Overcoming Challenges as a Female in a Male-Dominated Industry
Business Solutions Professional NASCAR driver Jennifer Jo Cobb gives advice to women trying to break into the racing industry.
The most difficult part of being a woman in a male-dominated environment is the fact that I am unique and anything that I do sticks out. In my 8 years of being full-time in the big leagues of NASCAR, I have received two fines (both in the same season), and I recently read that I am considered a “rebel.” am often hated or misunderstood, but I have to say that the love that I receive for being unique and transparent about my career. My struggles have brought me more support than I ever could have imagined. I have a combined number of social media followers over 100,000 and I may get 10-20 nasty emails/comments/complaints in a year. Not a bad ratio against the thousands showing support, but I am hard on myself, so the negative ones often sting more than they should.
I have had offers to race at the top NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series level, and if I could go do it anonymously or as “one of the guys,” I would in a heartbeat. But as soon as I do this, I am going to be compared to Danica and step into a spotlight that I just don’t know that I want at this stage of my life. The teams that I can afford to race for are also small budget so running up front is very likely not possible for any driver. But being a woman, whatever performance I give, whether it’s something I can control or not, is going to draw attention and is going to be lasting.
I think to smash the stereotypes for women in trucking would be powerful.
Ask yourself what you are trying to prove, who you are trying to impress and why? Many years ago, a top team owner thought he could find sponsors to put me in his car. He had me put on my uniform and walk through the garage area during a race event that I was not even part of and pose for photos next to another driver’s car in front of the entire garage area. When I told him that I was a bit embarrassed and felt out of place, he taught me a valuable lesson.
“You need to worry about what matters,” he said.
My advice is to work twice as hard because you want to be twice as good, not because you want to please anyone else. Do the things you feel like you need to do for the right reasons and don’t worry about how you “look” doing it.
Awareness is the biggest key both on the highway and on the race track. Some accidents are unavoidable, but I am hyper aware of my surroundings and the stupidity of other drivers on the road (and the track). I feel like I can sense a wreck coming on the race track. If someone is being impatient and overanxious or switching lanes erratically, I either slow down or pass them quickly and cautiously. On the track, sometimes I’ll tell my spotter (if it’s the beginning of the race) that I am going to let an erratic driver go and I’ll pass him in a few laps as he is wrecking into the wall. By the end of the race, I’m usually ahead of the ones I feel like were destined to wreck to begin with.
Hydration. Focus. Eating right. All of these things affect your mind and your body. When you don’t feel well, your mind goes to your discomfort and that is a distraction. Physically taking care of yourself is a big plus.
I started a not for profit called Driven2Honor to show appreciation and bring awareness to women in the military. I wanted young women without resources to consider the military as a viable option to help them find money for college and a career path.
There is an organization called Women in Trucking that I have worked with and I think there are some great resources there and I would love to see that support go further. I think to smash the stereotypes for women in trucking would be powerful. Social media, awareness of great trucking role models, focus on safety at rest areas and truck stops and education to teach women that this is a viable career path. Remember when fire houses started displaying safety signs telling kids they could go there in case of an emergency? It would be great if there were some sort of a sticker/sign/logo for fellow trucks to carry letting a female (or even male) who is new to the industry know that they can approach with a question/issue with no judgment or harassment. When I have an issue or need encouragement, I know just who I can go see in the garage area for a pick me up. It would be great to create or expose some great support groups that could do the same for female truckers.