Whilst there are women in Auto Racing, there are not enough compared to their male counterparts. Let’s find out why?
Why do women not compete in sports that men are predominant in? Well, here is why! This Blog is a 7- to 10-minute read.
I have taken snippets from various articles, providing a more accurate picture.
The body of this blog refers to F1. However, the constraints for women in Auto Sports, one could just extrapolate that to other Auto Sports.
This too: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/article.formula-1-announces-f1-academy-a-new-all-female-driver-series-for-2023.6EAcJceyDTqjKkMcPMwk9e.html#:~:text=Starting%20in%202023%2C%20Formula%201,Formula%202%2C%20and%20Formula%203.
If you have time to read, take a look at this article: https://www.thedrive.com/accelerator/17072/women-in-motorsport-their-past-present-and-future
Are female drivers allowed in F1? Yes.
Are there any females in F1?, No
There has not been a woman competing in an F1 World Championship grand Prix since Lella Lombardi in the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix where she placed 12th.
There is much to love about Formula 1. The excitement, the rivalries, the danger, the eye-watering fine margins.
However, as a female Formula 1 fan, there are still facets of the sport that leave a bad taste in ones my mouth.
So, why is there such a lack of female presence in the world of Formula 1? It is not to do with the regulations; whilst there were some early bans on female participation, on the whole women have always had the right to compete on the same platform as men. One of the main contributors to the lack of female drivers is money. The sport has always been an expensive one given the mechanical intricacies of these cars, and the thousands of highly skilled employees working in factories around the world to produce the most perfect rendition of racing engineering that they can.
In recent years however the sport has boomed, becoming a global business worth billions of dollars. Toto Wolff, the team principal of the 8-time World Champions, Mercedes, estimates that the cost of jumping through the hoops to reach F1, starting off with karting and then working one’s way through the formulas (typically F4/Formula Renault, then F3, F2, and ultimately F1) could be around €8 million. Naturally then, it is an extremely exclusive sport, but it seems like women have even more hurdles to try and jump over. For many drivers to afford this, they have to be funded by large, conservative sponsors, who back drivers that they want to see as world champions, i.e. the next Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamiltons. There is no precedent for backing a female racing driver, and for them, it is not worth the million-dollar risk.
Another cause for the lack of female participation in Formula 1 is opportunity. All of the current drivers would have first started karting when they were around 5 or 6. They would have needed either exceptional raw talent to catch the eye of a sponsor early on, or wealthy parents who were happy to pay for the best quality karts and training. Women are rarely given the same training from the same age; they tend to start training much later than men, and it is much harder for them to find sponsors or teams that would take a chance on them. This could also be owing to the problem of representation; when young children watch motorsport, it is a lot easier for a boy to picture himself doing that, as he is watching people who look similar to him. Girls have few role models in the sport, so they don’t realise it is something they have an opportunity to try until much later.
Right out of the gate, women are on the back foot, attempting to compete with only a fraction of the amount of training and testing. And because of the lack of female drivers over the years, F1 chassis is designed with male physiques in mind. This all becomes a vicious cycle, as it fuels the misogynistic arguments that women are worse drivers than men and that women’s physiques can’t handle the immense physical pressures of motor racing. We know these things are not true; there are plenty of female drivers out there who are proving that they have the capabilities to compete at the highest level – they just do not have access to the funding, or the equipment, and it seems the sport is not yet ready to welcome them.
For a sport that is constantly striving for the newest and most progressive engineering inventions and that prides itself on pushing for a new generation of 100% sustainable fuels, it still appears to be extremely traditional when it comes to gender equality. Grid girls – the female models that were used to promote the sponsors and to create ‘tunnels’ for the drivers to pass through. – were only banned from the sport 4 years ago, in 2018. It seemed to be a decision made in response to the heightened awareness of sexual harassment at the time, rather than a decision made because of any outstanding belief in the unhealthy messages that these grid girls presented.
Watching Formula 1 as a young girl, and wondering why the only women that I could see were dressed in very little and seemed to be there for no other reason than the enjoyment of the male audiences. Unsurprisingly, the decision to get rid of grid girls was faced with a lot of backlash and criticism, as they were seen as a traditional custom within a male-dominated sport, and the ban was labelled as ‘political correctness gone mad’.
Still, to this day there are debates about whether grid girls should come back, with many former grid girls saying that they loved their jobs and that it was a large source of income to lose. The problem is that these women were (and would still be, if they came back today) some of the only visible women in F1. It emphasises to fans (and makes impressions on young girls) that the only thing women could be good for in this industry is to stand there, wearing very little, and look pretty. Women’s role in the sport would be entirely focused on their ability to be looked at. If we had female drivers, female race engineers, and female strategists, then having grid girls wouldn’t be so bad, as there would be a plethora of representation and a plethora of examples of all of the different aspirations women can have.
It is important to note that there are women who work in F1 and have been for years. Whether that’s on the commercial side or within the legal teams, or even on the pitwall. Stephanie Travers is the trackside fuel engineer for Mercedes. The issue is that not enough is being done to showcase the history of women’s contribution to the sport, so the idea of F1 as a male-dominated, elitist sport perseveres. These women themselves have talked about the lack of female role models that they had in F1, and are doing what they can to overcome this bias, and bring more young women into the sport.
Stephanie Travers, recently stood on the podium alongside Sir Lewis Hamilton, becoming the first Black woman to stand on the winner’s step in the sport’s 70-year history. Lewis himself is the only Black driver in F1 history – and is also the most decorated champion of all time. He has been the guiding influence on the sport’s recent push towards more diversity, openly speaking about the racism he faced as a young karter, and that he still experiences at the top level of motor racing. He knows that these institutional barriers are still firmly in place, and formed the Hamilton Commission which aims to address this underrepresentation of Black people in the sport. He is hoping to change the elitist, privileged attitudes that exist on a structural level, creating a sport that is more welcoming to all genders, races, and classes.
There are women achieving extraordinary things within the world of motor racing, despite the barriers they have to face. The W Series, which was launched in October 2018, is a racing series that is exclusive to women. It is free for its drivers to enter, with a prize for the winner of $500,000. Its website describes its mission statement: ‘provides equal opportunities for women and eliminates the financial barriers that have historically prevented them from progressing to the upper echelons of motorsport’. It also states: ‘the more high-profile female role models it can create, the more W Series believes it will inspire young girls to go karting, bringing more females into the grassroots of the sport. Central to W Series’ mission is the idea that if you can see it, you can be it’. Clearly, the W Series is attempting to break down two of the most difficult obstacles women have to face within motorsport: funding and representation.
Hamilton is doing all he can to facilitate women, people of colour, and people from lower socioeconomic classes to enter the sport, but it is high time the sport did more to help him push this important message.
Women don’t work as hard and the Pay Gap Problem
Because the races are shorter and the stages are fewer, professional female drivers don’t put in the same amount of training hours that men do. Since there is no equal work, there should be no equal pay. The counter-argument to this is that athletes insist they do indeed train as hard, but that they lack equal opportunities to prove themselves alongside men.
Women aren’t as popular
There is a lack of market appeal, and ultimately the market determines how much an athlete should get paid. Spectators don’t want to pay to watch females race. The counter-argument: The perceived lack of market appeal exists because the media doesn’t cover female racing equally.
There is a lot of evidence that females are lambasted with sexism and discrimination.
Women have their own class but are allowed to race with men. The ladies prefer to have their own race, as the men really do go balls to the wall and it’s dangerous.
Women don’t get enough sponsors.
Sponsors help pay salaries and women don’t get enough. Companies aren’t interested in female drivers because they don’t have as much exposure. It’s not sexist; it’s just a business decision. But, if women have trouble getting sponsors, it’s because they face handicaps in media and race opportunities. It is not true that female sports are a bad business decision.
Women aren’t big enough, fast enough, strong enough.
Biologically, men are built better suited for the sport. You can’t overlook the fact that men are simply stronger. They work harder and faster than women. The counter-argument observes that smaller drivers use different tactics and techniques than larger ones, but that doesn’t make them any less athletic, gifted or entertaining. However, bigger is not always better.
Women don’t get enough media coverage.
Why do people consider women’s sports as less deserving than men’s?
Many people think that if there were to be more media coverage or sponsorship of women’s racing, it would be more popular with audiences. The media says that if women’s racing generated more interest in the first place then they would invest more time and money into it.
Most people agree on what it takes to make a sport successful: commercial appeal, interest from the general public, and media coverage. The fact is that sponsors are less likely to promote teams or individuals who don’t have lots of media exposure, and not many women in sports do.
The lack of sponsorships and advertising campaigns also contributes to the increasing gender gap. Even though multiple brands and companies hire athletes to promote their products, few brands hire female drivers to become faces of their campaigns: most companies give preference to male sports stars.
The same is noted in mainstream media: much more time and space is invested in the lives of male stars as well as men’s only competitions than in women’s sports.
For these reasons, female drivers have less support, are less popular, have less of an audience, and the problem becomes a fish that bites its tail. The origin of inequality in sports is found in gender stereotypes and prejudices. Research conducted by Sant Joan de Deu Hospital in Barcelona indicated that 80% of young girls do not meet the recommended amount of physical activity by the World Health Organization.
Hence, to change the historical injustice of women in sports, we must start by changing today’s young generation of women. The public is just not interested. Since 50% of the public isn’t interested in women’s sports, they shouldn’t get half the coverage. Countering this, it can be argued that it’s impossible to measure interest when there is little coverage, and few opportunities to see women play.
Women have less competition.
Because fewer women are racing, the competition is soft. A woman who gets first female because she’s the only female does not deserve the same prize money as the first male who had to best hundreds of his competitors. But, female drivers should not be penalized because other women choose not to race. Especially at the elite level, both genders have put in comparable time and training. Female participation is growing. Remember that women have only been allowed to participate for a short amount of time.
What can we do to improve these glaring inequalities? Here are some ideas courtesy of The Women’s Sports Foundation:
In general sports:
Attend women’s sporting events;
Support companies that advocate for women’s athletics;
Encourage television stations and newspapers to cover women’s sports;
Sign up to coach a girls’ sports team, whether at the recreational or high school level;
Encourage young women to participate in sports; and,
Become an advocate: if you are or know a female athlete who is being discriminated against, advocate for her rights.
Gender Equality – the stats!
In America 40% of sportspeople are women, however, only 6-8% of the total sports media coverage is devoted to them. And women-only sports stories add up to just 3.5%of all sports stories in the four major US newspapers.
According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, male athletes get $179 million more in athletic scholarships each year than females do. Additionally, collegiate institutions spend just 24% of their athletic operating budgets on female sports, as well as just 16% of recruiting budgets and 33% of scholarship budgets on female athletes.
Some people have the argument that “women’s sport isn’t interesting enough”. And even though over the years the popularity of women’s sports is growing, unfortunately, the media coverage and sponsorship dollars haven’t necessarily followed through and gender equality remains an issue.
What it boils down to is that we, collectively, men and women, need to do more about gender equality. We need to pave the way for or daughters, just as we do our sons. There should be no disparity in sports, in the workplace, or in life. Women and men should be seen as, and treated as, equals in all respects. Gender should not be the thing that defines us or separates us from our fellow athletes
Let’s show our daughters that they can be whatever they want to be, and get paid well for it too! We are told female athletes are paid less than men because they generate less money. But that will always be the case if women’s sports aren’t marketed properly.
In women’s sports, we talk a lot about equal pay. The focus of the conversation is usually on how women make less than men, the unfairness of the disparity despite the equal amount of work they put in, and how female athletes often have to work full-time jobs on top of being full-time athletes.
70% of sports now offer the same amount of prize money for men and women. But in the 30% that don’t, the difference runs into the millions.
There are 2 million more men than women taking part in sports at least once per week.
0.4% of the total commercial investment in sports goes into women’s sports.
Only half of the governing bodies in sports currently meet the government target to have women making up one-quarter of the people sitting around the boardroom table.
Men’s professional soccer clubs in Europe are the world’s wealthiest sports entities and at least 10 European soccer players earn more than $14 million per year.
When it comes to women, tennis is by far the most lucrative sport for female athletes.
Coaches in women’s team sports at the college level earn 63 cents for every dollar earned by head Coaches of men’s teams.
Disability and racism discrimination in sports is perhaps the least talked-about form of discrimination in sports. Even if they are not being malicious, people may leave out athletes with disabilities because they don’t want to do the extra work to accommodate them.
Sports organizations need to provide a range of options when it comes to including athletes with disabilities. Consider the inclusion spectrum, which includes everything from making no modifications to creating teams exclusively for those with disabilities. Asking athletes how you can meet their needs (rather than assuming) is the best way to combat disability discrimination in sports.
Racial Discrimination, Religious Discrimination and Disability Discrimination in Sports. We have a long way to go!
Make modifications. Modifying the teaching style, rules, equipment and environment of a sport can make it more accessible for athletes with disabilities. These modifications can be minor or major and should maintain the integrity of the sport.
Establish disability-friendly sports teams. Teams that are primarily for people with a disability (like mixed-ability wheelchair basketball) or only for people with a disability (like a blind soccer league) give athletes the chance to play a game that fits their needs.
Offer non-playing roles. If participating in an activity as an athlete is not possible, offer the person with a disability a role on the team like coach, referee, team president or volunteer.
Create accessible sports facilities. Install features that make the facility easier for those with disabilities to use (like ramps and equipment with Braille on the buttons). Have resources available to modify programming.
Remove economic barriers for athletes with disabilities. High transportation costs and the need for specialized equipment may keep people with disabilities from participating in sports. Offer financial solutions to those who wish to join your organization.