better equipped to make certain decisions.

Or, perhaps the question was posed sub-optimally. Perhaps the appropariate level of question for the General Assembly should have been "Should the IOF support gender equity?" and if the answer was "Yes" then the smaller committees should have been tasked with finding ways to make that happen.

This reminds me of a story about my brother who works for a big (very big) company and, newly promoted, was called into a high level meeting. Feeling proud, he showed how the company could save over $5M / year. He was surprised by the lack of enthusiasm for his proposal, and more surprised to be admonished after the meeting for wasting time in the meeting. $5M/year is not what these guys talk about. Same with the General Assembly - they shouldn't be messing around with setting winning times for foot-O races. They are wasting their time doing that. And they'll probably get it wrong too ;-)

[EDIT - I originally made the mistake of calling the "General Assembly" the "IOF Coucil" - which it isn't]
Sep 9, 2016 5:08 AM # 
My take on the vote was that while there was a bit of sexism on display, most of the countries who voted against seemed to be motivated primarily by what they saw as their country's current competitive self-interest.

We voted yes; the reason why we wanted an extended implementation period was to allow time for domestic competition structures to adapt if necessary.
Sep 9, 2016 5:33 AM # 
Adrian, is your brother able to reallocate the $5m into orienteering to further implement the process of gender equality? The company will unlikely miss it.

Also can he get me a job?

After meeting the company directors of my former company, I understand completely why he was berated. Company directors are completely out of touch with day-to-day details of running a company and life in general.
Sep 9, 2016 6:31 AM # 
tRicky - Keep in mind that is $5M Cdn, so hardly anything at all really.
Sep 9, 2016 6:43 AM # 
It's still around A$5m. I wouldn't say no to it.
Sep 9, 2016 6:51 AM # 
I think Blair is right. It's mostly about competitive self-interest. Sweden has a certain young female athlete who is likely to dominate the next decade. Are chances better to beat her if the race is 15 minutes longer? I'm pretty sure coaches and athletes of other medal contending countries figure the answer is no...
Sep 9, 2016 8:21 AM # 
My impression is that the yes votes were not based on competitive self-interest.

Also, why is everyone assuming that "make them the same" will automatically mean "make the women's winning times the same as the current men's winning times"? Men != default.
Sep 9, 2016 8:26 AM # 
The question is what will IOF do now? I expect that next year they need to have a paper on the table for a discussion.
Sep 9, 2016 8:35 AM # 
- Also, why is everyone assuming that "make them the same" will automatically mean "make the women's winning times the same as the men's"? Men != default.

But surely this is another reason there may be no votes, i.e. male athletes don't want to see the Long shortened for them?

Certainly some yes votes saw beyond competitive self-interest.

Anyway, nothing is stopping national federation to make a change. That's what Sweden did.
Sep 9, 2016 8:58 AM # 
On the other hand AZ, several of us might want the General Assembly to take decision-making out of the hands of, for example, the Mapping Committee.
Sep 9, 2016 9:00 AM # 
@jj Might I suggest that we start locally?
US Champs 2016....
M-21+ 1 Eric Bone COC 1:22:48 Y
F-21+ 1 Hannah Culberg QOC 1:23:44 Y

But I reckon Eric probably is capable of running for another minute :)

@Cristina There's no reason to suppose that Men != default. Its not what happened in cross country. Eric sees it as blatant sexism that "men have decided that women should not be running as long", others see a campaign of "women deciding men should not be running as long" as equally sexist. You might say that's not what Tove et al intend, and you'd probably be right, but the suspicion remains.

If you don't want women's course lengths decided "democratically" by the male majority, you should be lobbying to take men out of that decision making process altogether. Men decide men's course lengths, women decide women's. That would be proper equality.
Sep 9, 2016 9:24 AM # 
There was no reason that this decision needed to go to the General Assembly - it could certainly have been decided by Council (with advice from the relevant Commissions, which in this context means the Foot O Commission and the foot-O Athletes Commission), since it doesn't require any changes to the IOF Statutes (its "constitution"). I think the Swedes will probably be regretting putting this issue on the table as a General Assembly resolution rather than going through other channels.

Legally, Council probably could ignore the General Assembly vote and do it anyway. However, now that the General Assembly has voted the proposal down, I doubt that Council will feel it has any mandate to go ahead with it without either another General Assembly vote in two years' time, or the passage of a substantial amount of time.
Sep 9, 2016 10:29 AM # 
It was an astonishingly stupid amendment (i.e. the second clause).

winning times for men and women should be equal, but the actual time should be determined by the discipline commission and Council,

Now the GA has rejected that "the actual time should be determined by the discipline commission and Council"

Who does have responsibility for determining the actual time?
Sep 9, 2016 11:11 AM # 
Whoever finishes first?
Sep 9, 2016 11:26 AM # 
Council will feel it has any mandate to go ahead with it without either another General Assembly vote in two years' time

Who does have responsibility for determining the actual time?

I believe that nowhere in IOF Statutes is written that when GA decision was taken that need to be replaced with another GA decision. IOF Council and CEO have a mandate to govern the IOF in time between the two GAs and it should be clear now who is responsible to act. It would be very strange to hear from IOF that they can't do nothing because they don't have a mandate. Is this what bureaucracy means?
Sep 9, 2016 11:52 AM # 
@tRicky Good point. I hadn't noticed that passing the motion would mean abolishing the race and letting Council decide the winner!
Sep 9, 2016 12:35 PM # 
In terms of lengthening the women's versus shortening the men's, who's unhappy? If the men are unhappy that the courses are too long, then shorten the men's. If the women are unhappy that the courses are too short, then length theirs. (It seems perverse to do vice-versa. ) Perhaps that's the answer to why there was little enthusiasm in the General Assembly...perhaps the athletes of most countries aren't complaining about the winning times. Dunno. I only see a few female postings on AP favoring lengthening women's, and at least one male strongly opposed to shortening men's.
Sep 9, 2016 12:53 PM # 
I'd hate to have the men's MTBO course shortened but the weird thing with MTBO versus foot winning times is that the sprint is almost twice as long (12-15 versus 20-25), the middle is almost twice as long (30-35 versus 55-60), but the long is only marginally longer (90-100 versus 105-115).
Sep 9, 2016 5:51 PM # 
I am surprised nobody has mentioned the IOF Athletes' Commission survey - it seems pretty relevant for this discussion.
Sep 9, 2016 6:21 PM # 
woah - that just makes everything worse.
What happened to that report? What is the chain of decision making....

1. Athletes' Commission (an elected (I think?), passionate group of highly informed & motivated people) study an issue of significance. Gathers information, analyzes the data, makes a recommendation. So far, so good.
2. Now what happens?
Sep 10, 2016 1:15 AM # 
The survey indicates that 49% want the same winning time maintained, 41% an increase, and 4% a decrease. Confusingly, though, 80 and 90 minutes were the most wanted winning times, well above the support for 70 minutes. At best, this argues for a small increase. (Personally, I'm happy for the winning time to be whatever women want. But this survey seems to indicate lack of enthusiasm for a significant increase, maybe just a minor one. Certainly not for parity.)
Sep 10, 2016 2:01 AM # 
I hadn't seen the Athletes' Commission survey results. I'm glad the IOF has the authority to act on the resulting recommendation notwithstanding the General Assembly vote.

To be clear, it is significant to me that we are talking about winning times for athletes competing at the highest level in the sport. There can be arguments about development or recruitment at lower levels, but these are the rules used for WOC/WC/WRE events, where there is an expectation that the courses will be of a difficult standard, even if some of the athletes taking part in WRE events may only compete at a regional level. When dozens of my friends run 50k to 100-mile trail runs, it just seems silly to suppose that a 10-20 minute change in winning time would be a problem for highly trained athletes, especially if phased in over time. And the disparity in winning times is embarrassing when trying to present the sport to potential crossover athletes.

fossil: Maybe a silly question but, how do federations decide how they vote on such proposals? Are the questions to be voted upon circulated well in advance of the GA such that federations have the opportunity to gather opinions from their members and then vote accordingly? Or do the delegates arrive and get hit with questions like this and just wing it?

I would guess that it is a combination of those scenarios.

AZ, good point about the General Assembly being poorly equipped to make certain types of decisions. There was another vote on whether to allow Council to decide upon WOC? (I think) hosts, and it was defeated.
Sep 10, 2016 8:32 AM # 
@MChub :)
So theres a case for a small increase in womens EWT, and a redefinition EWT as an average of the top-X rather than just the winner. Taken together, that'll bring us back where we began ;)

Or just let the planner and SEA ignore the EWT and aim for 92min* if that's what the home country want 8)

92 = This years women's winning time as average on top-10.
Sep 10, 2016 8:36 AM # 
"the disparity in winning times is embarrassing when trying to present the sport to potential crossover athletes"

my crossover athlete friends find it hilarious that a 9km orienteering race can be called "long"
Sep 10, 2016 9:46 AM # 
Off trails, 9 km can be long, depending on the terrain. Some from other sports might find 9km of Scandinavian moss and marsh, or Peggy's Cove brush, tiring. But "9km" raises a point about winning times and lengths....North American lengths are determined by winning times of North Americans, yielding shorter courses than WOC. It's as though marathoners ran 30km marathons at home, and then 42 when competing abroad. Of course, with Emily Kemp, maybe Canadian F21 courses need to be longer than 9km now... Ready for WOC length Red courses? ;-)
Sep 10, 2016 5:04 PM # 
We are moving slightly off course now, but interesting note on what we are calling "Long" is that with Hungarian events I can't translate literally. What is in Hungary named the Hungarian Long Distance Championships is really equivalent of a Long-O in England or Ultra-Long in some places (e.g. this years M21E winning time was over 2h 40m). The equivalent of what is internationally a Long Distance event is called "Normal Distance".
Sep 10, 2016 9:41 PM # 
America used to call a format Long that's now called Ultra-Long after IOF came up with the Sprint/Middle/Long nomenclature. And we have Classic, which is a slightly shorter Long designed for two day events (one Classic on Saturday, one on Sunday). The proliferation of names of formats is significant even in my country ;-)
Sep 11, 2016 12:33 AM # 
Interestingly, in the more easily quantified and compared sport of running on a track or road, it has always been customary to have men and women run the same distance (except in odd events such as the hour run), presumably because the distance is pre-measured, whether on a track or a road course, and because there are many distances out there for people to choose from. (I say always, though a few decades back, some of the longer running distances such as marathons, were closed to women because of stereotypes of delicacy). If one looks at current world records, from 100m through marathon, women's speeds are invariably between 88 and 91% of the men's at the same distance. At 100Km, the women are up to 95% of the men's speed. For more extended distances on less even surfaces, the situation changes somewhat--the records for unsupported completion of both the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail (about 4000Km) are currently held by a woman. So it is a little hard to understand why in orienteering we should be having shorter races for women than for men. On the other hand, it probably doesn't make a lot of difference in who the winner of the race will be, since for a given individual pace tends to vary only logarithmically with distance, so differences of ten or twenty percent in the duration of the race will make very little difference in the relative times of runners whose best distance is somewhere in the general vicinity of that for the actual race length.
Sep 11, 2016 2:26 PM # 
I think I've said it before, but I'm not that fond of 100 minute long distances. 80 or so should be enough for both sexes, allow for course-setting in long-style and make it possible for athletes to compete in all races in a championship week. Best of all, if the race is a bit shorter we can have a 3 minute start interval too...

What IOF should do instead is to promote the ultra-long format and perhaps have a separate championship with 2+ hours winning times, mass start and loops. This should not be a part of any existing championship but rather a unique event in Blodslitet/J├Ąttemilen-style.
Sep 11, 2016 3:13 PM # 
3min start interval on either a 80 or 100 minute race is still a 3hr+ start window within a given class, no matter how you look at it. I think that's the main concern from a television perspective.
Sep 11, 2016 3:30 PM # 
I wonder will we see 2 min 30 sec start interval one day. That combined with shorter 80 min race would give close the same time frame as we have today. In middle 2013 there was 90 sec interval.
Sep 11, 2016 9:04 PM # 
Yeah, and I caught my 90s man after 750m...
Sep 11, 2016 9:15 PM # 
It seems somewhat surprising that this discussion so far has been almost completely dominated by male viewpoints. It would be interesting to hear more viewpoints from women, it seems to me.
Sep 12, 2016 1:19 AM # 
That's a very male viewpoint, RL. I'd like to hear more female viewpoints on whether we need more female viewpoints on how far females should run. 'Cos the patriarchy is dead, yo.
Sep 12, 2016 1:53 AM # 
my crossover athlete friends find it hilarious that a 9km orienteering race can be called "long"

Why, what's "middle distance" in plain old running?

(I think this whole conversation is a great idea that's going to lead exactly nowhere. )
Sep 12, 2016 2:51 AM # 
or that a 15 min race is a 'Sprint"
or that the current US "Classic" is now the shortened multi-day version of Long, when "Classic" in every other context, including the US produced WOC 93 is the full single day version of Long.
Sep 12, 2016 3:10 AM # 
Leading to nothing may be fine, if it's mostly men discussing it, and if the women surveyed by IOF stated a preference of retaining the current winning times (though confusingly preferring slightly longer times when asked for an optimal time...but not much longer). I would see very little wrong with one gender/sex running a 2 km Long and another running 40 km, if that happened to be what the respective athletes of each gender/sex want.
Sep 12, 2016 6:46 AM # 
From what have been done so far, I think Athletes' Commission should ask FOC to prepare a short draft paper.

Agree. IOF has a separate event in the past for ultra events and it was something new at that time, not so many events and the whole ultra scene was young. When IOF STOP organizing ultra events .... IOF MISSED the ultra wagon. This kind of championships is also one possible approach to promote orienteering worldwide. Hosting this should be in a range or just a little more complicated than WRE and without TV. Single, pairs and mix pairs like in tennis.
Sep 12, 2016 7:00 AM # 
Lets rename them all:

Sprint -> Long Distance
Middle -> Extended Long Distance
Long- > Even Longer Extended Long Distance
Ultra -> Eternal Distance

Edit: Not sure how native English speakers find current names but at least Finnish versions (straight translation) does sound misleading. Something like Sprint, Short, Classic and Long would be far better (no Ultra unless it is over 42.2 km).
Sep 12, 2016 7:03 AM # 
Sprint = Itsy
Middle = Bitsy
Long = Witsy
Ultra = Bitsy Witsy
Sep 12, 2016 8:59 AM # 
At the Scottish 6-days we also have "short" courses. These are longer than middle, but shorter than long, except when long is a middle: then the short is shorter than either long or short, because its actually a middle short. It's still longer than sprint, except for chasing sprints which are longer than middle shorts but not as long as a regular short or a middle long.

Women's shorts are shorter than men's but available at the same time.

It's probably clearer in Finnish...
Sep 12, 2016 9:35 AM # 
I have a problem with shorts regularly disappearing from my wardrobe.
Sep 12, 2016 1:22 PM # 
It's all double-Dutch really.
Sep 12, 2016 2:13 PM # 
Who wears short shorts?
Sep 12, 2016 3:06 PM # 
Women's shorts are usually shorter than men's shorts. Men's shorts these days are almost as long as women's capris.
Sep 12, 2016 4:48 PM # 
On topic
Sep 12, 2016 11:37 PM # 
Jesus Nikolay, not before breakfast.
Sep 13, 2016 12:04 AM # 
You're lucky, I saw that during breakfast.
Sep 13, 2016 1:51 AM # 
Nothing to see here - move along.

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