It's been a full year since this site was launched. In some ways, it seems like I've been the vocal motorsport feminist for longer than that. Concomitantly, it seems like just yesterday that I was wrestling my rusty tech skills into creating something resembling a website. (Let's be honest, the last time I did anything resembling coding was before I was asked by my uni to please not write Computer Science 201, as they didn't want to waste time marking my exam script.)
It's been an eventful year! Susie Wolff has started Dare to be Different; Tatiana Calderon has got a GP3 drive...it seems like we're finally making progress on the feminist front. I've also found motorsport-loving women in more varieties than I thought existed prior to starting this project.
REVIEW OF THE PAST YEAR
They say the first year of any organisation is the hardest - bootstrapping, working two jobs simultaneously (and, in my case, taking a theology degree part-time), hardly ever having time to socialise other than for networking purposes...it all adds up - so that's over, and we're all rather relieved to have survived. Progress has been slow, but we're choosing to fail forwards, learn from our mistakes, and pick up the pace as we build momentum.
We have consulted with experts to bring you the best research woven into an accessible format. It took quite a lot of discussion and juggling to sort out which courses were the highest priorities. The question of how to package them in a way that was simultaneously affordable for the audience and lucrative enough to fill the money pot for all the cool things we want to do in the future also took quite a lot of thought and research.
We are shooting the first course (Taking Rejection Like A Boss, to be followed by Troll-Wrangling 101) next week...allow a week or two for post-production and a few small website upgrades before The Elastic Heart Toolkit hits the store. There will be a referral discount for everyone who takes a course - that is, we give your friend a 25% discount and you get a 5% gift voucher to the store.
We have formed a network of small-scale suppliers to provide goodies for the merch store. We've been working with the artists to come up with original and unique designs, which are scalable if demand for a particular item grows exponentially higher than we're expecting. Products being tabled at the moment include: t-shirts and hoodies, silk batik scarves (available in square or hijab), and bead sculpture paperweights. More will no doubt come in time. Scheduled ETA is within a few weeks of getting the e-courses online.
While we've been trying to raise funds - largely unsuccessfully...thank you to everyone in the UK who voted 'leave' and destabilised the financial market - we have come up with an alternative strategy that should improve the sustainability of the project, both in terms of carbon produced, and in terms of continuity of the labour force. I'll explain more about this in the 'coming year' section, under 'local cells'.
Conference - WiMCon
As it turns out, organising a conference is more time-intensive than we had expected. Coordinating twenty speaker's schedules to coincide over a weekend is trickier than it sounds, especially when coordinating a free weekend between several racing series and several university holidays. Also, Brexit happened, and raising £200,000 in sponsorship was a big ask. We will be holding the conference in Barcelona in March, with far more fun activities (for cheaper) than we could find in Oxford. More to come on the WiMCon page.
Mum of the Month
We sent out a number of queries, and received positive responses. Then we sent out the questions and heard nothing back. We're not taking this off the agenda, but courses and conference are taking first priority at the moment.
Nyoom! - the Art and Lit Mag
Again, courses and conference are bigger priorities for us at the moment, due to the projected impact of both of those compared to the art and lit mag. We need to improve our internal infrastructure to make this project a success. When we have the structures to do a great job, we will pursue this further.
RESPONSE TO BREXIT
Has it really been three months since the Brexit vote?! In the meantime, we have started a research group and a business incubator group on facebook. The goal is to grow these groups into actual, physical premises where people can undertake independent research and/or grow a small business into a powerhouse by sharing facilities.
We were contracted to do some recruitment work for a Formula E team. While we didn't place a candidate, we have a strategy to build a larger database of motorsport talent, and pursue this more directly. Recruitment was always on the agenda for Motorsport Sisterhood, as this is the most literal and direct way to get more equitable hiring practices. The only business consultancy contracts we won this past quarter were with a Zimbabwean film studio (in exchange for filming our courses), so not exactly related to Brexit, but a step in the right direction. Another quarter is coming, and we've taken up bullet journalling to increase our productivity.
WHAT'S COMING UP...
It occurred to us (while having mutual excitement over a TED talk) that by establishing local cells, we could provide better support to our global network of women. It would also help the racial inequality we see in motorsport, as several women in our network are based in countries with a majority non-white population; if we boost the stellar talent from local networks to international, we can organically address the racial homogeneity without ruffling too many feathers.
We've been working on designing and making some motorsport-themed games. Once local cells are established, games nights will become a regular feature of the calendar. They're on the Gantt chart in my bullet journal, but several steps need to happen before they will work in the long term.
Creativity is good for the soul. Socialising is good for the soul. Activities like knitting are akin to meditation in terms of the human brain's response to rhythmic, repetitive tasks. Thus, we are looking for volunteers to host crafting circles for motorsport-loving women in your area.
As with the crafting circles, doing things in groups has a long list of benefits, among which is having people on hand to hold you accountable when you don't feel like exercising. These will likely take the form of monthly or quarterly fun runs, but the precise form of the activities is highly dependent on the skills and passions of the local organisers. If you would like to start a fitness group for motorsporty women in your area, contact us!
As we've stepped up our social media involvement, we have had engagement with question askers (of varying levels of background aggression) online. Some would call them trolls; we prefer to think of them as debate practice. So without further ado, allow me to add a few FAQ points, which will be copied over to the FAQ page.
What do we think of Dare To Be Different
Story time. Forests are complex ecosystems. A multitude of species find their homes in forests, from the mycelium (literally translates to 'mushroom root', this acts like the intranet of the forest) to the mother trees (pioneer individuals of a particular species that establishes in the forest and nurtures its seedlings and saplings via the mycelium). Each species performs a vital role, and without one or two (or a few), the ecosystem would unravel. We think of ourselves as the mycelium, connecting similar species and sharing nutrients between the plants in the forest. Susie's role is a vital one as one of the mother trees in the 'women in F1' forest. It is possible, even encouraged, to be nurtured by the forest's mother tree and be plugged into the mycelium for help from other species. And we're working on getting Susie as a speaker for WiMCon to allow her time and space to be a mother tree in the community.
Why are we doing all this for women when men are really the ones being discriminated against in fields like engineering, where women are 'gifted' with jobs upon leaving uni, whereas men have to fight each other in their thousands?
We're doing this for women because the data say that there are fewer women in motorsport, and this needs at the very least a conversation and a good look at the data to figure out how to make it more equitable. We just want to know some information, which we will use to inform our strategy. We will shortly be launching a survey on the gender pay gap in motorsport; if you would like to participate, you will receive a time-limited voucher for store credit. If you would like more information on how to live in happy masculinity, we really recommend the work of Michael Kimmel; he's a very thorough and rational researcher, and writes in a witty, informative style.
Who exactly are we fighting?
Nobody, really, because we're not fighting. We believe in non-violence. It is possible to protest an unjust system without turning it into a violent revolution. Incidentally, the likelihood of a movement adopting non-violent methods is strongly predicted by the group's attitude to the role of women. So yes, we believe in voting with our dollars and will recommend our tribe avoid buying certain products or services if it becomes known that the providers/promoters are unethical, but no, we're leaving our fire-starting spells in the 'emergency use only' section of the spell book.