How to convince? Make it so!
Bring in the $$, the volunteers, the skaters, the other things that allow directors to put on races, that are important to them.
("How do we convince race directors to give just as much importance to women's racing?")
SIMPLY, NO, cross-drafitng should not be allowed. Women should have a race where they have to push the wind, and they can go on breakaways without the help of men. Then we'll see the real stars of womens skating. Sometimes, if cross-drafting is allowed then the womens winner is the person with the most/best male friends.
I am sure that it does not take a lot of efforts for the organizers to separate the start of a few groups by 1 or 2 minutes, although there could still be issues when a group skates slower than another. Impossible to avoid all unwanted instances, but I am 100% positive that 1-2 minutes extra is not going to kill any organizer.
That being said, there have been cases even at World`s where the organizers got it wrong. I forgot the year, but a few years ago the junior men started too soon after the women and they ended up catching the women group quite early and some women began to draft while others (properly!) avoided it with the result that the women race was no longer true, of course. And I seem to recall that coaches were quite upset and accusing each other`s athletes to cheat and I heard a few even came to blows... not a nice show, quite frankly, since skating coaches in some cases can be verbally more abusive than quite a few football coaches I have met in my life. Definitely that was not one of our sport`s happiest hours.
Another weird outcome I witnessed, albeit at a lesser level, was at NSIM, not sure if in 2009 or 2010, when the pro/elite women (who had their own race) finished with a slower time (and it was not just a few seconds either!) than another (and at least on paper less elite group) whose fastest skaters drafted with the guys (and probably never pulled a yard). To me that outcome was plain weird and I suspect that any neutral observer would be at a loss to understand why someone is elite and then finishes slower than someone who does not have that label.
But I can also feel the organizers` pain to some extent. When at a race like NSIM the women elite group is about 10 units strong... and that was inclusive of veterans as well, I think, you might end up with a race among 3-4 skaters. Still the right thing to do, but not, let`s say, very becoming. Or, perhaps, if women are too few. Just put all women together at the advanced/elite levels and let them have their race. More proper than letting advanced women draft the guys and end up faster than the elite group who have nobody to draft.
Read the suggestions above, many possibilities.
Yes, a 2 minute, or even 5 min difference in start time would be perfect.
David Miles Jr. said:
How would racers like to see it done? It's easy for me to start the race where the women competitors in the elite division start one or even or even 5 minutes later than the men's elite in a full or half marathon. We did that before when this same issue came up. I do a mass start just because it's easy. I'm always listening to the participants and if they feel it should be done another way, as long as it's not a hardship to do, I'll do it.