Reid: “We must encourage and invite” women of color to racing
Reid was on a panel of experts as part of a webinar hosted by Comerica Bank and the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, a virtual meeting with over 200 students from more than a dozen southeast Michigan high schools and community groups.
Along with Reid were his Indy Lights rookie but Trans-Am seven-time champion Ernie Francis Jr., Laura Wontrop Klauser, GM’s sports car racing program manager, Megan Crespi, executive VP of technology and operations for Comerica, and Michael Montri, president of the Detroit GP.
While women’s involvement in all levels and roles of the sport is improving, and men of color have also become better represented in the last 20 years, there remains an obviously absent demographic in racing, namely, women of color – beyond the support industries such as catering, staffing and administrative work.
Asked by Motorsport.com what the sport must do to attract women of color to more prominent, permanent and elevated roles such as race-driving, race engineering, data acquisition, crewing, etc., Reid said work was underway to do precisely that.
“I am working with Lyn St. James, she has a group called ‘Women with drive’ and we meet on a regular basis,” said Reid, who is founder of the NXG Youth Motorsports program. “One of the topics we’ve talked about is women of color in motorsports.
“We need to reach out and talk to those women who might be interested in motorsports, or are even just curious, and say, ‘There’s a place for you.’ And then help develop that curiosity.
“The other thing – and this is a little tougher thing to work on – is putting money behind scholarships. At NXG we started two scholarships this year and I gave a scholarship to a young African American girl who is going to university to study specifically to enter the IT world, and we may even be able to get her an internship in Timing & Scoring or something like that at IndyCar.
“I think we just have to be aware that most women, especially women of color, are probably the farthest away from the sport in terms of exposure. So we just have to keep going down that path of, when we see folks at the race, saying ‘This is something you might be interested in’. We must encourage and invite.
“We happen to have an African-American-owned PR firm and that was important to us. When they started out they knew very little about motorsports and now I would put them up against anyone who understands the sport in terms of PR.
Reid also revealed that there has been a noticeable change in ratio of boys-girls in his NXG programs, from 26 percent in 2020 to 40 percent in 2021.
On the same topic, Klauser stated: “I think Rod’s answer nailed it. He’s right in that exposure is so critical and I’m glad organizations like his exist to help spread the word and bring those who may not usually have access to racing into the community to see what it is all about.
“GM believes in diversity, equity, and inclusion and we are growing our support in that area. My personal participation is making sure I make myself available to those wanting to learn more about the sport and talk to them about how to get involved or how to set up a plan to gain the skills necessary to be an eligible candidate for a future position.”