Few of us know of or appreciate the vital economic contribution UK motor sports makes to our economy.
The last figures from the Motor Sports Association (MSA) tell us that in 2012, the UK motor sport engineering and services industry earned no less than £9 billion, having nearly doubled this turnover in a decade.
And that period included a long and tough recession.
Some 4300 companies are part of the motor sport industry and employ about 41,000 people with nearly 90 per cent of these businesses exporting worldwide. And, as you might expect, there is a particular focus on R&D with some firms spending more than 25 per cent of their annual turnover on development.
What is the most important resource in the motor industry?
Guess what resource is the most important to any ambitious industry and employer? It’s the human resource of course – the best talent there is on offer – regardless of gender, race and age.
Yes, motor sports is undoubtedly the sexy side of the motor industry (compared to working in a garage or selling car parts although each to their own) yet it has the same dilemma. That of getting its career message through to as many appropriately talented and ambitious females alongside the already open door for traditionally petrol-headed males – that girls can do and can enjoy a wide range of industry careers that have been previously thought of as no-go areas for them of old…
Getting the motor sports career message out to girls
A UK motor sports initiative to change this gender stereotype raced off the starting grid at Daytona Sandown Park on 13 April 2016 with 100 schoolgirls gaining an invaluable insight into every element of motor sport from driving and engineering to media skills, fitness and nutrition.
Founded by former Formula 1 driver Susie Wolff and the MSA, Dare To Be Different is a high-profile new initiative designed to inspire, connect and celebrate women in every aspect of motor sport. Following months of preparation Dare To Be Different’s first event took place at the state-of-the-art Daytona Sandown karting facility in Surrey, bringing together 100 girls from ten local schools.
Daytona provided Honda-powered 160cc Cadet and 200cc Junior karts for the girls to earn their racing spurs and compete in a tyre-changing pit-stop challenge, Williams sent along an F1 show car for technical tours and photo opportunities and Sky F1 presenter Natalie Pinkham taught the eager participants the tricks of the trade when it comes to interview etiquette.
Not only that, but ambassadors from national flagship programme STEMNET (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network) gave up their time to assist with a fun and educational hovercraft-building exercise.
In addition to all this, workshops on diet and fitness meant that each girl left with a comprehensive understanding of every facet of this fascinating sport – and as an official Dare To Be Different delegate.
Dare To Be Different Ambition
Former F1 racing driver Susie Wolff explained what the thought process is behind such an event.
“We want to see more girls coming into motor sport at grass-roots level, and karting is just one aspect of that. The breadth of potential careers within motor sport is immense, and to reflect that, beyond the karting we also offered the girls journalism and media presentation skills, hovercraft-building, fitness workshops and nutrition advice. Today is just the start of the Dare To Be Different journey – there’s so much more still to come.”
The MSA – the UK governing body of motor sport – was represented by its CEO Rob Jones, who added
“Motor sport is one of the very few sports in which women can compete at the same time and on equal terms as men – it offers a level playing field for everyone, and each event entails a phenomenal behind-the-scenes effort. By the same token, behind every driver are hundreds if not thousands of people working in different but equally essential areas of the sport.
“It was fantastic to have the Williams F1 car here. Claire Williams is the perfect role model to illustrate what women in motor sport can achieve. We hope that some of these girls will ultimately come to work in motor sport, be that as competitors or in some other professional capacity. That is the underlying aim of this campaign – to market and raise the profile of the career opportunities available within the sport – and what we saw today was a fantastic start.”
There are currently around 1,500 female MSA licence-holders in the UK which, whilst a significant number, represents only five per cent of all those competing in motor sport events throughout the country – a proportion that Dare To Be Different is eager to increase.
Dare To Be Different 2016 dates:
17 May, Nutts Corner, Crumlin, Northern Ireland
22 June, Daytona Milton Keynes, Milton Keynes
25 August, Knockhill Circuit, Fife, Scotland
15 September, Daytona Manchester, Manchester
To Find Out More
Here’s the Dare To Be Different MSA website details where these events will no doubt be announced at soon.
This is a marvellous initiative and one I’d love to see as part of a Big Picture motor industry careers roadshow to sell the message of ALL motor industry careers to women. To women of all ages, including those that chose an early career in a more female friendly industry and who now could be tempted to bring their much needed business and customer service skills into automotive Boardrooms and senior management roles… As well as selling apprenticeship roles to young females and males alike.
But how marvellous to see Susie and Claire paying back – doing their bit to encourage other females into following in their impressive career footsteps. Two fantastic role models that WILL make a genuine difference to gender recruitment in UK motor sports in future.
And who knows… maybe a future spin off of Dare To Be Different might result in a new racing championship for females? As I see it, if women can have their own golf, tennis, swimming and team sports championships, why not a motor racing league for women too? Why wouldn’t we Dare To Be Different here as well?…
PS: Here’s what FOXY Lady Drivers Club does and how to join the club.