Courtney Force Leads the Pack for Female Gearheads
Education and Careers The drag racing champ sat down with Mediaplanet to explain why there’s never been a better time for women to build a career in auto tech.
Courtney Force was practically born behind the wheel of a racecar. As the daughter of John Force, himself a racer with over 20 championships as a driver and owner, and sister to fellow racers Ashley and Brittany, it’s safe to say that racing fuel runs in her blood.
“Girls who want to do this, the main thing is to keep at it.”
Having recently surpassed her sister Ashley for most Funny Car wins for a female racer, she credits a supportive environment for helping her succeed in what has long been a male-dominated field. “When I was just getting into it, there were only a few females that I could look up to at that point,” Courtney says. “I always looked up to my sister Ashley. I was cheering for them (even if they had to go against my dad). It’s cool to now be a part of breaking down these barriers, helping grow the sport, and showing girls that they can beat the guys and have success.”
Courtney has also found support and mentorship from her female competitors, like Alexis DeJoria. “That’s been a great friendship,” she says, “We had to compete against each other, but we’ve also been very supportive of each other because we knew we were the only two females in our category. It’s so important to have someone there who knows what it’s like.”
Courtney also has a love of the technical side of automobiles. In high school, she says, she was your typical “girly girl,” but she never saw her identity as being at odds with an interest in cars and engineering, which is an important perspective for young women to remember. “Throughout high school I was in welding and auto shop classes, I was really interested in those types of those things,” she says.
Empowering female auto techs
Now, Courtney is trying to be a supportive voice for young women the way her family was for her, encouraging young women to get involved in the automotive industry. A recent study by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence showed that hiring managers reported that their number one challenge in 2018 was a lack of available talent. The same study showed that a simultaneous problem is stagnant hiring of female employees, at just 17 percent, which is far behind many other industries. With 60,000 new auto techs needed by 2020, this is a great time for women to break into the field.
“Girls who want to do this,” she notes, “the main thing is to keep at it and to never feel inferior to men because women are capable of accomplishing so much, no matter the career path.” She continues, “There’s a lot of different areas to make a career. There’s a lot of female technicians that are working on great race cars out there. They’re looking for people that are positive, motivated and have a love and passion for cars. That’s what we need both in racing and in automotive tech.”
Courtney has also met a lot of great technicians through her partnership with Advance Auto Parts, and explains that professional-grade auto shops are a great place to make a career: “Those guys can work on any car you bring in off the street and then go work on a racecar. They can do anything."
For young people, especially women, considering tech school, Courtney says go for it: “You’re already on the right path if you’re coming out of a tech school. Continue to work and hard push yourself… the possibilities are endless for girls that want to get into it.”