Being women does not discourage the five young Athena Racing ladies from training like champions on both the race and STEM education tracks; they are the epitome of what International Women’s Day stands for.
“I think International Women’s Day is a day where every single woman, regardless of race, color or religion, can all be recognized, even if they haven’t accomplished something big because women are great. I love being a woman,” Athena Racing team member Rosy Zuniga said. “I think it’s a great day for women to feel empowered for who they are.”
Since Athena Racing CEO Loxley Browne started the all-female racing team, both herself and the inaugural Athena Racing team have proven to be leading women in the automotive world. The team trains for one weekend per month in ten STEM education tracks, races for one weekend per month, studies for 10 to 12 hours per week and encourages other young girls and women to pursue careers in STEM and racing.
The powerful, courageous women that make up the team will be karting at K1 Speed in San Marcos for the next two months. In June, at the first opportunity, they will test for for their SCCA license. Once they get their license, they will be autocrossing in the SCCA in June, July and August.
While the team focuses on performance driving, they also act as spokeswomen for the Athena Racing organization. Athena Racing team member Marissa Olivares, who works at Pep Boys, said she wants to open doors for more women to enter the automotive and STEM industries.
“I think Athena Racing is a bridge and another step forward to creating something amazing and opening a lot more doors for a lot of other women and girls,” Olivares said.
While each member acts as an important, empowered piece, the team aspect of Athena Racing is essential. Every member on the team said they think women are most powerful as a unit. The team members are not only building connections and skill, but they are also making each other stronger.
“I feel most powerful when I am being supported by other women; when I’m about to do something that might be difficult, and other women are supporting me with my decision,” Athena Racing team member Adeline Slocum said.
Even though the team is opening doors and breaking down barriers in a male-dominated industry, they have still faced inequalities getting there. Whether it be in a high-school woodshop class or at their workplace, the young women deal with discrimination, simply for being a woman.
Athena Racing team member Emily Gornall said she had a sexist woodshop teacher that she chose to ignore and instead prove him wrong.
“I am not less for being a woman,” Gornall said.
Similarly, Olivares said she constantly has to prove that she is just as capable to do her job at Pep Boys. She has dealt with managers and female customers question her ability.
“I think that’s the most disappointing part is when a woman questions your ability to work on cars. They’re like, ‘Uh, I want to talk to a man, is that okay?’” Olivares said. “It’s crazy to think that a woman can say something like that to you; you’re a woman, you should be on my side.”
Although she has dealt with many cases of discrimination and having to work even harder to prove her equality, she said she has also seen support. Her auto-tech teacher in high school was very supportive, Olivares said. He even helped her get a job at a body shop. Not only are women supporting women essential for change in male-dominated industries, but men supporting women is just as important for progress.
Overall, Athena Racing is a brand new program for women in racing and STEM, but it is leaving an impact on younger girls who might not have otherwise seen an opportunity in the automotive industry. Athena Racing team member Shayne Conner said the more outreach her team and she does, the more young girls and girls their age will want to join, or at least be exposed to engineering and automotive industries.
“It’s empowering because of how much outreach we do and how much it can expose girls to potential careers,” Conner said.
Browne said she brings at least one or two of the team members to events that the Athena Racing community partners host, so young girls can meet the drivers.
“The younger girls can put a face and a name to someone very similar to them and who will inspire them to follow in their footsteps,” Browne said.
The women not only act as mentors, but they are also constantly exposed to many other leading women at events and outings Browne takes them to.
The team was awarded “Outstanding Engineering Project of the Year” at the 69th annual Engineers Week Awards Banquet hosted by the San Diego County Engineering Council (SDCEC) in February. Browne said SDCEC President Debra Kimberling is a big supporter of Athena Racing and sat each one of the team members with a female engineer.
“It gave the team the chance to talk to other really well-established women who have been working in the engineering field for their entire career; they get an incredible amount of exposure to really strong women,” Browne said.
The Athena Racing team, Browne and their community supporters are all advocating for women to have an equal opportunity in STEM and the automotive fields. On Sunday, March 8, it is International Women’s Day. It is a time to celebrate all women and continue the support that organizations like Athena Racing have started.
“I think it’s really cool that we’re celebrating the power of women and how we’ve all come together to make a better world for ourselves,” Conner said. “There are still things to work on, but I think it’s important to keep celebrating women and all that they do.”
“Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever stop. Soon, you’ll reach your goal.”
News & Media Assistant
Cydney Melton is a fourth year journalism major at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, but is originally from Cardiff, California. Although she has not spent much time around race cars, she has spent a lot of time riding motorcycles in the desert, on the back of her dad’s Harley and just recently got her own motorcycle license. Cydney is a big advocate for women empowerment and encouraging women in male-dominated industries. She will be working as the News and Media Assistant, highlighting the progress and power of the Athena women as they claim their spot in the racing world.