Julia Landauer has been driving almost as long as she’s been walking. Starting on go-karts as a kid, she eventually moved on to cars, and at age 14 was the first female champion of the Skip Barber Racing Series. As her competitive driving skills improved, she graduated from the scholastically competitive Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, and went on to get a dual degree in engineering and social sciences at Stanford University. Somewhere in there, she managed to compete on a season of the reality television show Survivor, before finally being drafted as a NASCAR driver. Needless to say, Julia would stand out from the pack even if she wasn’t also one of the few women in the world of professional racing.
“My goal has always been to be the very best, show that women can win, and start a conversation about some of the differences we as women face,” Julia says. “I strongly believe that, ‘if she can see it, she can be it,’ so I show that we can be competitive too.”
It’s time, Julia says, for women to stop being nice, and start winning.
A new standard for women
While we’ve come a long way in appreciating women who succeed, Julia is seeking to set a new standard for women to be taken on their own terms as exceptionally talented individuals, rather than being judged by if they are able to keep up with the boys. It’s a crucial shift in perspective.
“Follow your gut and project the person you want people to see,” Julia advises. “I think many women in male-dominated fields want to be respected for their talent and work, not for the fact that they’re a woman in a man’s world. The best way to do that is to do your job very, very well, be proud of it and set the example you wish you could have seen growing up.”
But for female drivers, that doesn’t mean holding yourself to an unrealistic standard. That too, Landauer explains, is a myth we need to break down for women to truly flourish.
“I hope that girls and women understand that succeeding in any field is difficult for anyone,” she says. “There’s a lot of rhetoric around women being able to do everything really well all the time, which isn’t realistic.”
While working on her burgeoning NASCAR career, Julia plans to use her platform to elevate her fellow drivers, and has high hopes for what diversity can do for the automotive industry and the STEM fields at large.
Diversity in all industries
“There’s plenty of proof that diversified work forces and leadership lead to more innovation, more profit, and more overall success,” Julia says. “I hope that women know that their talents and voices are extremely valuable and that sharing their excitement for STEM industries will help encourage other girls and women to explore those fields.”
Julia can’t stress enough that women need to take their talents seriously.
“In any industry,” she says, “especially ones where women are trying to find equal ground, the industry needs to treat and compensate women and men equally. Employees need to know that they’re valuable and respected.”
If the industry takes note, says the young racer, then we all win.
“Work hard, be exceptionally prepared, perform the best you can and fight for what you deserve,” she adds.
Dash Lunde. [email protected]