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.
REVIEW OF THE PAST QUARTER
The syllabi for the e-courses are just about finished. It's been an intense quarter, reading-wise, because of the amount of research that goes into making courses that are both helpful and informative. Since the courses exist to fund Sisterhood activities - scholarships, sponsorships, and other woman-forward initiatives - we want to provide value for money, rather than simply regurgitating content available for free elsewhere on the internet. In addition to the Phase 1 courses, we have experts working on some courses for Phase 2 to service needs that have been expressed to us since we started work on the current batch.
We have found an alternative supplier to Zazzle. While we have nothing against the print-on-demand option that Zazzle offer, they are quite pricey and inflexible. For example, anything with our logo is against their image policy. Our new supplier is based in Austin, TX, so is unaffected by Brexit and the current fall-out woes affecting the pound and British economy. She's also a lovely person, and we're very glad to have her on board.
We are in discussions with an existing karting outreach program that is based in the UK, and gender-neutral (although by aiming for 50% involvement from girls, they are essentially a woman-forward organisation, given the current demographics). Their business model is scalable, so once their project is fully established it should be relatively easy to expand into other countries, provided there are enthusiastic people on the ground to run them.
This is where the majority of our time has been spent over the past few months. There is currently no conference for women in motorsport, and therefore no forum for publicising and discussing relevant research, no international networking opportunities for women in the industry, etc. The conference was initially scheduled for Oxford, UK, in August. However, due to several must-have speakers being unavailable and Brexit-related company formation issues, we are looking at Barcelona sometime between January and April (we are still waiting to hear back from speakers regarding availability during those times, so have yet to set a firm date).
We have doubled our number of Twitter followers in the last quarter, and added about 40% to our Facebook followers. We are still far from reaching critical mass, but have a nice demographic spread on the gender front. There is definite room for improvement in our outreach to people of colour and LGBTQIA+ people. We hope that these demographic matrices improve with time.
PROJECTIONS FOR THE COMING QUARTER
Long-Term Response to Brexit
It seems that Nicola Sturgeon is the only politician in the UK who had a 'what if' plan for Britain leaving the EU. For fear of alienating people who voted 'leave', we will comment no further on who did/said what and the rationality of their arguments. Suffice to say, we are interested in doing what is best for Motorsport Sisterhood as an organisation, what is best for the community at large, and what is best for the sport.
We will incorporate a company in Scotland (to keep the EU connection while maintaining English as a linguistic medium...and because they're the only people with a solid post-Brexit plan) and a foundation/trust in Isle of Man (for the security of an offshore banking facility) while establishing a physical base in Motorsport Valley (for proximity to the centre of the industry). To do our bit in helping the UK government with its employment and housing crises - currently blamed on immigrants, although we think a lack of forethought is more likely the cause - we will
1) offer consultancy services to businesses because we're all experienced at dealing with recessions induced by government decisions (I'm Zimbabwean; we've had an ongoing and unremedied recession since 1998, and have practical strategies on how to survive. Flor, our admin expert, is Argentinian and has lived in Spain long enough to have survived their recession),
2) start a business incubator to support young and small businesses that provide services to motorsport as an industry and create much-needed jobs, and provide the tools to take businesses online to decentralise earning bases, making them less susceptible to the fluctuations of a single country's economy, and
3) start affordable housing schemes near team headquarters, probably through crowd-funding, although this will probably take longer than three months due to building and planning regulations.
These are still on the agenda, although administrative difficulties have thus far kept us from establishing a physical base in the UK. This is predicted for the coming quarter. We hope to have the first one during Formula E's testing, when everyone converges on Donington Park.
Mum of the Month
Before the quarter is out, we will have started a youtube-based video interview series called Mum of the Month. Mainstream news outlets often interview racers' dads for their responses, but we rarely hear from mums. The interview series will feature drivers/riders interviewing their mums.
Quarterly Art and Literary Magazine
While discussing how to get woman-identified fans more involved in the sport, this idea was put forward. There is a long and distinguished tradition of fiction and art from fans of various narratives/brands, starting with classical art, and moving through to modern tribute re-mixes. We want to have our first issue out by November with the theme 'Utopian Alternative Universe' (whatever 'utopian' means to contributing creatives, and are hoping they explore themes around worldview and regulation changes in their work), so will begin submissions in July/August.
While we're not making progress at quite the desired rate yet, we are making progress. We are committed to doing the best we can to expand the fan base, and therefore the number of enthusiastic employees available to motorsport teams in the future. We are also keen to help existing racers and motorsport teams to survive both the global recession and more intense localised recessions through business consultancy services.
PROGRESS MADE THIS QUARTER
Skills Level-Up: Emails
We figured out how to access our Arvixe-hosted emails. They're no longer forwarded to our personal emails and answered from there. You can reach Dory at firstname.lastname@example.org, and Brij at email@example.com.
Woman of the Week Series
We've had a good response to the WotW series. Formula E's official twitter account tweeted about Naomi's WotW (twice, including once on International Women's Day!), which extended our reach in a way that we're very grateful for. Our apologies that it's been a bit patchy; our personal lives got in the way of weekly interviews.
Scholarship and Sponsorship Fund
We're working on more efficient options to fill the fund without getting out the donations hat. The Zazzle store...it's an expensive way of running an online store, so very little of what y'all spend on merch actually ends up in the fund. We're in talks with a silk artist to make custom scarves (including a version that can be used as head scarves by the Muslim sisters and a modesty shawl for the breast-feeding sisters) for the store that will be appearing on the website in the next quarter. We're looking for people to print t-shirts, hoodies, etc. to replace the Zazzle option. If you know a motorsport-friendly t-shirt printer, please email us about them! Bonus points awarded if it's a business owned and run by a woman or a member of a traditionally marginalised group.
We realised that the best way to get kids excited about motorsport is to get them to participate. The basic model for this project will be to host family fun days in towns with karting tracks, have races for both kids and parents, and generally provide a good time for everyone. This will achieve several Sisterhood-orientated goals – provide cost-efficient karting days to get kids proficient before their parents invest in equipment; give everyone the opportunity to race against girls, and get used to seeing them as competitors; show a good cross-section of talent to bring up stars from the next generation. We're in discussions with people in the UK and Canada to get this going as a reality.
WHAT WE'RE PLANNING FOR THE NEXT QUARTER
We've had Bunmi from Gridpasses (who interviewed Danielle Murphy for WotW) write for us. Bunmi has been a part of the influence circle for the Sisterhood from the beginning. She's been my sounding board since the community was little more than an idea, and is a tour de force of Twitter introductions. We're also bringing Sarah on board as a contributor. When we get the store sorted out, her artwork will be on some of the shirts. She will also be writing for us.
On the subject...
If you have pieces written about women in motorsport, but can't find a motorsport media outlet to publish your article, give us a shout. We would love your content! Likewise, if you would like to interview a woman in the industry who you think is amazing, contact us; we would love to have her as a Woman of the Week.
Once the Sisterhood HQ is in Oxfordshire (should happen this quarter, all things being equal), we want to start games nights. As in, we rent a venue that has a kitchen and a liquor license, provide a meal and two beers, and play geeky games like 30 Seconds: Motorsport Edition. A small portion of the cover charge will be donated to the Scholarship/Sponsorship fund. The events will not be women-only; you're welcome to bring partners, friends, team-mates, etc. of both genders. Or show up in all-girl and all-guy teams and compete to see who's smarter. Whatever works for you.
There's only so much that anybody can do over the internet. I realised in January that I couldn't possibly run the Sisterhood from my hometown in Zimbabwe. I am in the process of organising a relocation to the UK to be closer to the action. Dory has come to Africa for a writer's retreat, and will be staying until the book is finished. She will continue to do interviews and research for the book (which is a novel about F1 culture) via Skype and email.
We've been talking about running courses since we started. We aim to have the first one online in June/July. The hitch has been that both Dory and I think what the community needs is training in feminism, but there's always such a backlash from the general social media public as soon as the F word is mentioned. Nobody else is running those courses, and the data show that there's a need for us as a sporting community to have these discussions. So we're coming to a compromise. We're writing courses about authenticity on social media and in sponsor selection, and handling salary and contract negotiations confidently, and dealing with rejection. These are properly applicable topics in feminism, and will hopefully be more interesting and informative than hardcore feminist theory.
Accounts on the Site
We want to start a 'get an account' function on the webpage. We won't charge for membership; we want it to just be a way of showing off your motorsport street cred and running a specialist CV. Kinda like LinkedIn for motorsport professionals. This is going to require some concerted tech effort, which will probably only be possible in April/May when I've written my exams (I'm busy doing a second bachelor's at the moment, and have more than a full course load this semester, which has been slowing me down).
We still want to have the Spa weekend. Wouldn't it be lovely to do the Spa 24hr with someone on hand to rub our aching feet and backs at the end of a hard day, and tidy up our ratty-looking hair before we head off to the track? Unfortunately, we've still not found a campsite to host us. I even tried writing to the Mairie (the mayor's office) of Spa-Francorchamps in (admittedly rather broken) French to ask about campsites. Nothing. If you know a campsite in Spa-Francorchamps who would like to host about 150 people (Sisterhood, plus partners, friends, and/or children), please email us about them?
Hair for Equality
Not something that's technically happening this coming quarter, but it came to our attention since I wrote the last CEO's Report. Apparently some teams (no names mentioned) hire traditional barbers to give their male employees party hair for their Christmas parties, leaving the women to fend for themselves. For sure, there are bigger feminist issues than party hair. However, we're in the fairness game, so if it happens again we will arrange for a hairdresser (or a team of hairdressers) to give girls from those teams stylish up-dos. We'll tweet about it in a way that doesn't slander the teams with the unfair party benefit schemes, but makes it clear who's doing the work and making their women feel welcome in the industry.
We're really super-happy to have all the new followers/likers on board. Thank you all for supporting us this early in the journey! We hope to see you at events this year.
The Motorsport Sisterhood was officially founded on 15th September, 2015. It was a concept for far longer than that, but 15th September was when we got an official facebook page. Dory (the writer and social media mastermind) and I have discussed this at length and decided that I should document our way through the start-up process. The suggested format was a CEO's blog.
We want to play an open hand with everyone in the Sisterhood, so you know what we've done, what we plan to do, and where we're headed. We've got some exciting things planned over the next year, and a blog is the best way we know how to keep y'all up-to-date. Hence, I'm here, writing this to you to keep you in the loop about what's happening here at Sisterhood HQ.
PROGRESS MADE THIS QUARTER
Set up the webpage and social media presence
These days, nothing is a thing without a webpage. It took a while to wrangle Arvixe (our web host...big up to them, they're amazing) into submission. Since neither Dory nor I have mad coding skillz, we opted to go with Weebly as a design package. It's a great drag-and-drop interface that saves us paying an official designer to do the work for us (read: more money left over to sponsor). Neither of us have worked out how to use Arvixe's webmail interface, so if you email us at our @motorsportsisterhood.org addresses, it gets forwarded to our Gmail accounts and replied from there. We are working on this.
We have a Facebook page, a Twitter, a Tumblr, and a Pinterest. We apologise for the low rate of activity on the accounts; I'm juggling Sisterhood with a full-time job, a burgeoning art career, and a second degree; Dory is juggling a full-time job, and a book that is taking far more energy and mental health than she had anticipated.
Began set-up of the scholarship and sponsorship funds
We have made contact with a sponsorship agency to provide introductions for drivers until we have enough money to sponsor them ourselves. Contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org or one of our social media outlets if you're seeking sponsorship. We'll do our best to hook you up.
We are in discussions with an entity to broker scholarships for women in motorsports. That entity cover the UK, so we are negotiating for scholarships to South African universities to start our scholarship program off (and increase the number of women of colour in the industry, since motorsport is, at present, almost a complete white-wash).
Started the Woman of the Week series
We interview a different woman each week with the goal of providing positive female role models to girls/women aspiring to work in motorsport. Studies have shown that having positive role models decreases stereotype threat (which manifests in motorsport and STEM fields as "women are bad at driving/maths/science" and negatively affects women's performance at work). We want to further women's careers by highlighting how great they are, and there's the simultaneous benefit of decreasing stereotype threat. Win-win.
WHERE WE'RE GOING IN THE NEXT QUARTER
Scholarship and sponsorship fund
We hope to have applications open for the scholarships before March. We're also pushing for more sponsorship opportunities. What would y'all think of a series featuring women racers seeking sponsorship (Sponsor-Seeking Saturdays)? Email email@example.com, post in the comments, or get in touch with one of our social media accounts if you'd like to be featured as part of this.
Promoting our followers
If you're a woman in motorsport, and you'd like us to big up your internet presence, get in touch! We'd love to pin pics/articles of you on our Pinterest, retweet you, reblog you, share your posts, etc. We'd love to feature you as a Woman of the Week, or on Sponsor-Seeking Saturday. This was set up to be a community that supported each other. If you want support, reach out!
I did one edition of Soulcare Sundays a few months back. My current degree is in theology, and I often feel like there's a complete dearth of content on this theme in the industry. The response was, as Katherine Legge would put it, "crickets". Literally nobody clicked the link within a week of my posting it.
Since then, people have been searching the tag (yay Weebly's click tracker software!), so we're thinking of resurrecting this idea. What sorts of topics would y'all like to hear about? As above, email/tweet/FB/tumblr chat me with your topic requests.
Soft skills/personal development courses
Further to my suspicion that motorsport would be far healthier if we taught people soft skills (handling rejection, taking criticism like a pro, constructive conflict resolution, bringing humour to sexist attacks, etc.), we'd like to run a six-week course on these topics.
I know several drivers who have totally fallen apart after losing their drives; I'd like to armour our community with skills for dealing with these situations that are inevitable if you're in the industry for long enough. We will be offering a handful of financial hardship scholarships, so get in touch if you want to learn these skills but don't have £100 to hand in the short term.
Technically, this will be happening in the summer, not before March, but best to get the word out while there's still time for everyone to apply for leave and save those pennies. We are in discussions to book out a camp site, have a glamping and catering company do the hard work so our attendees don't need to drag tents and cooking equipment across Europe, and have negotiated a 10% discount in both grandstand tickets and VIP tickets for the Blancpain Spa 24Hr. We are also in discussions with several hair and beauty practitioners to provide massages, mani-pedis, facials, etc. to make the Spa Weekend a spa weekend in all senses of the word.
See you in the comments, on Twitter/FB/Tumblr/Pinterest!