When You Work For Your Passion, You Don’t Work At All

© Photos provided by Nita Korhonen unless otherwise noted

Nita Korhonen is the Commission Director of FIM Women in Motorcycling Commission. At the same time, she is also the Continental Unions and National Federations Liaison Director and Events Director at the FIM. In January, we had the opportunity to talk to Nita, and hear about how she came from a motorsport family, started in the sport as a journalist, and carved out an amazing career path for herself.

Nita with (from left to right) Mayor of Lahti Pekka Timonen, FIM President Jorge Viega, and Minister of Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Ville Skinnari, during Women in Motorsport Conference © Taneli Niinimaki

Talent has to come first!

In 2006, the Women in Motorcycling Commission was founded within the FIM, and Nita Korhonen became a member of the commission and started to work on a voluntary basis. Six years later, she was appointed the Director of Women in Motorcycling Commission and continues to hold that position today. Nita has dedicated 14 years to the commission and has championed gender equity work within motorsport on and off track. “It was actually a big surprise when they nominated me as a member (back in 2006). At that time, I wasn´t a member of the Finnish Motorcycling Federation´s board, but the board wanted to nominate me for this commission the FIM was establishing. They believed I would be able to represent all the disciplines equally since I didn´t have a specialized background of only one discipline. In the beginning, my work in the commission was regarding visibility and communications.”

“Then as a director, the main thing I wanted to change at the beginning was to open up our commission to male members. For me, it’s really important to have a mixed-gender commission to show that this is not a feminist group. We actually work together with people in the sport. Having diversity is important for a company, an organization, and our federations.

We shouldn’t just have women because they increase the diversity of the commissions. We need diversity because diversity in all the decision-making processes enables the best possible outcome.

“This year we are putting a big effort in empowering women and pushing harder to have female leaders in different roles. This is a big issue in many countries. People working as secretaries or at entry-level are often women, but when it comes to the decision-makers, the board, those positions are almost always taken by men. This should not be the case, we are pushing hard to make changes for that.

“All in all, what we’ve been doing is to show that talent should come first. It shouldn’t be because someone is a woman or a man, it should be because of different skills and different talents for different kind of people. This is what we have tried a lot to prove.”

We are all here working for what we love, chasing our dreams and passion and this should be possible for everybody.

Lack of diversity in motorsport can be seen across all capacities, but is staggeringly obvious on track among the riders. Nita, as the commission director, has put great efforts in elevating women’s championships as well as developing training camps to help more young women get on bikes, and ride in top-level competitions. “I suggested the creation of the Women’s Snowcross World Cup. This is one of the main things I was able to implement when I became director. Over the years, we work to improve the status of the women’s series. Some women-only championships are really high level series and some can also work as stepping stones for the female riders to go into higher level championships. For circuit racing, there is not as big a need for women-only series as in off-road, and for example Ana Carrasco and Maria Herrera have been competing in MotoGP and WSBK (and Ana became a World Champion in SSP300). It’s also important for us to show that women are able to compete with guys.

For off-road, even if we have women-only series, we also have the doors open in all championships for women to compete with men.

First Women’s Training Camp, Circuito de Albacete, 2013 © David Calres

“We started the women’s circuit racing training camps in 2013. Recently, it has been decided that the training camps should be part of FIM’s official activities. We have for example the MXGP Academy together with Youthstream (MX promoter) and some Trial Training Camps. We are now in the process of creating generic guidelines for training camps. We want to see if we are able to organize more camps in the future.”

Nita at Women’s Training Camp, Losail International Circuit, 2015 © Bike Promotion

A large accomplishment for Nita last year was organizing the Women in Motorsports Conference with FIA in Finland. Now, four months after the conference, its impact is being felt across the world. “The Women in Motorsports Conference is the main event we did with the FIA. After our conference last year, it was really exciting for me to see that so many parts of the world are replicating the event for their own countries and regions at the national or regional level. This kind of legacy is the best thing we can have out of this big investment. They are taking the ideas from our main conference and making it on a smaller scale. For example, in Colombia, there was a forum for women in motorcycling organized last November. In Africa, they are also planning to organize similar events. For us, to organize such a big event is so much work, it will have to be, for example, every second year. We also don’t want to do it too often. We want to have time to properly adapt the topics addressed. It will be of more value than when it’s every year. We haven’t selected the place for the next one. We would like to hold it outside of Europe.”

© Taneli Niinimaki

I only have had one passion and it was motorsport

Nita and the Women in Motorcycling Commission helped many women accelerate their careers in motorsport. Though Nita began her career as a motorsport journalist, some might say she was destined for this career having come from a motorsport family. Her father, Finnish rider Pentti Korhonen, is the 1975 350cc World Championship bronze medalist. “When I was a kid, I wanted to be a racer, I always wanted to compete. But my father had just recently retired from racing at the time. I don’t think my parents were excited when I was 4 or 5 years old and I was like ‘yeah I wanna go racing’. Road racing was so dangerous in the 70s when my father was still competing. I think my mom was still recovering from those years when my dad was racing. So I don’t think she was that eager to have her daughter competing. However, they were always supportive of everything my brother and I wanted to do. My brother and I had a moped when we were kids and we even participated in one off-road race with it, but it was just more for fun than taking it seriously. Motorsport has always been the passion, I’ve never even thought about anything else I would like to do.”

Nita’s father Pentti on the left

Nita has gone on to lead communications for many Finnish riders and teams in the World Championship, such as Mika Kallio, Kallio Racing Team and Ajo Motorsport. However, journalism was for her an unexpected entry-point into a career in motorsport. “I never wanted to be a journalist. I have been good at writing and somehow that was just the way for me to be involved in motorsport. I started to write articles and books about motorsport. Being a journalist just happened by incident. My studies have always been more general, like business, communications, and sports management (Nita has BBA in Business and Communication and Master of Sport Sciences), so it gave me a concept of different possibilities of what I can do, not only being a journalist.”

Nita participating in ATV Finnish Cup as a TV host, Imatra, 2013

In February 2019, Nita moved to Switzerland and began her full-time job at the FIM as Continental Unions and National Federations Liaison Director and Events Director. Similar to her start in motorsport journalism and communication, Nita’s FIM job offer also came as a happy surprise. “It was a big shock when I got the call. I remember it was Finland’s Independence Day (December 6, 2018) when I got the call from Jorge Viegas, the FIM President. He said that he would really like me to work at the management level of the FIM. He had already asked me earlier whether I would like to work at the FIM’s headquarters, but I didn’t think it would be a realistic thing. I didn’t know what to say when he called me. But he said he really wanted me to work over here, and I would be a good fit for FIM management because of my background in different tasks. I had experience in communication, I had a little experience in competing, I have also taken different tasks in events and been the board member and the 2nd Vice President of the Finnish Motorcycling Federation, so he thinks all these would give me the necessary skills to work here at the FIM. I didn’t really have much time to think. The press release went out like half an hour after our call. Jorge knew how I am, and I’d never say no to the opportunities. So they already published the press release before I even had time to tell all my family and my commission members. Some of them were reading that from the news.”

In her role at the FIM, Nita works with her team of three and other departments on non-sporting events as well as bringing national federations and continental unions together to solve common problems across the board. “For Events Director, I’m overseeing the non-sporting and corporate events in FIM, such as the FIM Awards Prize Giving Ceremony we had last December in Monte Carlo and Conference of Commissions which takes place in February in Geneva. The Women in Motorsport Conference also falls under us. We also take care of the special events at the headquarters.”

In the end, we are all under the same umbrella having similar problems. Even if it’s Latin America, Asia or Europe, we are facing pretty much the same problems in all the countries.

“For National Federations´ and Continental Unions´ Liaison Director, I’m basically creating the bridge between our 111 national federations and six continental unions to the FIM. We need to make sure that we get the information from them and they get the information from us. We are at all times discussing together how to improve the events in all our federations and continental unions. We don’t have enough volunteers working at the events these days. We need more women, we need more riders, we need more visibility. These are all common problems for all countries. So that’s why it’s important for us to communicate with each other and find solutions on how to improve the presence of motorcycling.

Even while working full time at the FIM in Switzerland, Nita still leverages her skills in media and communication to help her friends from Finland. For example, she has pitched in her support for the newly opened KymiRing, the first and only circuit in the Nordic countries that meets the FIA Grade 1 license, and will be hosting the Finnish motorcycle Grand Prix starting this year in July. “If they need anything, for sure I’m here to help them and support them. It’s important for us all to work as a team to promote the first Finnish GP. I’m working on things in the background, trying to help them as much as I can. Same with Mika Kallio who is a friend of mine and whose communication I have been doing every now and then when I have had time, I’m here to help always. Although I don’t have that much time anymore, so it’s not like I’m able to do it every day or every week.”

Nita at KymiRing during MotoGP’s official test at the circuit, August 2019 © Aleksi Halen

Be passionate, and empower others

While pursuing her master’s degree in Sports Science, Nita interviewed over 50 World Champions in the motorsport world (she has also continued her research to have now interviewed over 70 World Champions) and published her research into a book, Voittamattomat (Invincibles). She has also written, for example, a biography for four-time WRC World Champion Juha Kankkunen. Being a successful journalist and award-winning author herself, Nita’s achievements are nothing short of impressive. What she and the champions shared in their career is their sheer passion for motorsport. “Passion is definitely key to the success whether you are a rider or here working at the offices. No matter what you do you have to be passionate about it. You have to be able to work hard and achieve things. If you like what you do, then it’s easier to do it well. So I think this is the main thing I got from the champions. If you want to achieve something in life you have to ask a lot from yourself. And I think this has been for me as well always. There is no point in doing the things if you don’t have the time and will to do it well. We want others to benefit from our jobs. For example, for me, being the commission director for Women in Motorcycling Commission, and now Liaison Director, I’m helping others to meet their goals. It’s the same for being a journalist, even though it wasn’t like a dream job for me, I know I need to give visibility to the riders and it is very important for them. In the end, it always comes to helping people and getting more opportunities for them. This has been the main thing for me that also drives me to do a better job.”

Nita with Dorna Communication Director Ignacio Sagnier and Juha Kankkunen’s biography she wrote © Ignacio Sagnier

I don’t want to prove to people that as a woman I can do my work well. I’m not working hard to show the guys that I know my things. I have always been like this. For me, it’s important to do my work well, and do it with full power.

Nita juggles a full-time job, her role at the commission, and continues to make great strides in developing the Finnish motorsport scene. How does she manage to stay on top of everything? “I come from an entrepreneurs’ family, so I always have my parents for entrepreneurial references. Basically, you work 24/7. But at the same time, when you work on something that’s your passion, you don’t work at all. For this job, you don’t work 8 to 4, it doesn’t work like that in motorsport. Racing activities happen during the weekends, outside the office hours. But on the other hand, I would watch MotoGP or other races anyway and go to the events even if I’m not working there. My jobs also support each other, so it’s easier to have the hours and do everything. For me, it’s important to make sure that even if I have many tasks I can still take care of everything. We were also discussing whether we should have a new Director for the Women in Motorcycling Commission now that I have the new roles at the headquarters. We decided I would try to do both for one year and see how it goes. But because everything is supporting each other, it’s actually been even easier for me to be the commission director now that I’m based here at the headquarters. It’s easier for me to work face to face with my coordinator Anne-Laure Rey. So perhaps I will still continue as a director for a little while.”

Nita riding at Rijeka Circuit for the 40th anniversity celebration of her father’s win at the Yugoslavian GP in 1975

Though Nita wasn’t able to pursue her first dream as a racing rider, she has gone on to become a leisure rider, compete as a guest rider, train in training camps and ride in celebratory events at professional circuits. She has kept the racing dream alive for many women in the motorcycling world. We hope that Nita’s efforts towards promoting diversity in motorsport will inspire young girls to follow their dreams and carve their own path in motorsport.

© Peter Ziegler

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