It is a statement you have heard on the podcast or read in many blog entries that women in motorsports still face quite an uphill battle. Many people have put forth many different suggested solutions to the problem including the controversial women-only racing league (I wrote a blog piece on the league and my suggested solution you can read – here). While not touted as a solution, the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) has put forth a panel “Opportunities for Women in Motorsports” for three years now.
In 2018, the panel focused on mentorship and encouragement for female motorsports professionals. Panel members Shea Holbrook, Katie Hargitt, Dr. Karen Slavaggio, and Cara Adams fielded questions moderated by Lyn St. James. It’s a prestigious panel. Shea Holbrook, credited as a PWC Touring Car driver, is a driver who is continuing to drive whatever she can with wheels on it and is making a name for herself. Katie Hargitt is the pit reporter and recently started a “Fuel the Female” program. Dr. Salvaggio is a name I was not familiar with, and just doing a quick Google search – holy cow! Dr. Salvaggio holds a doctorate in organizational leadership and from one doctor to another: game recognizes game. Of course, if you have been reading this blog or listening to our podcast you know Cara Adams, amazing badass female engineer (you can hear our interview with her during the Month of May here). Oh – and Lyn St. James serving as moderator.
It was hard to find a discernable theme from the panel discussion. It had the feel of spending time with an older sister (or Aunt…and I know I’m older than a few of the panel members) and them bestowing wisdom upon you in the form of stories. In that vein here are some of the takeaways from the panel:
Lyn St. James spoke some truth right off the bat when she discussed that “men show up” and “women wait to be invited”, which is some of the strongest truth I’ve ever heard. This was something that many of the panelists touched on. It’s a misquoted platitude but the hardest thing to do is show up and speak. All panelists made sure to reflect on stories where they may have only been the only woman in the car, or the classroom, or the room, and that it is intimidating but you have to step out. As Cara indicated “act like you’re more confident then you are”.
One piece of advice that works no matter where you are, is how you brand yourself. Lyn St. James indicated you have to define who you are, but always have your best foot forward. Shea also indicated you have to be authentic, and know that your brand may change as you change.
As far as more women-to-women advice: discussing being overlooked Cara said to let your results speak for themselves. You may be overlooked if you are the only female in the room or the class, but if you know your shit and are producing quality work – you’ll be seen.
Finally, though it was discussed closer to the beginning. Dr. Salvaggio gave a great moment on the unspoken issue in the room – the division amount female drivers over the W-Series. She talked about how we as women need to support each other (or as Cara indicated: encourage the next generation) and likened the struggles we as a gender face to the early settlers did at night: circle the wagons. What you don’t do – is shoot across the wagon circle. Women are still making a name for themselves in racing, and as Dr. Salvaggio indicated later on during the panel; if she is on a team for an endurance race and a co-driver crashes: she is blamed.
Lyn St. James gave a hopeful statement, and it will be something that sticks me, we collectively as a gender, can make a change.