I'm female and a fairly new and inexperienced cyclist - although I cycled a lot as a child, I stopped in my teens and didn't take it up again until about May last year. Although I can drive, I've never owned a car, so I didn't have to be persuaded to stop using the convenient car. I just wanted to avoid the bus nightmare of getting to work on the other side of town while Edinburgh's tramworks are going on and my employer offers the bike to work scheme so it seemed like a good idea.
The advantages for me are
it's cheap - no more bus fares
it incorporates exercise into my daily routine and also saves me money on gym membership
I get to see ducks and squirrels
I also get to see dead rats and pigeons(no dead badgers yet though)
I don't have to worry about parking spaces
I have learnt a lot of cool new swear words to use on errant motorists
On the other hand, Edinburgh is cobbled, hilly, windy, wet and often icy, the traffic is a nightmare, although many of my employer's workplaces have showers, they rarely have hairdryers, anywhere to keep or plug in a hairdryer, enough or big enough lockers, drying rooms etc so I have resigned myself to having crap hair at work and frequently being damp (and not in a good way). I don't care about makeup though, I wear that about twice a year. I suppose my job is slightly different though - I don't commute in, stay in the office all day, and commute home - I commute in, go out on client visits during the day and commute home, so I spend a lot of time out on the bike and showering at client's houses wouldn't be an option!
In my experience, there are lots of women who quite like the idea of cycling but don't because
they're scared of the traffic
they feel they're not fit enough to cope with the hills here
the weather's mental
they haven't been on a bike for years and aren't sure how they'd cope
On the other hand, I can think of three women who have taken up cycling to work because they saw me doing it and realised it was possible. The likes of Elle McPherson and Agness Deyn and Victoria Pendleton are all very well, but they're not role models for ordinary women with ordinary lives. If we want to show successful female cyclists to encourage women to cycle, we need to show them women with lives they can relate to, riding in environments they can relate to.