Guest post by GridPasses Travel Grant winner: Annika Goecke, with minor edits by GridPasses.
There aren’t many more controversial motorsport topics than women in motorsport (or lack thereof).
Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) race winner Ellen Lohr explained that ‘marketing’ is one of the main contributors to this.
“Of course, marketing is important and being a woman is often our unique selling proposition. Benefits can be gained from this. However, there were many women, who unfortunately didn’t possess any racing talent and were in a car because of their sponsor.
This effectively destroyed what we had built up in the first place. No woman was ever given the number one status within the team. You can’t become champion without this, it is as simple as that. There are still female drivers in this position, as well as talented newcomers too, whom I wish the best of luck.”
The current business environment also has its influence. The mantra of Higher-Faster-Further is not helpful in creating worthwhile and long lasting opportunities especially when sponsors are not looking at the long-term association with a driver or team in some cases.
It may be the case that the backer providing the funding may be looking for a short-term return on their investment to maximise any strategic marketing campaigns, along with their strategic budget for the fiscal year.
In addition, the search for money and sponsors becomes harder and harder. And that’s where most of the careers, and not just only those of the talented female drivers, reach their inevitable conclusion prematurely.
But the recently-introduced WSeries is trying to buck this trend, with only female drivers being eligible to compete in the series. A deluge of criticism from both genders was levied against its team and organsiers: “Is this progress when women racers are separated into a new series?”
Undeterred by the inevitable backlash, organisers and participants say it is more about the creation of more opportunities for female racers.
Taking a look into the world of electronic or sim racing, the situation is even worse still. Esports in the past couple of years, has really started to hit its stride thanks to both Formula 1 and Gran Turismo, but there appears to be less effort and time taken into bringing in females to this category.
As evidenced by the past two F1 esports competitions, finalists have been exclusively white european males. And although Esports racing’s popularity and communities may be increasing, in terms of numbers and outreach, it is still hard to think of any woman that is competent and highly capable to take on the man-dominated world head on.
Stephanie Harvey and SimGirlRacing are those that first springs to mind, and the website http://www.womeningames.org may help to further promote new female esports talent.
Putting the main focus back to motorsport itself, it is logical to say that progress is being made, with the following women racers slowly making a name for themselves, including the likes of Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, Simona de Silvestro, Jamie Chadwick, Carrie Schreiner and Pippa Mann.
But the ultimate question is this: When will all the hard work and effort to get women into the top tiers of motorsport finally pay dividends?
Addendum: GridPasses recently entered a partnership agreement with an esports promoter to increase geographic and gender-diversity in racing games.