Women’s Equity in Sports: The Fight, the Scars and the Thrill of Victory – Panelist Spotlight: Kathryn Bertine

Kathryn Bertine

Kathryn Bertine holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Arizona. In 2022, she received the Alumni of the Year award from the College of Social Behavioral Sciences. Along with her accomplishments in professional figure skating, triathlete and cycling, Kathryn is an author of four books, a filmmaker, a columnist and CEO of Homestretch Foundation which is headquartered in Tucson.

Kathryn is one of five panelists for the Women’s Equity in Sports: The Fight, the Scars and the Thrill of Victory Forum that is scheduled Wednesday (April 5) at 5 p.m. at the Fox Theater downtown. Click on the link at the bottom of the story to secure your free tickets.

Fully ensconced in the cycling world, Bertine started looking for a women’s race at Tour de France. While there had been a race in the 50’s and one in the 80’s, the opportunity no longer existed. Boggled that there was no women’s race at the pinnacle cycling race, Kathryn started researching how to bring the women’s race back to the Tour.

Between 2009 and 2012, Bertine reached out to Armory Sport Organization (ASO), the parent company that owns the Tour de France. Wanting to be part of the solution in making the return of the women’s race happen, she wrote a business proposal to bring to ASO on her own.

Hoping to sit down with ASO and present her proposal, she started sending e-mails, but they went unanswered for years. Even when she received her first cycling contract and was working for ESPN as a journalist and having more clout and more contacts, her e-mails and phone calls went unanswered.

In 2013, four years after starting to reach out to ASO, Bertine was making a documentary film Half the Road, The Passion Pitfalls and Power of Women’s Professional Cycling.

During the interview process of creating the documentary film she started asking every pro cyclist, “Do you want to race the Tour de France?” The response was a resounding yes from the best of cycling.

Once Bertine received positive feedback about wanting to race in the Tour she once again reached out to ASO, this time with a team of professional women’s cyclists and endurance athletes.

Still no response.

Feeling frustrated and needing to find another avenue to get ASO’s attention, the group decided to create a petition with a website and manifesto. The petition was launched on Change.Org during the men’s Tour de France race in July of 2013.

The petition was one of Change.Org’s top three petitions of the year. Just under 100,000 people signed.

That was the turning point of the movement because it brought the cause to the attention of the press. Once the press got involved and lobbied ASO for a women’s race, ASO finally relented and said they would meet but only in private and with a gag order in place.

From that meeting in October of 2013, the group worked with ASO and created La Course by Tour de France a one-day event that ran for eight years. This morphed into what is known today as Tour de France Femmes running for eight days.

Bertine reflected, “It was the team aspect that really made it happen. You have to create a team; you need the support to make anything happen.”

During the time she was developing the business plan to present to ASO to bring back a women’s race at Tour de France, Bertine was living in her father’s den, finding her footing during a time of hardship after a divorce.

“If I can make change happen living in a den in Tucson, Ariz., then anybody can make change happen anywhere,” she said.

Bertine doesn’t just talk the talk about wanting to make change happen in equality, she walks the walk.

While competing in professional cycling, Kathryn noted the gender pay gap women in endurance sports faced. The opportunity for women to get sponsorships or contracts with guaranteed income are few to nonexistent.

Wanting to help empower and encourage women to continue to compete, especially those from lesser socioeconomic backgrounds, Bertine founded the Homestretch Foundation in 2016.

The Homestretch Foundation provides subsidized room and board and access to discounted or free services such as coaching, training, medical/dental, physical therapists and rehabilitation professionals as well as mentoring, career and personal development

Bertine continues to be an activist on equality and advocacy.

Make sure to get your free tickets to the Women’s Equity in Sports: The Fight, the Scars, and the Thrill of Victory Forum to hear more from Bertine and her fellow panelists.

Click Here to get your tickets to this free event. There will be a raffle at the end for items donated by the panelists.

Women’s Equity in Sports: The Fight, the Scars, and the Thrill of Victory is hosted by the University of Arizona Center for the Philosophy of Freedom and co-sponsored by the American Association of University Women, Tucson Branch. It is the third event in the Freedom Center’s Public Discussion Forum series, which was created by Freedom Center Director and Associate Professor in the Department of Political Economy and Moral Science Mary L. Rigdon and Freedom Center Associate Director and Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Economy and Moral Science Saura Masconale to create a public space where people with expertise in industry, education, and public policy come together to talk about topics that are of general public interest. 

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