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  • Writer's pictureEmily Sharp

Community: The Woman's Competitive Advantage - Day 2 at the Women with Drive III - Driven by Mobil

I approached the second day of the Women With Drive III Summit inspired from the previous day’s compelling conversations. However, Day 2 was also bittersweet: it was the second and final day of the summit.

These two days reinvigorated the passion I had for this industry and desire I had to be an advocating storyteller for the women within it. There is so much more I crave to learn and be involved in – the looming finality of this year’s summit unfortunately weighed on my mind as I entered The Barn for the kickoff of the day’s festivities.

The brief wave of sadness that sat in the back of mind was quickly erased however as the legendary Bobby and Kristin Labonte welcomed, entertained, and encouraged us. It goes without saying, their story is truly #RelationshipGoals.

The stories they shared (both as individuals and as a couple) reiterated that life is constantly unpredictable. Your victories can also simultaneously be your greatest challenges. What makes you a champion is your willpower and the decisions you make in response to those moments.

After the Labonte’s uplifting presentation, the live and streaming audiences were treated to arguably the most impressive group of panelists to take the stage yet. Moderator Linda Lindquist-Bishop (Courageous Thinker Inc.) led a discussion on getting comfortable with being uncomfortable while pursuing your passion and dreams.

Team Penske Member Caitlin Brown, Porsche Sprint Challenge Champion Ashley Freiberg, motorcyclist and MP13 Team Owner Melissa Paris, and Chicago Street Course President Julie Giese joined her onstage, and offered some of the most memorable experiences and quotes during their time.

Freiberg shared, “As a woman in this sport, you often times feel so alone surrounded by men as your competitors. But, having this community and being here at this event, it makes me feel like I have an advantage against them.”

Her statement further confirmed that the work we and WIMNA are committed to doing, is meaningful and making a difference.

Some of the other highlights from this conversation included the necessity for women to not wait around to be rescued. At the end of the day, you are the only one who is going to have your best interests in mind – YOU have to be willing to jump in and handle the hardships yourself.

The next panel to follow continued the topic of how women in this industry can feel isolated at times. Speakers, whose diverse background spanned from Owner of VIRgina International Raceway to Motorsports Marketing Manager at Ford, shared their personal experiences where they were the only woman in the boardroom and how at times, they felt pressured to diminish their natural womanly behaviors.

Given the stories shared and lessons learned, “Don’t Let Ego Get in the Way” also served as the introduction to the theme of authenticity we would visit several times throughout the remainder of the day.

The first resurgence was in the single breakout session offered: “The Secret Sauce – Sponsorship in Motorsports.” This session undeniably was the most-attended of the breakout sessions of the two days – and how could it not have been? As mentioned, motorsports is a BUSINESS! This session was dedicated to educate teams and drivers to bring in the money!

Authenticity was mentioned as an ingredient of the “secret sauce” by every member of this panel. Aligning your brand with the right sponsor will lead to long-standing relationships with both your sponsor and fan markets.

The second key unanimous ingredient was a clear understanding of what the sponsor is looking to achieve and how to align your (as a driver or member of the team) own goals with them.

The final appearance of the importance of staying authentic was in the closing keynote presentation, CHAMPION Change led by Carlette Patterson of Patterson Sports Ventures. This was truly the perfect way to close this summit as we received a final reminder to own our authentic stories.

WE, members of this incredible and impassioned community, are driving the change this industry and ultimately society needs when it comes to diminishing inequality. WE therefore must never lose sight of what our individual motivators are and must allow them to drive the decisions we make while on our paths.

With that being said, I am confident that despite the diversity in the attendees’ backgrounds, we all are on a path that leads to Indianapolis in 2024 – for the Women in Drive IV Summit! Following the very exciting passing of the torch from Cindy Sisson and Lyn St. James to the team at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, we closed with a simple but powerful request from Beth Paretta:

Leave the door open and ladder down.”

Sprint Round!

Most surprising moment?

Data collection and interpretation is invaluable in this industry. Whether its technical data related to the performance of the car, or from fan engagement with a particular activation – the results can optimize driver/team/company performance.

Most unexpected learning that will stick forever?

That women’s sports don’t have the luxury of having casual fans. Fans of female athletes and their sports must be intentionally seeking them out. Therefore, to attract fans, the sports, and the people behind them have to be even more intentional when targeting them.

Most reassuring moment that you are in the right industry, doing the right work?

Upon returning from the day’s breakout session, I had the opportunity to walk back to The Barn with Mazda Motorsports driver Heather Hadley. We had a wonderful conversation about her career, accomplishments, and goals. Her vision for her future, and the sport’s future, was the reminder of why I’m so passionate about being an advocate for gender equality in motorsports. It was a reminder of why I want to transition back to this field and be the storyteller for athletes like her.

Our conversation was less than 10 minutes in length, but, she and all the other drivers present in attendance this week, gave me an immeasurable amount of inspiration.

Biggest takeaway from Day 2?

I’m going to cheat on this one, and give you two responses:

The first takeaway is returning to the importance of data. Data shows that women would engage more with motorsports attend more races and invest more with the sport if there were more female drivers. To achieve that, women need to be funded equally to compete and have an equal presence.

The second being the difference between persistence and tenacity, is that tenacity is persistence with changing your tactics along the way. Tenacity is being strategic while acknowledging what worked versus what didn’t in a previous attempt. This mentality resonates with me as at this point of my professional journey, and desire to return to the motorsports industry, I want to be strategic with what opportunities I pursue and how I pursue them.

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