Williams test driver Susie Wolff announced earlier this week that she will be leaving Formula 1 and will retire from motorsport following the Race of Champions later this month, where she will compete with ex-F1 driver and current BBC commentator David Coulthard.
The Scot, who is married to Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, stated that she believes that her aim of making it onto the F1 grid will never happen: “My goal was to get on to the starting grid and that didn’t look achievable. So I had to call it a day.”
— Susie Wolff (@Susie_Wolff) November 4, 2015
Wolff joined the Williams team in 2012, participating in four practice sessions and in doing so becoming the first female in 20 years to take part in a Grand Prix weekend. But in this season’s opening race in Melbourne it was decided that Wolff would not partake in the race despite driver Valtteri Bottas being unfit to compete.
Wolff seemed like the obvious choice so that the team could still run a car, but they chose not to. And this was clearly a huge factor in Wolff’s decision to leave the sport as a whole.
— Valtteri Bottas (@ValtteriBottas) November 4, 2015
She has also gone on to say that she believes there are no clear role models for young girls within the sport which is entirely true. Susie is the only female in the paddock, aside from Lotus reserve driver Carmen Jorda, and if young girls are watching a sport dominated by men with no women on the grid at all then what sort of inspiration is that?
Formula 1 is definitely a male dominated sport in which the idea of a woman driving on the grid still seems to be surprising; the sport is still stuck in the dark ages despite ironically being the most up to date in terms of auto technology.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) November 4, 2015
But how can we compare it to other sports? Is there a lack of female role models across the field or is Formula 1 just an example that sticks out like a sore thumb?
Calling on female role models in sports is probably pretty dependent on what sports you watch yourselves. Personally I can name the entire current British Gymnastics female team but whether people who aren’t fans of gymnastics have heard of certain names or not is entirely different.
— Team GB (@TeamGB) October 28, 2015
And it often isn’t enough just for women to be in a certain sport. For people to take notice females have to be excelling. Take Jessica Ennis Hill for example – a fantastic athlete but a lot of people didn’t really know of her presence until the Olympic Games – but of course she is an excellent role model for all athletes.
When it comes to more popular sports like football and rugby I’m personally ashamed to say that, despite never watching male or female matches, I can name only one female footballer but actually a fair few male footballers.
So this leads me to wonder if the problem is still down to society. I don’t watch football at all so why do I know the names of plenty of males and only one female? Particularly when the females showed how much better and stronger a team they are than their male counterparts at the recent World Cup in Canada.
What an absolute honour to win #SWOTY2015 a fantastic evening with so many truly amazing women!
— Jessica Ennis-Hill (@J_Ennis) November 7, 2015
It still all boils down to society and the media. Male football dominates on the television with even primetime shows such as Match of the Day only showing male matches. For young girls there is little to aspire to as we just don’t get the coverage of female matches or examples shown to us of what we could achieve.
Once a year the BBC will air the female FA Cup or the odd special game but in comparison to the mammoth amount of coverage men get, it simply isn’t enough. Women were being shown on BBC3 for a while but with the BBC facing cuts they’re opting to move the channel online. So what does this say for female football? Is it, and all the other shows aired on BBC3, considered a lesser programme and supposedly less important? And for those of us who can’t afford to, or can’t get, Sky channels then how else can we watch females on our screens?
There’s no doubt that women really are making waves in the sporting world but we need more coverage and more faces to really help younger girls want to do things like this in the future. Even if it means encouraging a girl to do her best in P.E. at school it’s worth something and it’s something we still really need to be pushing for.
What do you think of women in sport? Leave your comments below.