“Do you feel any added pressure of being a woman in a male-dominated sport?”
This was the question a student from Detroit International Academy for Young Women (DIA) asked professional race car driver Christina Nielsen. I raised my eyebrows and nodded my head at the young lady’s question because it is something I have also personally experienced. Just thinking back to when I used to play sports in high school and participate in Army JROTC, I remember dealing with a lot of sexism from my male peers and sometimes even male teachers.
I was visiting DIA on Wednesday, March 1, for a special school assembly for the students. I was invited to the academy to learn more about a surprise event Comerica Bank and Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix had planned for the young women. Comerica Bank and Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix surprised the students with an invitation to attend a field trip, hosted by Christina, to the Grand Prix on June 1st.
Back to the student’s question.
It was a very good question to ask the championship race car driver because it’s true. Motorsports is a male-dominated sport. With Christina’s experience in the industry, she was able to share with the students her thoughts on women succeeding in activities and careers in which men are known to be the majority.
Winning two consecutive IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship titles in the GT Daytona class for Scuderia Corsa Ferrari, Christina is the first woman to win a major full-season professional sports championship in North America. She also recently completed her bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Management Communication.
Christina replied to the student’s question by sharing her experience of boys ridiculing her for wanting to participate in a male-dominated sport. She used her life experiences to encourage the students to not let anyone discourage them from reaching their goals in life.
Monica Martinez, Comerica Bank’s Senior Vice President of External Affairs, was also in attendance at the event. She shared with the students her experience working in the finance industry. It was a great learning opportunity for the young ladies of DIA to meet two successful women who shared their experiences in what are considered to be male-dominated career fields.
Encouraging Young Women to Achieve Their Goals
“How many times have you had a man or a boy tell you there’s something you couldn’t do?” Christina asked the students. Quite a few girls raised their hands while others nodded their heads.
One student shared some of her peers tried to discourage her from participating in karate because they believe she is “too fragile”. Christina then asked the student, “How did that make you feel?”
The young lady replied, “It made me feel like even though they’re saying I can’t do it, I can still do it.”
“Good,” Christina told her, “that’s exactly the reaction you should have. Good on you!”
Christina explained to the students that just because they are young women, it doesn’t mean they can’t achieve their goals and participate in certain activities, like martial arts or motorsports.
Using the example of the Always campaign “#LikeAGirl”, Christina told the students:
“When you say to do something ‘like a girl’ – you throw like a girl. You run like a girl. You drive like a girl. – it actually means you’re telling them to do something bad because you do it like a girl.”
Christina went on to ask the young women if someone is successful does it make the person “more of a boy or a man because you do well at it? I don’t think so. I think you can be good at it and be women.” The students then clapped their hands in agreement.
The Pink Panthers Robotic Team
After the Q&A with Christina, the DIA’s Pink Panther robotics team presented a demonstration of their robot creation they named “Ms. Packwoman”. Members of the team explained to the audience what their latest project is and all of the cool features Ms. Packwoman has to offer.
I’ve seen quite a few robotics teams from when Elijah did robotics club a few times in junior high and his early high school years. We’ve attended a couple of robotics competitions, too, and he always had a great time. But I gotta say, I haven’t seen an all-female robotics team before. I was very impressed and happy to see The Pink Panthers robotics team at the academy.
I was even more excited about it because Michala got to see The Pink Panthers, too. Seeing teenagers her age interested in STEM education will have a great impact on Michala because she, too, loves learning about Math. It’s empowering to see more young women interested in the fields of math and science!
Michala and I had a great time at Detroit International Academy for Young Women! We enjoyed the assembly and meeting championship race car driver Christina Nielsen. Now that I think about it, that was our first time meeting a female race car driver! That makes the experience even more special. 🙂
And even though Michala is a homeschooler, attending the assembly was a great learning experience for her because she got to learn a little bit about motorsports and get a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to run a media event! (She always loves attending events with me.)
Christina Nielsen’s Official Website
Feature image courtesy of Franco PR