Susie Wolff is truly inspiring and unique as one of the only women to ever compete in Formula 1 - she is a living example that it is passion and drive that defines us and not gender. Breaking through traditional constraints, Susie continued this trend even after retiring from professional sport. A founding leader of the DareToBeDifferent Campaign, Susie set up the initiative to help young girls to achieve their dreams too. We caught up with her to have a chat about the hardships she's faced in her career, success stories from her new campaign, and her biggest influences in life.
Q: You are one of the only women ever to compete in Formula 1. Breaking through a male-dominated sport must have been very difficult at times - what advice would you give young women trying to break into a male-dominated career?
Susie: Dream, and dream big. We all need to know where we want to go in life and what we want to achieve, but always remember that a dream without a plan of how to achieve that dream is just a wish. And of course, focus on doing a good job and you will earn the respect. Then your gender becomes irrelevant.
Q: What struggles did you face in your rise to the pinnacle of your career?
Susie: In sport, there is only ever one winner. which means you do need to learn to cope with disappointment. You need to stay determined and never give up. This was sometimes hard but it was what ultimately led me to making it all the way to F1.
Retired from racing herself, Susie helps others dream big
Q: You have recently launched the DareToBeDifferent scheme - can you explain a bit about the initiative and its overall goals?
Susie: DareToBeDifferent is an initiative that will change female participation in motorsport. We are committed to inspiring, connecting, showcasing and developing talent in male-dominated environments and professions. The idea followed a request from Harper’s Bazaar to participate in a feature about sportspeople who 'dared to be different'. That’s where the name came from, although I never thought of myself as daring to be different - I simply followed my passion for motorsports and racing.
There is a preconception that motorsport is for boys, but that's not always the case and many women are successful in this field as well: not only as drivers but also behind the scenes, from mechanical engineers to journalists. The aim of DareToBeDifferent is to create a community to showcase that it’s possible for women to be successful in the industry, to create role models for young girls, and to show them that they can also choose a career in this industry.
Q: What individual success stories have you had from the DareToBeDifferent scheme?
Susie: Many, which makes the whole DareToBeDifferent team proud. We have received numerous emails from both teachers and parents. One girl came home saying that she had realised that she can achieve anything in life - you just need to overcome that first 'scary' moment of trying something new; another that she had never realised how much fun building a hovercraft could be and is now interested in looking at becoming an engineer instead of a vet; and another that it was simply the best day of her life and that she now wants to be a racing driver!
Q: What or who has been the greatest influence in your life?
Susie: I was lucky to grow up with great role models - my mother and both of my grandmothers. They were strong women who achieved success in their own right but still managed to balance this with supporting their husbands and family. They taught me I could achieve anything in life if I work hard enough.
The DareToBeDifferent Scheme in action
Q: What message do you hope the DareToBeDifferent campaign will impart to future generations?
Our mission is driving female talent. DareToBeDifferent will run five headline events where we are getting little girls to the kart track to try karting for the first time with a view to inspiring them. Not just on track, but off the track too, they will be opened up to all avenues of the sport from engineering to fitness to journalism. We want to create role models out of the talented women who are working in the sport. Through Dare to be Different I want to inspire and help the next generation, create opportunities, showcase successful women to become role models, and connect women so that the next generation have mentors to turn to.
It is great to see a scheme which aims to connect generations, allowing young people to have mentors and the opportunity to be exposed to careers they may not have originally thought feasible for them. Thank you, Susie, and we look forward to following the progress of DareToBeDifferent.
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