I know, by the title of this you are probably thinking “another feminist rant about the world and how men are bad”. That is not what this is about, this is about providing a small insight about what it’s like to be a woman in the motorsport community. Before I even got to my first rally I nearly walked away from the sport. My first contact with motorsport was going to a race store to purchase a race suit. When asking for a suit and talking to the sales person about what I was doing the salesperson boasted about his previous motorsport experience, before telling me: “A pretty young woman like myself” should “not do something so dangerous, and physically demanding, my boyfriend should just ask his friend” (There was no boyfriend).

Ellie Yates with driver Scott Simmonds at the Rally of the Bay in 2015.

I was shocked to hear this coming from someone’s mouth who was apparently so involved in this community I had looked at from the outside for years, and I walked out of the store questioning what community I was getting myself into and that it looked like equality was still a while away for motorsport. The good news is I went to my first rally, and I have now been part of the family for years now. Never as a women walking into a male dominated field have I felt so welcome by the competitors, officials and volunteers, with the community going out of their way to make sure I felt welcome and ensure that I didn’t feel isolated in the slightest. My perceptions were squashed and I started understanding that women in motorsport was normal and expected. That was until I took my passion outside of the rally family and started talking to people outside of the motorsport bubble. Men consistently asked me if my husband (non-existent) was involved, or if I got “all the guys”.

There's an increasing number of women involved in rallying in Australia. Photo: Rally Chicks

Purchasing race tyres comes with the joys of having to explain that being a woman did not mean I was restricted from racing, and that I did not need a man to make it all happen. Going on dates with men, they are shocked to hear about the fact that I would do this, and would label me as some form of rev-head bogan who loves Summernats. While there are still barriers imposed by motorsport for women in smaller areas, such as bathroom breaks becoming an art for rally girls, and the fact of finding something that accommodates a women’s body can be a small feat at times, the barriers many women find coming into the sport comes from the outside. How do we change this? Simple! Men – don’t make the assumption a woman is buying something or is at the event for her husband. Instead, ask if it genuinely affects you, and if you see it happen, call it out. Women – keep competing and showing the general community we are here in all roles, and we are strong and that we are fierce!
  • Story: Ellie Yates
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