Spreading the Women’s Initiative

The Mazda Motorsports-supported Women’s Initiative Luncheon at the SCCA Solo National Championships inspired attendees to generate and spread ideas about attracting women to autocross

The Women’s Initiative Luncheon, supported by Mazda Motorsports, at the 2017 SCCA Tire Rack Solo National Championships was a big deal. As the number of entrants in the Ladies classes in SCCA autocross has dwindled, those who love the sport and what it has to offer have been seeking solutions to attract more women. One of those solution seekers is Linda Duncan, who has spearheaded much of the Women’s Initiative.

Duncan and Velma Boreen sat down with Mazda Motorsports Business Development Manager David Cook at the SCCA National Convention to identify some difficulties with attracting women to autocross competition and discuss possible solutions.

“We talked about it, and David asked, ‘Where do you see this taking you?’” says Duncan. “I wanted to see that more women enjoy the sport, that more women enjoy their cars. I have three Mazdas, and I told him I love this car, it’s easy to drive, almost anybody can get in that car and drive it decently. It takes a little more effort to drive it extremely well. That’s like anything in Solo, you have to be extremely precise. That’s the piece we’re trying to get the mentoring for.”

Duncan notes that there are several things that separate women from men when it comes to autocross. “Ladies feel differently about racing than guys,” she explains. “Guys don’t care, they just get out there and flog their cars; ladies think about it a little bit more than we should. We worry about people watching us. We’re multitaskers, not seriously focused when we go up to the line. We have to teach ourselves to do that. Ladies need mentoring from other ladies.”

One thing that the SCCA national office did was to create Ladies Index classes at Championship Tour Solo events, which was an immediate hit. One of the big components of that is now all the ladies are running in the same heat. But that was about all the national SCCA office could do – if real change was going to be effected, it had to come in the individual SCCA regions.

“We decided we’d let the regions know that this was an option for them,” Duncan explains. “Then we decided to do the Ladies Luncheon, because it’s been five years since we did the awareness luncheon. We decided that this time, instead of just making people aware that we have a problem, we would give them something they could take back to the regions – a product or a plan. We’ve already had quite a few people contacting me or the other ladies on the team. That’s been a nice plus from the luncheon – we have regions that want to try and form a plan.”

While the 2017 Solo National Championships is still very fresh, discussion is already underway about how to keep the initiative moving and what might happen in during the national championship in 2018. The best result is that the initiative is spreading, which greatly pleases Duncan

“I found a lot of women who wanted to do something but didn’t know where to start,” she says. “So by seeing the stuff that we brainstormed, what regions were doing, and what regions would like to do…we posted those brainstorming ideas and the ladies were taking pictures with their phones and taking it back to their regions immediately. Quite a few ladies wanted to head up regional programs. That pleased me, too, because we’re not seeing a lot of women in leadership – not as much as we used to have. It’s a whole culture change, because women have fallen out of the sport and a new group is coming in and they’re not seeing women as leaders, so they don’t think that’s a possibility for them. They do now.”