(WISH) — A major part of the race for equality and inclusion is the role of women in the world of racing.
Paretta Autosports’s Team Principal Beth Paretta’s race began before even she realized it.
“I kind of came upon it myself, from watching racing and reading car magazines. It’s just been something that’s always been part of my life and I probably didn’t even realize it was always part of my life until years later when I found myself working in it,” Paretta said. “I worked in the automotive business for many years. I worked for Fiat Chrysler, Aston Martin, Volkswagen. When I was at Fiat Chrysler I had the responsibility of running the performance division, the marketing and operations of a performance division, as well as Motorsports.”
Paretta says racing is the great equalizer. It knows no race or gender, just competition. She is fielding an all-women race team with her mind set on the future.
“My intention with Paretta Autosport is to try to encourage more women to get into motorsport, but realistically more girls to pursue careers in STEM. That doesn’t necessarily lead to motorsport, it could be things in automotive or related fields or anything really in industry,” Paretta said. “Racing is STEM in action and it’s exciting and it’s fun. But if it can, if we can capture the imagination of a 10-year-old girl or a 15-year-old girl to say, ‘OK, that’s interesting. Let me look closer.'”
Women’s positions and roles in racing have been evident for decades. Paretta says although the accomplishments of women might have not always been celebrated as they are now, their efforts matter.
“There are a lot of women in racing. We all know each other, and the IndyCar paddock has been friendly for many years, it wasn’t you know it wasn’t for a lot of decades,” Paretta said. “It’s also thanks to all the women before us, Maude Yagle, who was an owner in 1929, who won. She was the winning team owner. There have been many women before us who have blazed a trail and we wouldn’t be here without them.”
Jimmie McMillian, who is the Chief Diversity Officer for Penske Entertainment Corp., says the racing world is led by phenomenal women every day.
“Creating an opportunity to be able to see something and know that they can be it. That is what beth and Paretta Auto Sport represent,” McMillian said. “There’s a rich history of women participating in motorsports here. We’ve had nine women to compete the Indianapolis 500. We’ve had female owners before. And so that is a part of our history and heritage.”
Paretta’s focus is on the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500.
“We’re super excited that we have Simona De Silvestro as our driver, she’s coming back. She’s from Switzerland. She is no stranger to IndyCar. Fans love her. She was Rookie of the Year in 2010, so we’re happy to have her back,” Paretta said.
The team’s victories are what Paretta said will create the generational change needed.
“Seeing them working hard, and it’s grueling work to learn how to do a pit stop and seeing that they were inspired enough to want to try and to see them, showing up every day and doing their best has been extremely humbling,” Paretta said. “I can’t wait for everybody to see them at work and to see them jumping over the wall for a pit stop because I think it’s going to be pretty inspiring to a lot of people. It’s inspiring to me.”
Women continue to come from around the world to take advantage of the opportunity to take their careers to the next level. Paretta said the goal is to stay encouraged because the to journey equality is just getting started.
“Don’t give up and work hard, but it’s OK if you pivot. It’s OK, sometimes your life will take you on a journey that you never imagined for yourself,” Paretta said. “Life unfolds in interesting ways. I mean, look where I wound up.”
The first open test is April 8 and 9 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Paretta says the team will have the last two weeks of May to practice qualifying in the race. They hope to do a few more races later in the year. The goal is to race full-time next year.