gender / sexism

Overcoming Sexism In A Male-Dominated Field

I don’t mind the comments like: “Wow you don’t see many women doing this” when I tell people that I work in the motoring world because it’s the truth. What I don’t appreciate is being told I can’t do a job because of my gender or being patronised by men who assume I don’t know what I’m talking about.

overcoming-sexism

My work is varied, I spend a lot of time in the world of motorsport PR but I’m also an automotive journalist with my own television show. I spend a lot of time around cars, men and a few exceptional women. I’m not alone in this career and people are so much more accepting of a female motoring journalist than perhaps they once were, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had some uncomfortable conversations.

When I started this career, I accompanied a client to a sponsor dinner. I was quite naive to sexism, I knew it was out there but I’d never experienced it in such a blunt and direct way. The alcohol was flowing and I got into a heated discussion about my work with a man who worked in the automotive industry.

He questioned my ability to do PR for racing drivers when I hadn’t raced myself. He quizzed me on different cars, asked about my journalist experience and had me on the edge of tears. While none of the questions mentioned my gender, I can’t help but feel that I wouldn’t have be subject to this interrogation had I been male.

Since then I’ve grown a lot, I’m more confident in my own skills and I’ve thought of a hundred comebacks for that man who questioned me. I’ve also had plenty of chances to think on the subject of women in male-dominate industries.

In the paddock on a race weekend you do see women, plenty of us in fact. I have noticed though that a lot of women working in motoring or motorsport tend to be less glamorous than they might be in another profession. For many women, this might just be their style but I’m sure you wouldn’t be hard pressed to find a female who acts a little more masculine in order to fit in.

overcoming-sexismI am very lucky to work with Rebecca Jackson, she’s a racing driver and most certainly has the respect of everyone in the paddock without sacrificing her femininity. She’s more than happy to discuss the finer points of racing or the inner workings of a Land Rover Defender while wearing a ball gown and daintily sipping champagne.

She manages to capture the attention of everyone around her, men and women alike. She doesn’t believe that women should be treated as something new and exciting in motorsport but she also manages to use her unique position as a glamorous female racer as part of her successful brand: Rebecca Racer.

However, when she started out she did try to fit in. Rebecca says: “When I first started racing, I tried to blend in and wore casual jeans and hoodies but half way through the season, I mentioned to someone how I hadn’t worn heels for two weeks due to hurting my toe while salsa dancing. He told me he couldn’t imagine me in heels and I was horrified!“.

“I pride myself in being girlie so from there on I decided not to sacrifice my femininity just to fit in.” Rebecca understands that so many women try to fit in like she did, but she doesn’t think they have to. She said: “I think you should be proud of who you are and we shouldn’t deny the fact that we are women. If you are glamorous you should maintain that and be confident in yourself as a person.

Rebecca’s experiences make me feel proud that I’ve gone out of my way to be the most glamorous and edgy version of myself there is when shooting my motoring show, Road Trip.

I’m hoping that my acceptance of myself and confidence in my abilities in this industry will start to make those around me realise that it’s not weird to be a woman in this industry, especially when it’s us who make the majority of buying decisions when it comes to cars.

Sexism in motosport and other male-dominated industries isn’t going to end any time soon but I’m thankful for female racing drivers, mechanics and motoring journalists who show they can be glamorous and play with the boys.

Jess Shanahan is a motoring journalist and YouTuber. She’s particularly fond of full circle skirts, chunky boots and V8 engines.

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