Kristen Finley came to Athena Racing as a 24-year-old college student hungry for a chance to thrive as an automotive journalist. However, like the young women who Athena Racing aims to support, she was a high school student who faced sexism, bullying, and various types of harassment for being a woman interested in cars. Because of said bullying, she chose to retract her application for an apprenticeship with Ford upon graduation.
Armed with knowing what it’s like to be pushed out a childhood passion, Finley comes with the insight and perspective needed offer young women the support she wish she had when she was in their shoes.
“With Athena, these girls can grow in a place where there isn’t any bullying, and they’re surrounded by like-minded women who want them to succeed,” Finley said. “That in itself is so important. If I had that, I wouldn’t have backed away from the program.”
While Finley does feel regret for not going through with the apprenticeship based on being bullied, she doesn’t regret how her journey’s detoured. Since then, she’s channeled her automotive pursuits to be more on the journalistic and media end of things. Driven by her newfound passions, she’s pursuing a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies at California State University, Monterey Bay. If Finley hadn’t backed away from the program, she admits she most likely wouldn’t have gone to college.
Finley was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She said she grew up watching rally races with her dad, her closest friend, passing him tools as he worked under the hoods of cars. Which ultimately lead to her learning the mechanics of cars as she grew curious.
When conducting interviews, Finley said she finds it most effective to introduce herself as a writer for Athena Racing to as many female racers as possible.
“So far, not one has turned me down, because they’re so in love with the idea of young women having a safe space to explore their talents. Since I’m also an intern at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in the media center, I plug the organization to any journalist willing to hear me,” Finley said.
In one word, Finley said Athena Racing is “innovative.”
“I chose the word because it’s the first of its kind, and it’s something I wished for when I was in high school dealing with sexism and harassment during auto tech classes,” Finley said.
Although Finley said she does not face much discrimination in her writing career, she said she feels there is a negative stigma about women being incapable of success in the mechanics industry that should be overcome.
“The best way to end that is to teach young minds that women can like cars without there being an ulterior motive or desire for male attention,” Finley said. “Some women just like cars because cars are awesome, and that should be understood and accepted. I think that stigma is taught, and once it’s no longer taught, we can all move on.”
Since becoming a writer for Athena Racing, Finley says she’s grown so much as a writer and advocate. Noticing a severe lack of women in all branches of the automotive industry, she enjoys the fact that she’s a part of a program that supports women pursuing their goals — even if it’s just by telling their stories.
If she’s not holed up in her dorm room writing or reading articles, she can be found on local off-road trails where she spends a lot of time in her 2011 Subaru Forester. Off-roading, Finley says, is a way for her to get out and reconnect with nature, without getting sore and sweaty. The more and more she takes her Subaru on the beaten path, the more confident she becomes in her automotive passions. Especially with her recent purchase of a 1996 Land Rover Discovery.
As an Athenian, she’s since flourished as a freelance automotive journalist. Finley’s conducted interviews with prominent female racers, scored an internship at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, established connections with major media outlets, and will be attending SEMA 2019 as a representative for Athena Racing. Additionally, she’s been interviewed by the TODAY show, had a photo published in Vintage Motorsports Magazine, along with several other notable publications. All while keeping mechanics a hobby and being set up to receive her bachelor’s degree with honors.
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