Amy Keighley spent a weekend encouraging new people into the sport of rallying and specifically trying to target more women at the Speedshow in Auckland as part of the Women in Motorsport Advisory Commission recently.
She should have a thing or two to pass on. Keighley is the granddaughter of long-time world and New Zealand rallying administrator Morrie Chandler while her Mum and Dad both competed at a reasonably serious level.
Keighley is currently participating in her first full season in the New Zealand Rally Championship and is third in the class two 2WD championship.
She is one of just two women along with Emma Gilmour to contest the championship this season and is blazing a trail as such. Women are heavily involved in the sport of rallying.
While there are only two fulltime drivers the NZRC field is littered with talented female co-drivers and team members. Those uninitiated would be surprised at the percentage of females walking around service parks – it is most certainly not the bloke-dominated scene many might assume.
Yet there are only two fulltime drivers.
Gilmour has had to deal with being singled out - rightly or wrongly - because of her gender throughout her long and successful career. Sometimes it is meant to be acknowledging her for her success but at other times it can be less complimentary. Either way the discussion itself means she is singled out and treated a little bit differently to the lads.
Keighley feels her peers treat her like any other driver in the championship although she is happy to be seen as a pioneer to a degree. But it is a deeper and less obvious level where women drivers might be treated differently to their male counterparts.
"Thinking back to the small mistakes I've made throughout the season (Whangarei and South Canterbury) I find there's always a thought in the back of my mind wondering if people's first reactions will be thinking that it was a mistake made from trying too hard and making a genuine mistake like all the boys do or if I was just being a stereotypical "women driver" and the crash stemmed from some sort of greater incompetence," Keighley told The Herald.
"When I say people don't treat women like myself or Emma differently I'd stand by that 100%, but greater society's view on women drivers is probably more reflected on the pressure we put on ourselves. It's the same feeling I get coming from a racing family, and feeling as if there is some sort of expectation to do above average.
"I like defying the status quo, being one of only two women in the championship and racing next to Emma, who has been so highly talked about my whole life is simply awesome. But where I struggle is that voice in the back of my head in whether I get treated the same when I make a mistake, or taken as seriously overall - but I try to dispel this thought as getting in the car to race with a negative approach like that would only slow me down.
"It's very much in the nature of a high risk sport and the added competitive pressure of doing the championship etc, but I can't help but wonder if I feel it a little bit more than the boys."
Keighley hasn't heard any direct criticism from anyone in the service park but the fact she wonders what the reaction is when she has had an accident means it is an issue.
"While I've received equally encouraging feedback after rallies (which are reflective of how supportive the sport is) I wonder if the general consensus that women are slow and conservative drivers effects women's perceptions on themselves more so than how others treat them in the sport," Keighley explained.
"This is well documented in other parts of life (women's careers, self-esteem issues, family and social lives) so I guess it would be only natural that it extends to women in motorsport.
"I don't think there is any lack of acceptance in the sport, but instilling confidence in women themselves is where I would find the most benefit from the commission."