Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 114: Women In Motorsport Conference Special - Challenges And Opportunities Facing Women In Racing

The latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast is something special. Friend of the show and Israeli TV MotoGP expert Tammy Gorali was at the first ever Women In Motorsports conference, organized by the FIM and the FIA, and there, she gathered a fascinating and diverse group of women to talk about how they view motorcycle racing, their role in it, and the challenges they face and the opportunities they see in racing.

Tammy had journalist and former team manager and PR officer Vanessa Guerra, FIM Women in Motorcycling Commission Director and former snowmobile racer Nita Korhonen, MotoAmerica racer Shelina Moreda, and MotoE and WorldSSP racer Maria Herrera on the show to give their perspective on both the conference and racing.

It produced some fascinating insights. Nita Korhonen talked about the paradox of being in a job for which the objective is to make it unnecessary. Vanessa Guerra talks about the difficulty of running a team as a woman. Both Shelina Moreda and Maria Herrera had interesting points to make about the physical challenges presented by racing motorcycles as a woman: smaller hands making operating clutch levers designed for male hands more difficult, positioning footpegs and bars correctly being more difficult on a production bike rather than a prototype, such as a MotoGP or Moto2 bike, and how leathers manufacturers are failing to produce leathers which fit the female anatomy properly.

It was a great conversation, above all about their passion for motorcycle racing. All five women talked about how deeply they are committed to motorsports, and how they want to share that passion with other women, as well as men. They talk about the opportunities presented by this first Women in Motorsports conference, but also about the shortcomings, and what could be done to improve things.

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Excellent. Refreshing.

I long for the day that a woman stuffs it up the inside of Marquez at the last corner on the last lap as he gets all loose desperately trying to hold onto the lead. Thirty years ago Lynn Hill was widely regarded as both one of the best female rock climbers and one of the best rock climbers in the world. She got the first free ascent of The Nose route on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park - a world class route. This in a sport dominated by men. I have no doubt that women can compete equally in GP with men. 

Women have even more challenges than men to ascend to the top step in GP. With some motorsport stars the dream begins in the imagination of the parent before the child is aware of the dream or motorsports. Sometimes the dream begins even before the child is born. And I believe that we can safely assume that it's the father's dream. Not many, if any, mothers dream of a child being a motorsport star. In fact it is probably the collective mother's nightmare. The father not only supports, but even pushes the dream onto the child. How many fathers dream of their daughters being a motorsport champ?

Another physiological challenge for women in sport, aside from what was mentioned on the podcast, is the role that testosterone plays in competitive sport. There is a direct link between higher levels of testosterone and motivation, competition and aggression. Marquez spoke that "in orger to win the war we may have to lose some battles" in the pre-race press conference. Races are often compared to battles and war. The male human body usually has 7 to 8 times as much testosterone as the woman's. This may play a factor in the "thinking instead of acting" some women experience in competition. Men may rely upon an instinctual drive to be aggressive at a certain moment that is aided by hormones. While women are busy calculating. Dovizioso has shown us recently both sides - first corner of the last lap at Mugello and the last corner of the last lap at Austria.

And yes, the leather manufacturers should accomodate for the differences in a woman's physique - breasts and wider hips. That is a no brainer.

Thanks so much for this podcast focus - fantastic as always. 

I have been following Maria Herrara's progress for quite a while, and I was just discussing her participation in the MotoE with a friend the other day. I cannot think of any other sport where a woman competes alongside men in the premiere championship. I know MotoE is early days, in a first experimental year, but it is still fantastic. (Happy to be corrected as I don't follow and incredibly wide range of sports).

My daughter likes to watch MotoGP with me, and she knows Dovi from Marquez etc, but it's always felt a shame to me that the only females she really gets to see are the archaic umbrella holders and the women who stand on the podium doing whatever it is they do. Surely time has come for this outdated use of women as 'furniture' to be retired. It doesn't do anybody justice. If you like looking at the female form, I can assure you there are an endless myriad of ways to get your fix on the internet. I reckon local kids would get a kick out of holding the umbrellas. 

I had hoped that Maria would get a beefy male model in short shorts as her umbrella stand just to show how ludicrous it is. I know there are a couple of female commentators now, but it's very much a token effort.