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Momentum Mag talks with Jessica O’Neill about women and bicycles at Facebook.
At Facebook since December 2013
What is your commute to work like?
I currently live about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from work and I ride in at least once a week. On the other days, I ride my bike to a nearby Facebook shuttle and carpool from there. I own a car, but I’m very happy to say that I hardly use it.
Tell us about your efforts to get more women to ride bikes at Facebook.
Within my first month of working here I noticed a glaring disparity in the gender of riders. It seemed like a week could go by before a woman would walk in to The Hub and many early convoy rides never saw a single female rider. I felt compelled and eager to do something. I decided the best way to brainstorm ideas was with other Facebook female cyclists. Their suggestions and input helped me to develop tactics aimed at getting more women on bikes. Collectively, I’ve named these efforts “Facebook Women on Wheels”.
One aspect of this effort is to provide an intimidation-free environment. For someone to consider riding a bike, they first have to feel comfortable. To encourage this, I lead a variety of beginner-friendly convoys and women-only rides. I also teach bi-weekly women-only classes on topics ranging from bike maintenance to commuting basics. The turnouts have been inspiring. I seem to meet new women at every event and I get a real sense that they appreciate the experience.
Another aspect is to support through mentorship at every opportunity. I’ve assisted women through their first bike purchase, accompanied new riders on their first ride to work, provided personal classes, and have always remained available for any possible question or concern. I get such a sense of joy and accomplishment when I know I’ve helped these women overcome the common barriers that exist and I later see them enjoying a ride to work or even encouraging their friends.
Why do you think it’s important to encourage women to ride bikes?
Bicycles are not just wonderful tools for transportation and fitness; they can enrich us with happiness, a sense of freedom, well-being, self-reliance, perseverance and accomplishment. A world where these attributes are equally supported and accessible to women is a world I find incredibly important to pursue.
What are you most excited about at Facebook headquarters?
Facebook provides an amazing opportunity to demonstrate the many ways bicycles can contribute as an integral part of a community. From the many programs and amenities that exist here to the culture that truly values bicycling as a practical means of transportation. It’s inspiring to think that what we accomplish here can serve as an example for what is possible out there. Not just within the confines of the tech industry, but among other industries, communities, cities and so on. It’s incredible to work in an environment that fully embraces this kind of innovation. My greatest excitement lies in where this idea can eventually take us.