The discussion around gender equality has rightfully become central in every field today, whether it is sports, entertainment, or business. Naturally, in those environments that are still mostly male-led, there is a strong cultural component that is not going to change overnight. It certainly requires a gradual education, but it is definitely being helped by continued action ranging from company governance to dedicated initiatives.
The Historical Implications
The involvement of women has been under discussion ever since motorsports existed. Men have predominantly taken the seats as drivers, while women are hiding from the cameras in the paddock and mastering the tasks of team principals or managers. The number of men participating in auto racing is significantly greater than the number of women, which is why women are often invisible in the motorsports industry.
Measuring the Capability
Unlike many other forms of sport, those with a motor allow for a much more level playing field between genders, as a large portion of the result is based upon the vehicle used, a factor that can easily be standardized between competitors. Almost all forms of motorsports have been largely dominated by men for the past 120 years, but because of such a naturally fair arena of competition, women were racing against men long before most other sports were even considering inter-gender competition.
The apparent lack of female drivers in numerous forms of racing is concerning, yet ignored time and time again, even when there are plenty eager to win. These women have lingered on the sidelines for years, and they deserve their chance. The stereotypically masculine environment surrounding automotive competition discriminates against females, even when women are just as, if not more, capable than their male counterparts.
A large factor that influences hypermasculinity in motorsports is the common but improper belief that women are physically inferior to men when placed in a racecar. Overall, the physical and mental demands required in motorsport to stay competitive and, more importantly, to stay alive, are immense. In these regards, the difference in gender doesn’t matter at all.
There’s a Revolution
The time now feels kairotic, with enough conditions coming together to catalyze change. Not only might this generation witness the next Lella Lombardi make it to the F1 grid, but we could see the arrival of more female mechanics, more women race engineers, and even the next female Guenther, Christian, or Toto. Not only that, the changing landscape for women in motorsports could have a real and eventually measurable effect on the way women approach cars altogether. As our appreciation for performance driving intensifies, we might finally be able to throw off the age-old stereotypes that women make poorer drivers, that we don’t know what’s under the hood, or that we only buy SUVs and entry-level vehicles. Perhaps in the future, we’ll see more women in a Vantage than a Sportage.
We finally see women on the track, in the garage, at the tech centers, leading the teams and filling the grandstands with their friends. Visible, consistently part of the conversation, enjoying the culture, changing the culture. What else changes as a knock-on effect? If interest in driving sports grows, it follows that women’s interest in driving for pleasure might also grow, and with it, confidence behind the wheel.