FIA Women in Motorsport Seminar - Wising Up! Changing Perceptions


The second day of the FIA Women in Motorsport Seminar saw the WISE team show how we can change perceptions, and engineers took to the stage to tell their stories

FIA, Motorsport, Mobility, Road Safety, F1, WRC, WEC, WTCC, World RX

As the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission moved into its second day (8 October), UK based team WISE - which aims to inspire girls and women to study and build careers using science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) - took to the stage for an interactive session with all of the delegates.

Their mission - to support girls to choose STEM careers and advise organisations on how to create environments where those women can do their best work and thrive – initially challenged delegates to understand the perception a 14-year-old girl may have of motor sport and the potential unconscious biases coming from outside influences. It is evident that perceptions, true or false, can limit individuals’ self-belief and confidence, reduce opportunities to engage in activities, lead to a lack of guidance, support and encouragement, and ultimately failure for selection.

The participants were also invited to complete an individual ‘People like Me’ quiz, which supports girls to identify their personality traits and which is designed to inspire them to explore opportunities. This is a revolutionary approach to engaging girls with careers in STEM and uses the natural tendency they have to articulate their self-identity using adjectives and therefore help provide guidance on a wide range of career paths. As part of its mission, WISE aims is to get one million more women in to the UK STEM workforce and the team demonstrated potential ways in which the ASN representatives from around the world can help engage their younger generation.

“We need to start thinking about the language we use when talking to young girls, they speak a different language to boys and if we’re not speaking their language, they won’t hear us,” said Fay Best, a STEM gender and equality adviser for WISE. “Girls and women need to self-identify with careers and role models; they use adjectives about themselves, whereas boys use verbs. All the research has shown that girls want to keep their options open, they have a desire to fit in and need to see the point of what they are doing.”

The ‘People like Me’ resources are downloadable from the website

Carrying on the session, engineers were welcomed to the stage to tell the story of their careers in motor sport.  Ana Andrade was runner-up in the F1 in Schools World Finals in Singapore in 2015 and then became a student at the Randstad Williams Engineering Academy. She is now a full-time student at King’s College London, pursuing an MSci in Physics with Theoretical Physics.

“With my friends, we thought ‘let’s see what this miniature F1 business is all about!’ We learned a lot of skills we wouldn’t have been taught at school with car design, running simulations, 3D printing, rendering and marketing work,” said Ana. “We qualified for the nationals in Portugal the year before but then gave it another shot in 2015 with a new car and new portfolios and we qualified for the World Finals, where we finished runner-up and won the best enterprise portfolio. If someone had asked me three or four years ago if I wanted to be an aerodynamicist in F1, I probably wouldn’t have considered it. The important thing is to offer students opportunities to explore,” she concluded.

Cristiana Pace has more than 20 years of experience in motor sport both in engineering and management and recalled her career path, demonstrating that a married woman with three children can thrive. She was the first woman to work alongside the FIA technical department in Formula 1 as a data analysist and has been a Research Consultant with the FIA Institute for Motorsport Sustainability and Safety and currently works at Williams Advanced Engineering as Business Development Manager.

Rounding off the session, Laura Brullas from SEAT Sport considered the essential role played by manufacturers. “Motor sport is a big opportunity for women – that is something we strongly believe,” she said. “There are many positions, but in the case of drivers they have the same tools and the same car, so the skills of the men and women make the difference. We don’t think there should be a specific category for women in motor sport. We want the best employees, the best professionals, whether that’s a man or a woman. Our vision is how we can give opportunities, encourage and inform women about all the possible job positions.”

The second FIA Women in Motorsport Commission then moved on to three breakout workshop sessions covering officials and volunteers, key challenges for attracting more women, and media. The outcomes from these workshops will be analysed in the closing Plenary this afternoon and ultimately prioritised for ‘Drawing the chart for the Future’.