Beyond the Boys’ Club: Why the World Bridge Tour Needs to Address Gender Diversity
by Jude Goodwin © 2023
This year the World Bridge Federation launched its World Bridge Tour (WBT), a competition that was conceived in 2018, approved in 2019 but delayed due to the Covid Pandemic. In the WBT, players play in a series of events throughout the year and earn Tour Ranking Points as they go. I was very excited to see it being implemented as a trial in 2023 but upon blogging about details and checking out the leaderboard, I was suddenly shocked / not shocked to realize all the leaders were men.
The World Bridge Tour is an amazing opportunity to market bridgesports to the world at large. News outlets and journalists who might have had trouble writing about a complex game they themselves had never played will have no problem writing about the humans who are on the leaderboard. Who they are, where they’re from, interviews, interesting tidbits about the locations of an upcoming ‘tour’ event. And because the leaderboard changes from event to event, there will always be more news.
The potential for the World Bridge Tour to elevate the profile of tournament bridge cannot be understated. And once that happens, sponsors will jump on board. Which will lead to more coverage. The WBT could actually change the fate of tournament bridge which is currently experiencing a serious down-turn in popularity and participation. Such a smart move by the World Bridge Federation and it’s about time!
If all this new popularity and attention focuses on men only, has anything really changed? Or are we simply seeing a blip of ‘same-o same-o’ which will eventually settle back into a straight line of ‘meh.’ Does it make sense to set up a whole new competition which is pretty much the same as the old? While the requirements for event inclusions dictate, “Applicant events must be open to all members of a WBF affiliated NBO” this is not enough. It’s time for change.
I’m involved in many different kinds of organizations and it’s commonplace to have a required complement of equity seeking community members – in other words, diversity – involved at all levels. Volunteers, board members, employees. It’s time the bridge world stepped up to date.
An easy solution
I say the WBF, which sets the requirements for an event to be part of the World Bridge tour, needs to include a requirement for female participation. My druthers would be 60-40. For an event to be included in WBT rankings, it needs to have at least 40% female registration. This would be very easy to manage. Event organizers, knowing about the requirement, could go out of their way to encourage women to participate. This might involve an adjustment in prices, the implementation of daycare on site, a change in start times. It might involve people getting on the phone and calling women to inform them of the upcoming event. It might involve a robust partnership program putting women together with partners of any gender. Ask the women bridge players, I’m sure they’d have a lot of great suggestions.
Diversity is healthy and promotes growth. Having a significant mix of men and women on that leaderboard will benefit everything about the game. For one thing, by including the other half of the population, our numbers will increase. Journalists will take more notice. And populations will as well – families, friend groups, local clubs, tournaments, NBOs.
So – add a gender option to the registration forms (male, female, other) and let’s get going. This is a huge opportunity for world bridge.
Let’s not waste it!