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The number of women participating in motorsports is on the rise, and we couldn’t be more stoked to see it.

There are many recent reports that indicate female participation is, as this Autosport article succinctly states, set to “explode” over the course of the next decade. And yet, it wasn’t so long ago that women were seemingly nowhere to be found in motorsports.

What is driving this evolution in the field, and what will the landscape of riding look like in the not-too-distant future?

A history of women in motorsports

To get a better sense of how we got to where we are today and the historic nature of this boom in female participation, we need to take a look back at the history of motorsports and how women have (or haven’t, in many cases) been involved.

As is so often the case, many of today’s female drivers have been influenced by pioneers in the sport who helped to open doors for all who followed them.

While the first known motorized vehicle race took place in 1867 when two road steam motors raced each other in Manchester, UK, it wasn’t for another 30 years that we have a recorded incident of women racing motorized vehicles. And even then, that was much more of a novelty.

But in the 1900s, there were a number of women who made history in a male-dominated sport:

Michelle Abbate driving
Michelle Abbate of GRRRacing doing what she loves on the track

Current advocacy

Women continue to make advancements in motorsports, thanks in large part to the many trailblazing women listed above and their numerous colleagues and companions.

We’ve also seen more intentional efforts to uplift women in motorsports in recent years.

Part of this is the Empowersports Women’s Riding Council, an initiative sponsored by Polaris.

Polaris Empowersports Women's Riding Council
Polaris Inc. created the Empowersports Women's Riding Council made of 12 powerful women from all backgrounds to uplift the passions that fuel women and put forth deliberate efforts for increased representation, inclusion and participation of women in powersports. Image courtesy of Polaris.

The purpose of this council is "to uplift the passions that fuel women and put forth deliberate efforts for increased representation, inclusion and participation of women in powersports." The council comprises many women from a wide variety of riding backgrounds from different motorsports, with the goal of having regular meetings with leaders at Polaris to discuss everything from representation to gear, safety and fighting against biases.

It is incredible and refreshing to see so many women entering the world of motorsports these days. However, there is still a long way to go to overcome the many biases that exist in the field, and the preconceptions people have about women in racing. We’re looking forward to seeing the landscape continue to change in the years to come.