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SBD Global/May 10, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Sign Of The Times: Formula 1 Increasing Female Presence In Male-Dominated Sport

Williams F1 team employs 30-year-old driver Susie Wolff.
F1, for decades "stuck in a '70s Playboy time warp, is waking up to sexual equality," according to Sathnam Sanghera of the LONDON TIMES. For the first time in the sport's 63-year history, there is a team "with a female principal" -- Sauber's Monisha Kaltenborn. At the Bahrain Grand Prix two weeks ago, Red Bull sent head of trackside electronics Gill Jones "to collect their constructors' trophy." And Williams, one of Britain's most successful F1 outfits, "not only employs" the 30-year-old Susie Wolff as its development driver, but "recently appointed" 36-year-old Claire Williams, daughter of founder Frank Williams, "as deputy team principal." Wolff said, "Things are definitely changing." She acknowledged that change is coming from a low base, with only five women having entered an F1 race, against more than 800 men, but added, "There is a sense of expectation, and as soon as you get that pressure, things happen." If you are wondering what is (excuse the pun) "driving this belated revolution apart from drivers like Wolff, and the U.S. IndyCar and Nascar driver Danica Patrick," there is a clue to be found behind Wolff's high, starched collar. Wolff: "I was at a football game and a physio came up to me to ask what sport I did. He had never seen a woman with such a big neck." She strokes the side of a neck that has grown "as a result of fighting g-forces during races." Wolff: "If you grab a boy and girl from the street, the boy will be better at racing. Women have 30 percent less muscle than men. But with practice, training, women can become as good. I wouldn't do it otherwise." The belated acceptance that women "are up to the job physically" has come with another realization: motor racing seems to have realized that excluding half the world's population "is not the most commercially savvy thing to do." Claire Williams said, "I don't want to discuss it because I don't want to give other teams ideas. How many female brands do we have in F1? We are leveraging that possibility. We need to remember that 40 percent of our audience is female" (LONDON TIMES, 5/9).
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