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  • Writer's pictureEmily Sharp

"If I Can See Her, I Can Be Her" - Day 1 at Women with Drive III - Driven by Mobil 1

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

“If I can see her, I can be her,” were the words spoken a mere 15 minutes into Day 1’s opening remarks at the Women With Drive III Summit: Driven by Mobil 1, and 16 minutes later I was fighting off a lump in my throat and teary eyes threatening to make an appearance. It was a simple universal statement that reminded all 467 attendees why we all traveled to Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona for the next two days.

Note to the reader: “How to say ‘Badass’ in French” and “I’m tired of being too nice” were nearly the titles of this blog as both were as relatable and powerful but required a bit more context. Which I will now provide!

Following a welcome that reassured us all that we were about to embark on an impactful experience together, Women in Motorsports North America Co-Founder Lyn St. James led a conversation with NASCAR President and CEO Steve Phelps and Jill Gregory of the Gregory Strategy Group that touched on the diversity and inclusion journey NASCAR has committed to continue. Highlights from this Fireside Chat included the reoccurring theme that women need to stop dampening their inner badass and the need to end the label of a “great female leader” rather than her just being a great leader.

I found myself looking around the room frequently during Phelps and Gregory’s (previously EVP and Chief Marketing and Content Officer at NASCAR) remarks. The collective reaction, including my own, seemed to be relief that this organization (who historically has had significant opportunities to build a more inclusive community) is prioritizing adapting to change. Along with a sense of motivation to go back to our own channels and lead as an equally intentional effort.

Next on The Barn Brewed by Busch Light’s mainstage was back-to-back panel discussions featuring Ryan B. Allen of Mobil 1, Racer and Leader of Shift Up Now Pippa Man, and IMSA’s John Doonan and many more. The conversations reminded us that role models are critically needed for the livelihood of the presence of women in this industry. However, we all must develop a backbone of steel, full of grit and determination NOW to become role models for the future generations.

Role models are those who have simply been around the longest with the most visible impacts.

A brief break allowed time to network before of our first keynote speaker – Stephanie Pilamauna, Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer (or self-described as the Chief “Disruption” Officer) at Seminole Hard Rock.

The second keynote hosted by Diane Parker (“The Power of Storytelling”) was presented towards the end of the day– both were highly effective and had a “TED Talk” vibe to them. As someone who considers themselves a fan and massive sharer of those videos, I enjoyed both speakers and their messages. Especially, that both incorporated the potential business implications of individuals feeling valued in the workforce.

This concept was another constant thread between the speakers and panelists throughout the first day at the summit. While we all are working towards more “W’s” (wins and women) in motorsports – the bottom line is that this is a for-profit business! Ultimately, it’s good business to create safe and welcoming environments to your market, fan, and employee bases.

Lunch once again provided the space for networking, however, the backdrop this time was set against the incredible victory lane! No matter how long you’ve worked in motorsports, this iconic area will bring out your inner fan – it truly never gets old.

We then had the amazing opportunity to breakout into smaller, specialized groups, meeting in the equally iconic garages. With my background in PR and time spent with the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, I opted for the “How to Use your Communications/Social Media to Grow the Sport” and “Why It’s Important to Highlight Women at Tracks, Venues and Events” sessions.

While these sessions especially resonated with my personal career path, the panelists and topics prepared were structured in a way that I believe all attendees walked away with the same sentiment. For example, the conversation surrounding social media had key takeaways for drivers and teams looking to grow their brand, along with sponsorships and ultimately company longevity and profit.

These sessions were a new addition in comparison to previous years. I thoroughly appreciated the open forum for audience members to pose their own questions at the end of the prepared discussion. The freeform Q&A was both another platform to educate, but also, yet another opportunity to get my face and name in front of the industry’s best.

Speaking of which, before we took our final lap back to The Barn, all of the industry’s best in attendance gathered once again in victory lane for what is sure to be one of the most impressive group photos staged at Phoenix Raceway (shoutout to my photo neighbors here – the ladies from the Arrow McLaren IndyCar Team. I hope the rest the summit and the year ahead is as bright as your orange attire!).

The night concluded with a showcase of the incredible work being done by WIMNA, leaving myself and peers inspired and humbled for the hard work still to come.

Sprint Round!

Most surprising moment?

The global reach that Motorsports in North America and therefore women in the North American market, have globally. This goes vice versa as well – Formula 1, and Netflix’s Drive to Survive was a popular point of discussion throughout the day. I’m excited to see what is in store for WIMNA and F1 fans in the coming years.

Most unexpected learning that will stick forever?

Cars have a way to connect with people that no other inanimate object can.

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

Cindy Sisson’s interaction with a young woman who realized her dream to work in motorsports is ACHIEVABLE thanks to WIMNA’s work.

Biggest takeaway from Day 1?

There’s no book on how to have a successful career in motorsports. You have to create and follow your own path. Be resilient and don’t fear not knowing exactly where you are going. Just try to stick within the navigational beacons.

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