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Female Category in formation skydiving competitions
by Lilac Hayes -

There is much debate in the international FS population about whether or not there should be an all women's category in international competition. Here are some issues for debate: whether or not a separate female category is necessary, whether having a separate category for women implies that female FS competitors are second-class skydivers and need an event of their own in order to medal (at a lower standard), whether having a female category also implies that there should be an all male category... which in turn eliminates the possibility for women to compete in mixed teams in open class. As it stands now, there are only two teams in the top ten in the world that have a female team member. But having an all male category would eliminate the chance for these two women to continue competing in Open Class.
Initially I was opposed to this idea of having an all women's category in competition, thinking that there is no reason why a woman cannot be equally competitive with a man in formation skydiving. This sport does not require superior strength and physical stature like in football or basketball, for example, where the physical differences between men and women matter. True enough, physical differences matter on a team. A 220-pound, 6-foot-3 man might have difficulty flying with a 140-pound, 5-foot-5 man. But these are extremes and not necessarily gender differences. Lise Aune from Deland Norgies and Dawn English on Deland FX, 4th and 5th respectively at the World Cup 2000, are examples of how women can be equals to their male teammates.
I was also opposed to this idea because I did not think there was a need to create a way to "give" women a chance to receive a world championship title - when the winning team may only achieve a mediocre score compared to the current (male dominated) top teams in the world.
I am just a few days back from the World Cup held in Eloy last week and since being there, I have changed my mind, and I am fully in support of a Female category (WITHOUT the need for an all Male Category). I learned of many all women's teams that exist in the world however, only five all women's teams competed at this WC for different reasons... funding and sanctioning from their respective national aero clubs mostly. Some are also training hard for the World Meet/World Air Games in Spain where there will be a Female Category. It is expected that there will be about 10-plus all-women teams competing. The winning score would probably be around a 13-plus or so average. That may not sound like much, but consider what the winning score was 15 years ago--wasn't it around a 10?
If there wasn't a Female category, that would eliminate about 40-plus female international competitors this year. There is such a lack of women in our sport already, preventing these women from competing would be a great injustice. I realized over the last couple of years, women do NOT have the same accessibility to high-level teams and competitions. World class teams like Airspeed (and other high-level teams in the US) will not choose women for their teams regardless of skill and ability. My chance to grow as a high-level FS competitor does not exist like it did for the male rookies who were recruited for Airspeed this past year. There are so few female skydivers already, taking away an opportunity for growth and development will certainly not promote more female participation.
Given the chance to participate and improve, in five or ten more years I predict that the winning score for all female teams will start to approach the scores of the top level teams that exist now. If women have equal access to funding and training, there is no reason why they cannot be as good as the boys.
As it stands now, USPA and IPC are still debating the issue of keeping/having or not keeping/having a Female category in World Cup and World Meet competitions in the future. If you are at all in support of having the Female category in competition, I encourage you to show your support by e-mailing Brenda Reid, who will be our voice with USPA and IPC to vote for and fight to keep the Female category without the need for an all-male category in international competition. Her e-mail address is
Thanks! And watch for us at the World Air Games/World Meet in Spain from June 22 to July 1!
Lilac Hayes
USA Women's Team Synchronicity
Current Women's World Cup 2000 Champions

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