Lewis Hamilton said boldly last week that he would like to see more ladies in the F1 paddock - Fernando Alonso readily agreed. Two multiple World Champions with a combined 27 years in the sport realise that F1 needs more female presence. We are, after all, taking about half the population appearing to be excluded from a global sport which is still regarded as "male dominated".
As a former F1 test driver for Williams Martini Racing, I hung up my helmet at the end of 2015 - I got as far as I could in a sport which I had competed in since starting karting at the age of eight. It was time to move on to ventures new.
During my career as a professional racing driver, I only ever did one interview in which I wasn't asked about my gender. I still get so many requests to comment on why there are so few women in the sport and quite frankly, things need to change- isn't it time that actions became louder than words?
There are many women in the F1 paddock in key positions - from team principals and strategists, to TV presenters and sponsorship managers. These women are there doing brilliant work, but many of these positions are 'behind the scenes' so when you're watching a race on TV, it's presumed it's a predominantly male environment.
There are however no barriers preventing women getting on the grid. Yes, it is a very competitive environment and yes, you need talent to succeed - but that's how the pinnacle of any sport should be.
So how do we women change the situation? Last year, together with the Motor Sports Association (the governing body of UK motorsport) I founded Dare to be Different, an initiative aimed at opening up the world of motorsport to young girls and women. Our mission statement is simply 'Driving Female Talent'. We want to make role models out of the talented women at the pinnacle of the sport who have fought their way to the top with passion and dedication. We want to inspire young girls to realise that motorsport isn't "just for boys".
In terms of encouraging women to be racing drivers in particular, I believe the reason there are so few women is simply a numbers game, not lack of talent. If you have 1,000 young boys racing against 20 girls with just 22 seats on the starting grid, it's easy to see which group has the higher chance of success. By inspiring more girls and women into the sport, especially at a young age, we're evening up the playing field.
The situation isn't going to change overnight but to make change happen there has to be action. F1 has recently been taken over with new rights holders who want to increase the entertainment factor and appeal to new audiences. I am not interested in quotas or increasing female work force percentages within teams.
It's time to think bigger - the best entertainment always needs the mix of male and female - can you really host a great party with mainly just men attending? There are huge opportunities for women in motorsport, we just need to raise awareness, change perceptions and open the door to the female talent ready to take their place in the paddock.
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