It's tradition to take a pause at the change of the year to look back over the year, and assess progress. In some ways and for some of us, 2016 was a great year. Christina Nielsen became the first woman to win the IMSA driver's title. Susie Wolff was given an MBE for her work with Dare To Be Different. Simona De Silvestro got a full-time ride with a works team – arguably a sterling achievement for a woman racer, given the current fundraising climate. Caitlin Wood was promoted to Blancpain GT3. On the whole, it's been a decent year for women. (We'll leave aside the closely-contested failures of Hilary Clinton and Halla Tómasdóttir in their respective national elections, because global politics is outside of the scope of this article.)
While that is all true and valid, for some of us, 2016 was less than amazing. Those of us who notice sexism in motorsport, for example, have been left feeling quite dejected by a lot of news this year. There have been some blatant and obvious examples, which stirred up some discontent. Not to be out-done, though, the subtle sexism was rampant, filtering through from mainstream media to the Twitter trolls. Even Wolff's MBE wasn't immune to the sexism, with people claiming that Bernie Ecclestone had done more for women in motorsport than Susie had. (Really? Bernie 'women should wear white to blend in with the other household appliances' Ecclestone? Doing things for women in motorsport? Really? To be fair, his recent comments have been more benevolent sexism than blatantly hateful sexism, but sexism nonetheless.)
To counter the gaps in motorsport's collective knowledge about feminism, gender, and equality/diversity, we will be starting a series of book reviews and interviews with researchers who are working on topics relevant to women in motorsport. The articles will form a curated and accessible library of information. Knowledge is power, and is therefore a key factor in any kind of empowerment work.
Sisterhood's work this year has also presented a mixed bag. We are almost finished making the Elastic Heart Toolkit, which is now in its seventh iteration, since the structures of previous attempts just didn't work on screen. We have now adopted a more interactive style, and our course host allows for user input to give us an idea of which parts of the course are most relevant. Given the challenges we've faced since starting work on the course, this is great progress.
On the other hand, WiMCon was a disaster. All the sponsorship we had secured for the Oxford-based conference backed out after the Brexit vote caused them to re-evaluate their financial priorities. We tried to postpone it to Barcelona in March, but couldn't find enough service suppliers to make it worth everybody's while going out to Spain. We have relocated the conference to Reykjavik this coming August, and have received a fantastic amount of help from a group of motorheads in Iceland in planning a suite of unique activities around the conference. The theme of this year's conference is 'soul spa', to allow people the space to consciously rejuvenate for a week during the summer break.
We have taken stock of this year's successes and failures, and have created an action plan to alter the trajectory of Motorsport Sisterhood as an organisation. In response to the public's outrage over gender segregation (in motorsport generally, not in our organisation specifically), we have decided to position our brand as the feminist motorsport organisation, rather than the all-woman organisation. As a result of that, we have planned several article series to cater to the men in our audience.
Additionally, we have a new social media strategy that will be rolled out over the next six months. We now have Teagan running out Pinterest, curating boards of information pertinent to being women in motorsport. We have a new Slack channel, which will be explained in a separate article. We ate also working to resurrect the group on LinkedIn. This is a general-purpose group for women in the industry. All our other groups are open to men as well, but the LinkedIn is a supportive women-only space. The two Facebook groups – Biz Babes and the Research Group – will continue, and we have a plan to ramp up activity there. With the help of several members of the Research Group, we will be looking into three main questions this year (Does gender parity (of numbers as well as pay) exist in motorsport as Claire Williams asserts? How long does it take to learn to drive a race car? That question is part of a Young Driver Program we are working on. What is the best way to go about forming communities around an interest that is not tied to a single place?). In addition, the Facebook page, and Twitter and Tumblr accounts will continue.
In an attempt to be more global, we are in discussions with translators to create non-English versions of the site for when the re-design goes live in March/April. We have found a wonderful web designer to build us a new, improved site. The current one feels clunky and we've fallen out of love with the design program we use, but our web design skills are too grim to fix it ourselves. Thus, we're asking you to bear with us while Jess builds our new site, and we hope you'll enjoy the upgraded, redesigned version.
As we go into 2017, I want to leave you with a final word. We've noticed that self-care is a fairly low priority in the community. It's quite hard for us to provide spaces for self-care, so we have broken it down into several areas that we can all work on in our own lives, centred around series on the blog. We hope you have a good year, and make something beautiful of what you are given in the next twelve months.
All my love,