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W Series Triggers Controversy

Illustration by Sophie Devaney

Gender inequality in sports has always been a controversial topic. It was only in 1900 that women were able to compete in the Olympics, and only in 1996 that the WNBA was created. Women are still paid less than men, with the USA Women’s soccer team having been paid $2 million for winning the 2015 World Cup, in comparison to  the USA Men’s team receiving $9 million for losing in the round of 16 of the 2014 World Cup. In short, women have been denied access to sports and paid less for competing equally to or even outperforming men. Unfortunately, the list does not stop there.

Yet again, another contentious sports event in history has been made: the W Series. The W series is the first ever all women’s racecar driving tournament, planning to take place in early 2019. It has sparked much controversy because, depending on how one views it, the W series is either a monumental or detrimental event in terms of women’s progress in sports.

Racecar driving, or motorsport, is one of the most male dominated sports globally; only sixteen women have competed in the NASCAR Cup Series, one of the most popular and acclaimed motorsport events.

The W Series’ goal is to end the male domination in racecar driving. It hopes to “give remarkable female drivers an opportunity in motorsport that simply hasn’t been available to them before now,” as stated on W Series’ official website.

While there is a general consensus that the W Series has good intentions, there are mixed feelings surrounding the execution of this goal. Some, like famous female driver Tatiana Calderon, feel the W Series will make a great platform for more talented female drivers to showcase themselves and compete. She said, “I know how difficult it is for female drivers to get opportunities to progress their careers … hopefully this series will help provide those opportunities to some young rising female talent and eventually allow the best to prove that we can compete at the same level as men.”

However, others still find the W Series to be a dramatic step backwards in terms of gender equalities in sports. According to Susie Wolff, another acclaimed female racecar driver, “I raced and had success my whole career against men, so why would I suddenly want to start racing only against women, in a sport that isn’t even segregated? For me that makes no sense.”

While the intentions of the W Series were right, the execution seems to have fallen short. Instead of segregating men and women in this sport, there should be a method of helping women rise up in the motorsport industry while still competing against men on an equal playing field.