Women in motorsport gear up for return of F1 Australian Grand Prix

This weekend girls will be getting into gear when the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix returns to Melbourne after a two-year hiatus - and two women who are revved-up and ready to go are WOB presenter Margot Foster and motorsport mentor Jessica Dane. 

Long-time WOB associate Margot Foster - who presents The Boardroom School program - became the first woman appointed to the Motorsport Australia Board in 2018 and said she can’t wait to see the record-breaking crowds and noise return to the Albert Park circuit, 7-10 April, after the 2020 event was cancelled at the last minute due to COVID.

“I am very much looking forward to the return of the Formula 1 Grand Prix at Albert Park after two years absence because of COVID. I don’t forget that dark day, and very sad morning, for those who gathered at the gates only to be denied entry,” said Margot.

Margot said there are many initiatives, including the FIA’s Girls on Track program - a global, not-for-profit initiative initially launched by former Formula 1 development driver Susie Wolff as 'Dare To Be Different' and backed by Motorsport Australia. The free program is aimed at growing interest in STEM subjects and industries amongst school-aged girls, to increase female participation in the sector and highlight career paths within motorsport.

The program at the Australian Grand Prix will be one of the biggest in the Girls on Track calendar with simulator and pit stop challenges, as well as STEM exercises and other motorsport-based activities. There will also be a focus on career development and mentoring.

“I am very pleased to be a member of the Motorsport Australia board which is working hard to provide opportunities for women and girls to participate in all that the sport offers,” she said, which included at Board level.

“When I joined Motorsport Australia’s Board I was the first woman on the board, and the second even in the organisation’s history. Now we have four women on a board of 10.  The board made a deliberate decision to increase the number of women and there is no shortage of capability and interest and organisation performance continues to impress me, with much of the credit going to CEO Eugene Arocca.”

She said the next step is for Formula 1 to bring the W Series - is an all-female single-seater racing championship -  to next year’s Australian Grand Prix, “so the public can see and enjoy women driving fast cars just as they enjoy women playing footy, smashing centuries in cricket and blitzing the field in the pool.”

‘There are opportunities out there’

 Girls on Track Ambassador and co-owner of Australian Supercars Championship’s top flight team Triple Eight Race Engineering, Jessica Dane, is looking forward to showing young women behind the scenes at the Australian Grand Prix and dispelling the view that it’s all “a boys’ club”.

The daughter of Supercars legend Roland Dane, Jessica grew up around motorsports and is also Australian Ambassador to FIA Women in Motorsport Commission, and was the former Chair of the Australian Women in Motorsport Commission. She now sits on the Women in Motorsport Diversity and Inclusion Committee. 
She said as FIA Girls on Track Ambassador, her goal is to reach as many girls as possible to inspire future talent. 

“It’s in my blood,” she said. “Motorsport was always a natural path for me, but for so many girls it would have never registered on their radar, let alone been presented as a genuine career choice. I therefore feel a duty to share our sport with the next generation of young women, welcome them in and show them that they can and should be part of this dynamic, fast-paced and adrenaline-packed industry.”

Jessica said for her the best part is giving other women hands-on experience with the engines. “I just love seeing the participants’ faces light up when they see inside the cars. For me this is the best part,” she said.

“There are so many opportunities for women in motorsport - from engineering and marketing to media and event management - but I think there is a perception out there that it’s a ‘boys’ club’ and this is absolutely not true.”
Jessica said there is a lot of support, from men and women in the industry, to bring more females into the sport but admits that change is not going to happen overnight.

“There is so much positive support. Many of the older men who’ve been in the industry for a long time, they now have daughters or granddaughters following in their footsteps who want to be involved. We can’t do this without mens’ support - they need to be our cheerleaders.”

“By working with this younger generation of women, we are paving the way for them to enter the industry,” said Jess. She said it ultimately comes down to the message that you can’t be what you can’t see.“It’s about showing people that there are these opportunities out there.”


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