Former Racing Driver Danica Patrick Talks Succeeding in Male-Dominated Fields
Education and Careers The most successful American woman in open-wheel racing talks about the passion needed to overcome gender barriers in the world of racing.
How did you overcome some of the early challenges of being underestimated in a male-dominated industry?
When I first started racing, I didn’t think about gender at all. That came later after I started receiving more attention from the media. I’d say the biggest thing I faced was just getting people to believe that I could do it and support me the way I needed to be supported to make that happen. That’s not always something you can control, but I found it’s really important to surround yourself with great people. Whether it’s the people you work with or just great family members and friends, it helps to have confident and understanding people that are supportive of you and your dreams.
What advice would you give to professional female drivers that feel they have to work twice as hard to prove themselves?
You have to find what you’re passionate about and go for it, no matter what your goal is. There's no one sure path to success, so know where you want to get to, believe in yourself, take calculated risks, capitalize on opportunities and work really hard to reach your goals. Stay true to yourself and what you believe in, and don’t focus on the outside noise or chatter from others who aren’t supportive of what you’re doing. And make sure you surround yourself with people who believe in you and your goals. Having a solid support system in place is key to staying positive and focused on achieving your goals.
Long hours of driving are known to take a physical and mental toll on commercial drivers. What would you recommend to female truck drivers to stay healthy and headstrong on the road?
I imagine, much like racing, that driving a truck just as taxing mentally as it is physically. For me, I found working out helped me the most with the mental side of things. It helped keep me focused. However, to stay healthy, I think you have to focus on your mind and what you eat. I detailed that plan in my book, ‘Pretty Intense.’ In terms of the physical aspect, I’ve found that shorter workouts, like 20-25 minutes, just seem to work better for me. Do what you can, when you can. Every little bit makes a difference. And when it comes to food, you have to plan ahead and focus on foods that are filled with high-density nutrition and not junk. Our bodies are good at processing things that are real versus things made from a box. When I travel, it’s not uncommon for me to pack a cooler. I plan ahead with healthy snack options so I’m not tempted to go for junk food instead.
What other barriers do you hope to see women break in the automotive industry now that the industry is recognizing how much females can bring to the table whether it’s behind the wheel or behind the scenes?
Again, it’s all about passion. I think the sky is the limit as long as women continue to dream big, believe in themselves, work hard, take chances and make the most of every opportunity they can. Given how far I’ve made it in my career, it’s hard to believe that up until the early 1970s, women weren’t even allowed in the pits during races. I’m sure other barriers like that have existed throughout the automotive industry over the years. There are so many things that are possible at all levels and as we continue to break barriers, I look forward to seeing all that women achieve in the years to come.
What efforts do you think the trucking and automotive industry can implement to cultivate an environment of respect, safety, and appreciation for female truck drivers who work so hard to keep America moving?
To be honest, I’m not that familiar with how the trucking or automotive industries are structured, so I don’t know what the environment is like to know what could or should be done to make changes. I know from my experiences in racing that it was important to have access to the same level of facilities. There was a time when there were tracks we’d go to that didn’t have women’s restrooms in the garage areas, but that changed over the years. Respect and safety are key no matter what industry you work in, and both should be possible regardless of gender.