5 Ways to Encourage Women Into Motorsports
In celebration of Women's History Month, I decided that instead of talking about my cars I would like to share ideas about how to encourage women into motorsports.
I consider myself a car enthusiast and in the spaces I've participated in - whether it's automotive mechanics or driving events (autocross, track, drift) - the turn out for women is usually low. It's a common question often asked: Why aren't there more women in motorsports? Unfortunately, I don't have all the answers, but I've thought of a few suggestions from my own experiences that might help other car enthusiasts reach out and encourage the women in their lives to give it a try.
1. Play car racing games.
It's possible that the woman or young woman in your life is already a fan of games such as Mario Kart which is great! However, it's also possible they have never played video games or touched a controller simply because they did not have access growing up to do so. Whether it's Mario Kart or a racing simulator, offer someone the controller (or wheel)!
Here are some of my favorite car games that influenced me throughout my life.
Notice that the games listed offer varying degrees of realness, from cartoon characters in go-karts to simulation racing. I've found that even fictional games cultivate the somewhat necessary competitive side while connecting everyone back to the central theme of sharing a passion for cars.
I didn't have real go-karts as a kid but at least I had Crash Bandicoot.
2. Encourage them to try a car event.
I had attended a number of autocross events and invited a past boyfriend of mine to spectate and try ride alongs. Cars were not his thing and he had no interest in driving but he wanted to be supportive. From the moment we approached the registration booth people were shocked. "It took your girlfriend to convince you to come to a car event?!" Everyone insisted he instead sign up to drive instead of ride.
I remember the organizers apologizing for being so reactive, as they explained they actually have never seen a woman introduce their boyfriend to an event. To me, it didn't feel unusual but to them, they described it as seeing a "black swan" and it got us thinking. For every time we see someone with an accompanying girlfriend, wife, sister, or even mother, why not invite them to drive instead of spectate?
At the end of the day, cars were still not my past boyfriend's thing, and that's okay! Perhaps it won't be for the woman in your life either. But consider the next time you bring someone to a car event or see someone quietly accompanying a driver at the registration booth, consider asking, "Would you like to drive?" Even just making someone feel included is a positive influence. Who knows, they might say yes.
3. Give them ride alongs.
Ask them to try out a ride along! Sometimes the most inspiring moments are the exciting ones. She may very well find it thrilling and fun enough to make her consider bringing (or buying) her own car for the next event. And if after a ride along it's not her thing, she gains a new experience she can tell friends about.
I was already into cars when I attended my first autocross event in my 2006 Nissan Altima, but truth be told, I wasn't fully convinced I could fit in the autocross space until I had my first instructor ride along. I remember him asking permission to drive my car to show "what this thing can really do" and next thing I know, this 3,300 lb sedan was dancing between cones. If he could make a slow car be fast, I wanted to do the same. Nearly every ride along I've had in my life continued to inspire me in some similar way.
My friend Tina riding along at my first drift event.
4. Ask them to help with fixing the car.
People often feel like they need to be an expert before they can do something but that's simply not true. The best way to start doing something is to try.
By inviting the women in your life to help with fixing cars it starts to make the culture feel less exclusive and more approachable. Give them space to ask questions, tinker with tools, relate it to something they know. Most importantly, if you don't know how to do something, tell them! This demonstrates it's okay to not know everything and you can both learn together.
Start with easy tasks like changing oil, inspecting tire wear, checking fluid levels, tightening some bolts. Or perhaps even, changing a tire if you've come across a flat. When I was younger, my dad engaged me in these types of activities and it helped me believe I could naturally do these things too. It just might help spark another young lady's interest in cars.
5. Introduce them to badass women in motorsports role models.
Sometimes you need to see it to believe it. In no particular order, here are a few women that I've looked up to.
The moment I saw Leona's prank video, Fast & Furious Nerd Shocks Instructors, I knew I needed to drift. I read her story about running a website in exchange for drift lessons and it made me believe I could find someone to teach me drifting too.
When the Abarth 124 Spider came out I learned all about it. This little Italian Fiata led me to stumble upon how Sara was selected for Hoonigan x Fiat's #HoonigansWanted driver search. It made me excited to see women specifically being highlighted for this opportunity. Read about and Watch Sara Price Race Hoonigan's Fiat 124 Spider Abarth Up Mt. Washington.
I casually dream about owning a drift Nissan 350z and found this lady who goes by Helmet Hairr who happens to own and drift one. I loved seeing her journey as a professional stunt driver but also photographer. The way she cultivates different sides of her passions through driving and art resonated with me.
I met Tegan at the Bondurant Racing School and I felt I could relate to her so well. She is skilled and kind. Not only does she hold Bonneville Salt Flats land speed records but she is a professional stunt driver. Her personable nature made her a wonderful coach, even offering a stunt driving tip or two.
Jessieleigh wrenches and collects Saturns - 17 of them. She has an infectious determination and edgy aesthetic I love on top of it all. The way she unapologetically embraces this massive car hobby makes the impossible really feel possible. Read Hagerty's Saving Saturn: A different kind of car collector.
As you can see, these are only some ways to engage people into the world of cars and motorsports. While many of them resonated with me, they may not for everyone. What ways resonate with you? What other ideas do you have? Which women in motorsports do you admire? I would love to hear your thoughts!