By Anais Hernandez, Dec. 13, 2022

“It’s lights out and away we go!”

The familiar voice of Formula One commentator David Croft echoed from the living room. It was our usual Sunday routine, morning worship at church followed by watching Sunday’s Grand Prix race. My dad and I sat on the couch, talking about team strategy and why Sergio Perez was a promising driver. I laughed, telling him he was being biased because they shared the same name.

As we continued watching the British Grand Prix that warm summer afternoon, I cherished the opportunity to spend time with my father and fell in love with the sport.

From the engine revving to learning the point system for drivers and teams, being a young 15-year-old girl with this knowledge and love for motorsports was uncommon, especially in my Hispanic community.

I was also 15 years old when I was first told by a family member that I shouldn’t be watching car races. “Eso no es de hembras,” which means, “That’s not for females.”

Machista, or sexist, comments like these weren’t out of the ordinary. Coming from a Latinx background where women are expected to be overly submissive, dutiful wives and mothers, it wasn’t uncommon for friends and family to question my dad’s decision to “allow” me to watch male-dominated sports. I wasn’t following the pattern of most Hispanic families.

In any other household, I would have probably been ordered to help in the kitchen while the men watched the Sunday race. The lack of female representation in motorsports leads to this type of mentality, though. Men form a great majority of the motorsport’s community, leading to it being called a “male-dominated” sport. The reality is that there needs to be more equality across the spectrum for women to feel included.

Jackson Gray | The Poly Post

Cars, computers, engineering — stem-related careers and activities — have been marketed to men for generations. Men have been taught to think that women don’t belong in these areas. In reality, we are raised to believe that we can only be interested in things related to our gender. Boys are given trucks and cars to play with at a young age, while girls play dress up with barbies. These norms shouldn’t define us.

Women should be allowed to express their opinion and love for the sport.

Some motorsports enthusiasts believe that women don’t belong in the industry. Those same people are the ones that let their prejudice against women dictate their opinions and beliefs. But, if only a handful of women have been offered the opportunity to reach the top of motor racing, how can they prove that they deserve a seat at a top motorsports team?

A common problem I see in this sport is the attitude towards women liking motorsports. Some people think women are only interested in motorsports because of the men. Nothing bothers me more than men thinking I know nothing about the sport, explaining and treating me with disrespect because I am a woman who enjoys the technicality behind the cars and, second, I’m a woman of color.

Their inflated egos don’t let them see that this isn’t only a European sport, but it’s for people of all ethnic backgrounds. I don’t have to be an engineer to understand the sport. Most of all, I don’t need to be a man to be allowed to enjoy the sport.

Motorsports requires drivers to be physically and mentally on par to become competitive. I truly believe it to be one of the most mentally challenging sports, and because this sport is less physical than others, you would think it gives women an advantage in competing. Unfortunately, women still aren’t given the same opportunity to compete against men.

Often, there is an implication that females in the motorsports industry need to let go of their feminine side and match the masculine energy of their male counterparts to be accepted.

The reality is that women will always have to do twice as much work to prove to others that they are worthy of being in any position. There will also be the constant battle with whether they slept their way into their position because they are female.

So many questions run through my brain when it comes to motorsports.

Why do women have to lose their femininity to “fit in” to the stereotypical, male-dominated sport that has been created?

Why don’t I see women dominating this single-sex sport?

Why won’t sponsors take the chance on a female driver?

Why don’t I see more female engineers in the paddock?

Why do I feel like I can’t express my love for Formula One and motorsports?

Why am I scared of what my male acquaintances might say?

Why do I feel like an imposter when giving my opinion and stating facts about the sport?

This all comes down to the lack of inclusivity and visibility of female athletes in this industry. Women should be allowed to achieve their full potential and fulfill their dreams. Women should have equal footing. This isn’t a gender and equality “thing” but a sociopolitical issue within the industry. There is a need for women engineers and drivers. Young girls need to see the representation to feel inspired to consider the possibility of a career in this industry.

Motorsports needs more women like Susie Wolff, who made history by becoming the first to participate in a Formula One race weekend in 2014. This was after nearly two decades of no female representation. Wolff is an example of the leadership that motorsports need to raise the next generation of girls. There needs to be an increase on the 9% of women with a job in F1.

There is also the connotation that motorsports are the sport for male millionaires and billionaires, which is somewhat true. This industry generates millions of dollars in revenue and is a billion-dollar industry. It can become infuriating to know that even though there is more than enough money in this field, sponsors and investors always choose male drivers.

Whether that be NASCAR, Indy500, LeMans, Formula 1, 2 or 3, women should be able to compete together with men. This is an expensive sport to break into. How do we expect to have women driving for number one racing teams when we lack funding at the grassroots level that encourages girls to form part of the sport? A pivotal time is needed in motorsports and voices need to be heard.

Women shouldn’t be seen as a threat. There should be more actions toward equal opportunity for women. One month a year to highlight women in motorsports is not enough. Women in this industry should be celebrated equally as all men are. The fact that Lella Lombardi was the only woman in F1 to win a Grand Prix is concerning.

With the increase in motorsports’ popularity, there has slowly been more women advocating for representation. This is to the contribution of women playing a role and holding leadership positions. I give thanks and props to the sport’s chief legal officers, the female engineers and the marketing and communication directors that work hard to help things run smoothly.

Women like myself need to see more females like Claire Williams, Kathyrn Richards, Lee McKenzie and Jennie Gow. Motorsports shouldn’t be a segregated space for men. Women who love fast cars and the technicality behind race cars should be welcomed to talk shop or form part of the industry.

My dad taught me that women belonged in male-dominated places. After his passing this year, every time I turn on my TV and watch a race, I am reminded that he was right. Beyond the handful of women working in the industry behind the scenes, female motorsports enthusiasts need to see female drivers showcasing their capabilities.

I’m grateful for many things, but I must give my dad props. He taught me that women are intelligent, powerful and independent. He ignited that dream of mine to one day see women belonging in motorsports.

Feature image by Jackson Gray

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