Here’s some fun trivia for you: In 1902, Mary Anderson patented the world’s first windshield wiper. That’s right, you have a woman to thank for safe driving. Seven years later, in an effort to prove women’s competency behind the wheel, Alice Ramsey became the first woman to drive across the entire United States. And by 1916, the Girl Scouts created the “automobiling” badge for girls interested in honing their driving and auto-mechanics skills. Needless to say, women know what it takes to get behind the wheel and go, go, go. Today, with a nod to all the spunky women on the move who came before us, take a drive down the winding road less traveled.
WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 22 Years
When it comes to competitive driving, some seriously skilled women are demonstrating they’re just as talented as men. And Scottish race-car driver Susie Wolff has been proving it for years. As the team Williams Formula 1 development driver, Susie became the first woman in 22 years to participate in a Formula 1 weekend event when, in 2014, she proved her mettle by driving in the intense opening practice sessions at the British and German Grand Prix. Susie is quite the proponent of having more women join the racing sport, but also argues whether you’re male or female, it’s all about how you perform on the track.
WOMAN TO WATCH: Claire Williams, Deputy Team Principal of Williams Formula 1
All right, ladies, start your engines! Just in time for the annual Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix, we’ve got a story that’s sure to get your pulse racing. Today’s fiery Woman to Watch is Claire Williams, the uncompromising, relentlessly striving and cutthroat-competitive deputy team principal of the illustrious Williams Racing, one of the world’s leading Formula 1 teams.
Claire is nothing if not passionate about racing—top-tier racing, that is. After all, Formula 1 is the highest class of single-seat auto racing sanctioned by the International Automobile Federation. And Claire definitely has motor oil coursing through her veins and racing in her DNA. She’s the daughter of legendary Formula 1 racer and team patron Frank Williams, and grew up in the sport, even riding shotgun as a teenager while he turned doughnuts in his car.
Claire joined Formula 1 in 2000 as a press officer, later moving up the ranks to communications officer then director of marketing and communications for the Williams team, also joining the company’s board. Now, as the deputy team principal of Williams Formula 1, she plays a pivotal role in the day-to-day operations and long-term development of the third-most successful race team on the grid.
As one of the most powerful women in male-dominated motor sport, Claire is often asked about whether her gender affects her work, to which this tenacious lady responds that if a woman rises through the ranks of racing with a knowledgeable skill set and voracious drive, she deserves to be there.
Claire says, of late, there’s been a seismic shift in the number of women entering the sport, particularly in the areas of design, aerodynamics technology and engineering—key components of every Formula 1 race team.
While Claire admits there’s more to be done to get women into Formula 1 jobs, she’s definitely doing her part, offering team apprenticeships for women and urging Williams’ female employees to embrace ambassador roles so young women get a good understanding of the skills required to work in high-end motor sports.
As Claire says, ladies, there’s room for you in Formula 1. And you’re more than welcome, especially if you’ve got the drive!
QUITE THE QUOTE
We’ll cross the finish line today with this quote from groundbreaking retired professional race-car driver Janet Guthrie, who was often asked whether female drivers can be as strong as male drivers. In response, she said:
“You drive the car; you don’t carry it.”
This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.
Background photo by Niki Jones.