Guest blog by Thiemo Albers-Daly
Laura Cooledge might not be a name you’re familiar with – but you should be.
A University of East Anglia graduate and Anglia Motor Sport Club Development Officer, Laura has always had motorsport in her DNA. She’s competed in numerous rallies over the years, following in the footsteps of her family. It was this passion for motorsport along with the fact that only five per cent of current Motorsport UK license holders are female that inspired her to write her dissertation on women in motorsport. Titled “As a female in a rally car you are fair game” – it aimed to identify and assess why women are so underrepresented in motorsport.
As part of this dissertation, Laura interviewed 150 women from a range of roles and disciplines. From these interviews, some of the key points included:
- 47% of women have felt uncomfortable whilst competing, volunteering or working within the motorsport environment.
- One in four women have felt excluded from competing, volunteering or working in motorsport because of their gender.
- Women in motorsport are often exposed to sexual objectification and harassment, ranging from unwanted advances, inappropriate and derogatory comments, to physical assault.
- Negative comments are commonly displayed in response to female success.
When the dissertation was complete, Laura knew that she couldn’t stop here. So, in true racing driver style, she put her foot to the floor and got going. Together with the help of some other female role models in the East Anglican area, they formed a group to discuss how to get more women involved in motorsport while making the overall environment safer and more inclusive – not just for women, but for everyone.
“I was shocked at the findings my dissertation uncovered. Having competed myself as a rally co-driver, I knew that women were extremely underrepresented in motorsport and have experienced this first-hand with being the only female competitor at some events. What I didn’t realise, however, was just how isolated and excluded many women feel.”Laura Cooledge
Just like that, the Better Together Initiative was born. It went on to launch a social media campaign focussed on raising awareness of issues in motorsport and to make it more accessible and inclusive for everyone.
With the long-term goal of improving the inclusivity of the motorsport environment, the group hopes that with their campaign, newly developed Code of Conduct and guidance to motorsport clubs, more people will be encouraged to get involved and feel welcomed in doing so.
“From that moment on, I knew that I needed to use this insight to make a difference. So many women bravely shared their stories and experiences with me, and I feel a real responsibility to help improve the environment. Hopefully, the Better Together initiative will do exactly that.”Laura Cooledge
Since the Better Together Initiative got off the ground, there have been noticeable changes in the right direction.
Clubs have included the Better Together logo, adopted our Code of Conduct and shared video messages in their club magazines, websites and event regulations to display that their club and events are inclusive and accessible to all.
They have also contacted our the BTI to ask for feedback as to how inclusive their events are and what they can do to improve things in the future. These are all encouraging first steps that can’t help but put a smile on your face.
You might be wondering though, how big do all of these changes have to be? The answer is that in some cases, it’s the simplest of things that can have a lasting impact. For example, all events now ensure that a female toilet is provided, as this was not always the case beforehand. It’s a little mind boggling that this was an issue before but the fix for this was simple and is a great way to get the ball rolling for positive change.
The BTI is a very grassroots organization but without something like this at the bottom of the pyramid, how can we expect there to be change implemented at the higher levels of motorsport?
How can other clubs get involved in the Better Together initiative?
Any clubs wishing to get involved in the Better Together initiative would be extremely welcome to do so and can make contact with us via firstname.lastname@example.org to access our materials, ask any questions or for any guidance.
Be sure to also keep an eye on my YouTube Series, On the Kerbs, for an interview with Laura coming very soon.