Women in Motorsport: A decade of diversity | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

Women in Motorsport: A decade of diversity

22.12.20

In 2020 the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission celebrated its 10th anniversary. Commission President Michèle Mouton reflects on over a decade of intense effort, activity and engagement and explains why the mission to make motor sport more inclusive must go on.

It seems incredible that in 2020 we marked the 10th anniversary of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission and I am very proud to have been its President since the beginning.

Collectively we have come a long way in that time, not simply as a Commission but as part of a global movement to increase gender equality around the world. Across every industry and profession, we have seen positive change but there is always more progress to make and we all have a role to play in pushing for even greater diversity. Only with time and continued effort will the scales become more balanced.

In our sport, I feel there has also been a positive shift in perception and new and exciting opportunities are opening up with encouraging frequency. A great number of major stakeholders are embracing change for the better, and there are now many more organisations and initiatives supporting the progression of women in all areas of motor sport.

When the Commission was established under the Presidency of Jean Todt, the task in front of us appeared enormous but we quickly established a membership of like-minded, passionate and driven people, both male and female. As with any new venture it took time to establish objectives, goals and policies before we could even start working on improving the position of women, but over time we established a range of strategies that encouraged awareness of inclusivity and therefore participation.

A key element in growing participation was the committed engagement of the FIA’s network of national sporting authorities. From the earliest days of the Commission our ASNs have been one of our greatest assets and their unflagging support has enabled us to reach out on a truly global scale.

Today, we are working with the ASN women in motor sport representatives from over 75 countries, and an increasing number of national women’s commissions are being established. This represents genuine progress, as together we are a stronger force with a much more global presence.

It is a true example of a ‘think local, act global’ approach. Thanks to the support of the FIA via toolkits and materials that assist with the deployment of national activities, and through the sharing of ideas and best practice among Clubs, our ASNs worldwide have been able to help open eyes to the many opportunities available to girls and women looking at the sport as a career option. It is about driving change together, one of the priorities of the FIA and its #PurposeDriven movement.

As the years have passed, we have learned so much and while our core missions and goals have remained the same, that knowledge has allowed to refine our activities, focus our initiatives and more successfully realise our ambitions.

In competition, it is evident that too few girls and young women are being encouraged to try motor sport at an early age. Against this background it is no surprise that so few have climbed the ladder to higher levels of our sport – there simply aren’t enough girls competing to achieve a truly representative throughput of talent.

Our work at the grassroots level aims to tackle this imbalance and we have invested significant resources and expertise in developing initiatives to expose young women to motor sport, presenting it not just as a genuine sporting opportunity. We are determined to inspire young girls and demonstrate that our sport is equally open to them; increasing the numbers at the base of the sport is crucial.

Of course motor sport is not just about what happens behind the wheel and we remain committed to showing youngsters that behind our sport there is a great industry in which real and exciting career opportunities exist in fields as diverse as engineering, aerodynamics, logistics, marketing and media.

In this regard, I believe that our FIA Girls on Track initiative is particularly significant. Combining a taste of competition with an array of workshops that showcase various aspects of the sport, it is a programme through which the FIA and its ASNs have connected with tens of thousands of 8-18 year olds. We continue to roll out FIA Girls on Track in countries around the world and while it will take time for the benefits to be felt, in the coming years I am sure we will see an increase in female participation, growth in the number of young women choosing third level studies oriented towards our industry and a greater female presence in the motor sport workforce in all departments.

In these strange and unsettling times, this year has been a challenge for everyone. However, we are blessed to have creative and resourceful minds and determined characters within our ranks, and we have not been deterred by the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, new and different opportunities have emerged, as we look to technology as a means of reaching an even wider audience. Our FIA Girls on Track – Virtual Experiences have been a great success and we will continue to develop this area of engagement, as these experiences have shown that there is a huge online community wishing to connect with and be inspired by successful women in our sport.

This year we also launched FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars. Designed to support young racers at an early stage of development this has also proven hugely successful. The fact that motor sport’s most celebrated team, Ferrari, has joined as our first manufacturer partner is testament to the progress the Commission has made over the past decade. Ferrari’s commitment to the goals of the Commission and enthusiasm for the Rising Stars project is a great endorsement of the work we are doing. It gives me confidence that we are working in the right way, integrating the girls with their male counterparts from an early age, putting them in an environment in which they push themselves to compete against the best regardless of gender. I know from my own experience that to reach the top you have to take on and beat everyone, in a mixed environment, and our partnership with the Ferrari Driver Academy will put our best young female racers in that position.

Our projects over the years are too numerous to mention individually, but it is particularly pleasing that in our 10th anniversary year we saw the world’s best female racers competing successfully at the top levels of the sport. I speak of the Iron Dames and the Richard Mille Racing Team, both of which have had great seasons in the European Le Mans Series, as well as at Le Mans, despite the obvious difficulties imposed by COVID-19.

The Iron Dames claimed three podium places during the year, and both crews impressed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with ninth place finishes in the GT and LMP2 categories. For many years I dreamed of seeing front-running female crews in professional teams and at last we have achieved that with the support of Deborah Mayer and Richard Mille, determined and passionate people providing concrete support for female racers. I know there is so much more to come from these teams and their drivers in 2021.

Finally, I would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has, and is helping to progress our work. It would not have been possible without the hard work of some faithful members and the FIA WIM team. Hopefully over the next 10 years this will continue to accelerate and we will see many more women fighting for the top step of their chosen podium.

 

Michèle Mouton will be the exceptional guest of a Facebook Live, Wednesday 23rd December at 17H

Join the Live: https://www.facebook.com/FIAWomenInMotorsport/posts/762226797716656