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  • Writer's pictureShanna Lutgert

Women Demand F1 Accelerates Change: “F1 Is Still Not Doing Enough for Women”

In the world of Formula 1, efforts to include more women are gaining traction, but barriers persist, despite initiatives to boost female representation both on track and behind the scenes. As the sport strives for greater diversity, questions remain about whether current efforts are enough to level the playing field.

Women aspiring to be in F1 © Mercedes AMG F1

Since 2017, Formula 1 aims at speeding up the process of bringing more women into motorsports and opening the opportunities for them to find a job, or a chance to show how well they can race. Formula 1 has come up with a lot of initiatives to stimulate women to develop their skills and talent regarding various positions in this elite sport. These initiatives include scholarships and internships, all-female racing categories, grassroot initiatives and educational outreach programs.


The progress, however, is too slow. The report by Formula 1 about 2023/24 revealed that nowadays 37% of the personnel permanently employed are women, which was 28% in 2017. They want to reach 50% by 2025, but when looking at an increase of only 9% in 7 years, women wonder how Formula 1 can achieve that. “The progress that has been made is fantastic, for sure,” acknowledges Abbey Friedman (24), who aspires to work in social media for a Formula 1 team one day.


Despite some remarkable improvements, women remain underrepresented in Formula 1. Abbey thinks there is always more to be done regarding inclusion, especially regarding women, because “due to the immense lack of resources, it’s hard to get a foot in the door,” she says. Formula 1’s efforts to provide these resources are currently not enough.

A timeline of female participation in the F1 working environment © The Groninger


Abbey thinks it’s a problem that women get “creative or office positions due to the stereotype of not knowing what to do in a garage”. In 2023, women made up 13% of the technical work force of Mercedes, and only 6% of Red Bull Racing. These are two of the sport’s leading teams, who have the platform and recourses to bring more women to these positions in Formula 1.


Currently, there are no women in management, team principal, or racing driver positions, which negatively impacts the female fanbase by highlighting their underrepresentation in F1. A report by the inclusion and diversity project More Than Equal shows that in 2023, 40% of Formula 1 fans are female, compared to only 7% in 2017.


This increase has led to more female influencers creating content about motorsports online, and to them being given a platform by F1. Abbey suggests they might create the wrong image about female Formula 1 fans, such as “women only watch F1 because some drivers are good looking.” “I do wish F1 would invest more in people with an actual interest rather than influencers who are looking for clout,” she says.


F1 creates stereotypes: “And men are simply the issue”


Failing to acknowledge talented women and giving them stereotypical positions, can have further consequences, she implicates. This way, it might take longer for men to take women seriously. “Sometimes I have the feeling that they bring women into motorsports because they are women, not because they are talented,” says Julia van Drie (22), who would like to work in Formula 1 in the future as well.


Julia experienced a setback two years ago when she tried to enter Formula 1 for a position in marketing, social media and PR. “I never got through the first selection for some internships and student placements. I was rejected by Red Bull, McLaren, Mercedes and Williams,” she explains. The quick rejections and lack of entry level positions make it harder for women to get a job in Formula 1.


She thinks the high commands and elite standards of motorsports, even for student placements, also discourage a lot of women to pursue their dreams. “I still think Formula 1 is not doing enough to make the sport friendlier for women,” Julia continues.


At the same time, she wouldn’t know what to do about it. “It has always been a men’s world. I would like to see more women, but I don’t know how a project or initiative by Formula 1 would change that. Men are simply still the issue.”


Results of a poll where the question was asked: What do women in motorsports or trying to get into motorsports still struggle with?

According to a poll conducted by The Groninger, 24.3% of 103 participants echo Julia’s opinion that Formula 1 remains a male-dominated world. Women who want to enter must deal with the stereotypes those men have created about women. 33.9% of 103 participants revealed that sexism and misogyny discourage them to pursue ambitions in motorsports.


All-Female championship F1 Academy


Julia thinks it’s not only discouraging to not see any women working for motorsports team, but it’s also sad that there are barely women who get the opportunity to race. The More Than Equal project revealed that the participation percentage of women who race in all categories of motorsports is currently 7-13%. In the higher levels, women represent only 4%.


Formula 1 has taken steps to increase this number over the past year by founding F1 Academy. It is an all-female championship that aims to provide young women with the training, experience and exposure needed to progress through the ranks of motorsport.

To improve inclusivity and diversity, each of the ten Formula 1 teams support one of the girls in F1 Academy to stimulate their careers on and off track.


High costs limits many girls


Through initiatives, like Girls On Track, More Than Equal and F1 Academy, Formula 1 strives to find the next female Formula 1 driver. “There are some organizations that give women opportunities, but I still think things aren’t completely fair. They pick the people who can pay the most money anyway,” says Isabella Kezele (17).


Isabella races in the Iame Series Benelux and the Iame Euro Series, which are two high-level karting championships. She aspires to make the step to single-seaters. “But that’s very hard, because it costs a lot of money.” 


Racing in karting championships can already cost over 50.000 euro’s a year, and the Formula championships can cost from 100.000 euro’s up to 2 to 3 million a year depending on which team a driver races for and at which level. Many young girls lack the financial support.

What are "Formula"? What are the different levels in motorsport? Click on the video below to find out.


“It makes you wonder: can you even be there as a woman?”


The fact that boys often do get more chances to show their talent, puts an emphasis on the work that needs to be done, on and off track. “It’s all so male-dominated,” Julia sighs. “I really think women should work in motorsports teams, in all departments, and they should show that more, for example on social media.”


It annoys Julia that men are always in the picture. “It makes you wonder: can you even be there as a woman? It’s discouraging, also when you look at who gets opportunities, who gets to do internships. You think: it's again a guy. It’s as if women aren’t good enough to work in the sport.”


Men can’t hold women back: “It motivates me to do better”


Formula 1 is currently aiming to inspire and engage young women with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), which are crucial for motorsport engineering and management. Five leading universities in the UK and Italy offered the Formula 1 engineering scholarschip, which was first announced in 2021.


Young women learning about F1 at scholarship and learning days © Lionel NG 2018

The programme has been extended until 2025 and supports 50 students in total. But 50 students are nearly not enough. “They have to look for beneficial roles women thrive in,” says Abbey. “Then investigate those roles in local colleges and trade schools. I know that more and more girls enroll in my local automotive programs!”


Isabelle agrees that a lot of women deserve a place in this male-dominated world. “But unfortunately, as a woman, I know you have to prove yourself a lot more than a man,” she says. Isabelle turns these difficulties she faces daily into fuel. “Of course, there will be stupid comments like ‘women can’t race’. This only motivates me to do better and show that women belong here.”


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