It’s no secret that women are by far a minority in the automotive industry. While the numbers of women in this field are slowly increasing, there’s no question that they are still seen as a rarity—whether they work as technicians, driving instructors, or simply have a modified vehicle of their own. This surprise from the general population of car enthusiasts manifests in a variety of ways, and sometimes, it’s downright uncomfortable for the women who are just here to have fun like everybody else.
Here’s where we would like to introduce a group that we’re very excited about. It’s called FemPowered, and while the name is brilliant, its members and mission statement are even more so. We would like to familiarize you with this group to help spread the word about a truly amazing avenue for more women to take that first step into motorsport.
At this point, we’d like to hand over the explanation of the group to the ladies who maintain it. You’ll see answers to a handful of questions from different members, which we think is a nice touch to express the diversity within this community. In addition to their Q&A, you’ll see photos of the FemPowered members and their track weapons of choice. We hope you enjoy this interview!
Performance Technic: What is FemPowered?
Erika: FemPowered is the community I wish I had when I started in motorsports. I always appreciated cars and liked driving, but starting HPDE was a completely new and foreign realm. I eventually met people (mostly men) who were able to point me in the right direction, and after a while I built up enough courage to start showing up to driving events. It was definitely intimidating at first, usually being one out of two women in attendance, but eventually I got used to it.
At the same time, though, I started to wonder where were the women? So, I thought back to my own experience. Why did I not start tracking my car sooner? What would have helped me get over my intimidation? FemPowered is my answer to those questions. It’s a community for any woman interested in motorsports, rookie or seasoned racer, where women can escape the stereotypes that sadly still exist in motorsport.
PT: What made you help start FemPowered?
Erika: The first time I was asked this question, I had to pause and think about it. Until then, I had actually never stopped to wonder “why?” To me, there was such an obvious gap in motorsports, it was more like “why wouldn’t I?”
Rebecca: I’ve been working with SpeedSF for about two years now and attending their events for more than four, and in all that time I only ever really saw one or two ladies at most actually drive on the track. The last two years I have been helping with registration and I high five every woman I check in as a driver, and encourage those who tag along to ride as a passenger and consider driving whenever they might be ready. It was the next natural step for me as someone who was already trying to get more ladies behind the wheel!
Rhoda: I’ve always been a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion, and it is core to what I strongly believe in. When I started to track, I noticed there was a huge gap in terms of women representation. I realized this gap existed because there was no organized community to break down the barriers and support women as they pursued their passion in motorsports. What I love about FemPowered is that you don’t need to be a female in order to support the cause. We welcome anyone who believes in supporting our mission.
Jeanie: As little as two years ago, I found myself in a classroom at the BMW Performance Center in Palm Springs. I was the sole woman in a room filled with amazing male students and instructors; on track, it was the same scenario. I felt so brave back then, and I still do now. Starting FemPowered is a testament to what we love… motorsports. It’s my desire to gather together, more brave women with the same heart and soul, to this exhilarating sport called, high performance driving.
PT: What’s your favorite memory in motorsports?
Erika: The first time I ran Laguna Seca without an instructor. It was such a huge contrast from my first-ever track day, on the same track coincidentally. No longer was I the wide-eyed student wondering if I executed a point-by correctly or if I was holding up traffic. I was still a long way off from any records, but I knew what I needed to do - and it was time to get to work.
Rebecca: I was hooked. I had been going to HPDE events with my SO for months and I finally bought a helmet so I could ride along. My SO was busy so a friend of ours took me out in his BMW, and boy did I pick the right driver for my fist ride! He knew every turn at Laguna and exactly how he could toss that big sedan around them, and I knew right then that I wanted to learn how to do it too!
Rhoda: I was nervous, excited, anxious, proud – all of the feelings you would expect from a newbie on my very first time on track. It was such a complete sensory experience that was both intoxicating and addicting at the same time. When you experience something that powerful, it’s certainly etched in your memory forever. I still experience the same rush of all of these feelings each time I hit the track, and that’s what keeps me coming back for more.
Jeanie: Well, at Laguna Seca, you have 11 turns to get it just right. A slight change in speed alters your braking. Missing the apex messes up your track out. It is when you hit everything just right, that this exhilarating feeling surrounds you. It’s a feeling that you can’t explain, nor do you want to celebrate while on track. The next corner is approaching quickly, so the party has to wait until you’re back at the paddock. I’m still fairly new at this sport, but I could say that I’ve had a few of these amazing sensations.
PT: What’s your worst experience in motorsports?
Erika: Every time I get ignored or belittled at a car event based on my gender. It no longer surprises me when strangers approach my husband and ask about car modifications on “his” M2. Or, when people are surprised when I’m able to speak intelligently about something car-related. Even just recently, a gentleman apologized for being “too technical” when he referred to a Porsche as a 991.2. By itself, each of those incidents are trivial. However, put together and repeated, these incidents show a pattern of behavior in the motorsport community that needs to be changed.
Rebecca: I’m sure this will be a common answer among my colleagues but it’s definitely awful being ignored or brushed off. As an official for SpeedSF, I sometimes have to have tough conversations with a group of drivers after a bad sessions and it’s hard when the guys don’t take me seriously. I’m a stickler for the rules, so it really upsets me when people ignore them, especially when it’s for their safety. It bothers me even more that it seems like they would take it more seriously if a woman weren’t reprimanding them.
Rhoda: Being overlooked and dismissed as “just a wife tagging along with her husband” and not being respected as a true car enthusiast is a common occurrence that frustrates and angers me, and sadly it’s a feeling that is far too familiar. FemPowered was created to help change that stereotype.
PT: What’s different about all-female events?
Erika: It’s hard to describe the difference without experiencing it personally. It’s a different feel to the event, from the slight nervousness in the air in the morning, to the wide smiles of pure glee by the late afternoon. The sense of accomplishment radiating these women is almost palpable, and unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. I remember my own sense of achievement and I want to help others experience the same.
Rebecca: The sense of camaraderie is palpable. It’s a bit of nerves at the start, the usual trepidation - will these people like me? But then you realize that you’re all there for the same thing and everyone relaxes and has the time of their life! Oh and you can’t beat the group photos!!
Rhoda: There is a special feeling of pride, accomplishment and community that goes along with participating in an all-female event. There’s something special about getting a group of women together to support each other, learn from one another, and just enjoy being part of something badass together.
Jeanie: It’s empowering to join other females on track; these are your sisters. Not only is it a shared sport, but it’s a journey to be shared.
PT: Where do you see FemPowered going?
Erika: There is no doubt in my mind that FemPowered will be successful. I’ve had the same conversation with so many women (“I really want to try HDPE, but it’s too intimidating and I don’t know how to get started!”) that I know that there’s a lot of women out there who want to drive. Right now the events will be smaller as we get ourselves off the ground. However, I want to see FemPowered grow into a community with events on and off the track. From casual socials and happy hours, to karting events, driver’s education events, and eventually an entire track day where all run groups are women only.
Rhoda: Our goal for FemPowered is to provide a respected community centered on helping to connect, support and empower women to pursue their passion in motorsports. My hope would be that our efforts will not only bring a community together, but also help to shine a light on women in motorsports and break down the barriers so that all women feel empowered on and off the track.
Jeanie: FemPowered came fast and furious! In just a few weeks, it has taken off exponentially. I see it as being the go to source for driving events, education, and social activities outside of HPDE. I would like to see our group of women travel to amazing destinations around the world to track. I would like to introduce the world of motorsports to young women to help foster a sense of fearlessness and confidence in this male dominated arena. It’s a community… forever growing, learning, evolving. It will continue to provide a place for women to assemble, while sharing this love of driving with every woman and man.