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Aurora StrausMay 29, 2024 at 10:00 AM7 min read

From a Moment to a Movement: Reflecting on “Women With Drive” at Miami F1

From a Moment to a Movement: Reflecting on “Women With Drive” at Miami F1

More women than ever are becoming race car drivers. How can we help them win?


DF9_7903Source: Parity

A year before my first pro race, I anxiously approached Lyn St. James with a copy of her autobiography. I annotated the pages, dreaming of obtaining corporate sponsorships and surviving terrifying crashes. Ten years later, I had the privilege of hearing Lyn speak at a Women With Drive event at the Miami Grand Prix, presented by RBC Wealth Management. Ten years ago, I could’ve counted all active female racers on one hand. Today, I can only name a fraction of them. How did we get here?  And more importantly, where do we go from here?


The Moment


For 100 years, we had “moments” – fleeting sparks of potential for individual women, most of whom made history. In 1901, Camille du Gast became the first woman to compete in an international race, the Paris-Berlin rally. She finished 33rd out of 122 participants, despite facing sabotage from her male rivals. Many others made their mark — among them, Hellé Nice, the first woman to win a Grand Prix in 1931; Michèle Mouton, the first woman to win a World Rally Championship in 1981; Lyn St. James, the first woman to win Rookie of the Year at the Indianapolis 500 in 1992, at 45 years old. Danica Patrick became the first woman to win an IndyCar race in 2008. 


I memorized and carried these moments with me during my first race, first win, and first history-making moment. These women fought against lack of funding, blatant misogyny, and insufficient mentorship so I could race.



On the other hand, these moments served as a warning. How could it be that women have competed — and won — since motorsports’ inception, yet continue to be seen as novelties? To change this, women needed more than moments — we needed opportunities, support, and recognition. We needed a movement.


The Movement


LN9_0871Source: Aurora Straus

I was audibly shocked when Lyn referred to me as a “veteran,” but when I compare my journey in motorsports with today, they feel like different worlds. During my racing school, I had a male instructor excuse my “slow learning” — as a girl, I would never be aggressive enough. I was groped during fan walks, told to dress sexier as a teenager to lure sponsors, and ignored during my own sponsorship meetings. 

But the 2010s also marked a more positive turning point for women in motorsports. Lyn called this era the "movement" — a time when women called out this behavior, when companies became more interested in sponsoring women, and when we created our own programs for the next generation of girls. 

Companies began sponsoring history-making efforts like the Richard Mille Racing Team and the IMSA Caterpillar Car. I started Girls With Drive, a program that educates girls about future careers in motorsport; Christina Nielsen and Mariana Small founded Accelerating Change, which runs women’s only track days; Lynn Kehoe, Pippa Mann, Shea Holbrook, and Erin Vogel started Shift Up Now, which mentors and funds female drivers. I firmly believe that without these programs, we would not be experiencing today’s cultural renaissance. 

Ironically, the burgeoning interest in investing in women became a revolving door. On one hand, talented women were pitted against one another for limited sponsorship dollars (I was once accidentally copied on an email from a publicist to a manufacturer, explaining why they should work with another female driver over me). On the other hand, promising female racers were pushed by sponsors into competitions they were not ready for, to capitalize on their novelty. The racing industry demands top performance constantly — lagging even a few tenths of a second behind can end a career. However, rejecting such offers carries its own risks. I experienced this personally as a 19-year-old, when I had a successful debut GT4 season in North America and was suddenly asked to drive a prototype in a global racing series. I have heard and witnessed similar stories from others. These opportunities can hinder careers before they even start, generating an undeserved negative narrative about female drivers’ abilities.


Photo Mar 16 2022, 2 49 05 PMSource: Aurora Straus


The Mainstream


We are living in an exciting, opportunistic, and confusing time for women in motorsports. Motorsport’s female fanbase has exploded in recent years, largely thanks to Drive to Survive, which dramatized and democratized a historically rich, male sport. In turn, female-focused companies like E.L.F. and Charlotte Tillbury are sponsoring racecars for the first time. (As someone who has been explicitly pitted against other female drivers, the emergence of female-focused brands providing net-new sponsorship opportunities for women is revolutionary.) The W-Series, which I was publicly skeptical about at its inception, ran for multiple seasons before collapsing due to lack of funding. And F1 recently launched F1 Academy, an all-female single-seater racing series, to promote and support women in motorsports.


Lyn described this last week as the beginning of “mainstream” — an era where women are no longer “female drivers,” but are just “drivers.”



As someone who dreamed about this moment, I’m thrilled. But we have much more work to do. F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali recently expressed his doubt about a woman competing in F1 within 5 years. This is an unpopular opinion, but I agree. Here’s three things I think we should differentially focus on to create lasting change:


1: Continue the momentum. My doubts about an all-female racing series notwithstanding, I appreciate F1 Academy for highlighting talented girls who might otherwise be overlooked. As someone who looked up to female racers, I know that many young girls are inspired by them and are now considering future careers in motorsport. Not all of them will make it to F1 – in fact, nearly all won’t – but many of them will participate in different forms of racing that are equally important for evolving the sport.


2: Fund young girls. As Meredith Chopka mentioned in the session, research led by RBC Wealth Management, in partnership with Wasserman and The Collective, The New Economy of Sports, shows that, on average, professional men athletes earn 21 times more than professional women athletes. Most successful drivers are scouted and supported under the age of 10.  Until we replicate this same process for young girls, we will not fix the “pipeline” problem. (Shameless plug — this problem exists with other careers in motorsport, often more so than driving. Girls With Drive confronts these deficiencies by introducing girls to careers in team management, sponsorship, and engineering.)


MK5_4394Source: Aurora Straus


3: Allow them to fail. F1 Academy has slower cars and less competition than the series in which many of these girls will ultimately race. They are statistically likely to have less track time than their peers. Give them time to fail, and resist the urge to give up on them too soon. Invest in multi-year contracts with female drivers, and place them in environments and series suited best to develop them.



I met more female drivers at the Miami Grand Prix than I met during my entire first decade of racing. If we play the next 5 years right, the next generation of motorsports fans won’t even notice the difference. 



About Parity

Minority-founded in 2020, Parity's mission is to close the gender income and opportunity gap in professional sports. By developing high-impact collaborations between brands, professional women athletes and their fans, Parity has proudly put more than $3.5 million in the pockets of women athletes, attracting dozens of brands to the movement in the process. The platform offers connections to more than 1000 women athletes from 80+ sports, including well over 200 Olympians and Paralympians. For more information on how to tap into the rapidly rising influence and popularity of women athletes, visit or follow us on InstagramLinkedInFacebookX (formerly Twitter) and Threads


About RBC Wealth Management – U.S.
Founded in 1909, RBC Wealth Management delivers trusted advice and world-class wealth solutions to individuals, families and institutions. A subsidiary of Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), it is one of the largest full-service wealth management firms in the U.S., supporting the complex needs of high-net-worth and institutional clients by providing access to private banking, credit, investment management, asset management and other services. In the United States, RBC Wealth Management has $570 billion in total client assets with more than 2,100 financial advisors operating from 190 locations in 42 states. RBC Wealth Management, a division of RBC Capital Markets, LLC, registered investment adviser and Member NYSE/FINRA/SIPC. Learn more at


Aurora Straus

Aurora Straus, a Harvard graduate with a degree in History and Government, is a professional racer for Richard Mille Racing. Starting her driving journey at 13, she quickly ascended to professional racing by 16. Beyond the track, Aurora founded 'Girls with Drive,' inspiring young girls to explore male-dominated careers. Currently competing in the Radical Cup North America, she also leverages her sharp insights as an Associate Consultant at Bain & Company, blending high-speed competition with impactful advocacy.