STEM advocate and champion NASCAR driver Julia Landauer shared her experience of the male-dominated sport of NASCAR in an event hosted by the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture (COLSA and the Society of Women Engineers on Wednesday, Nov. 9 in the Memorial Union Building’s (MUB) Stafford Room. A big round of applause greeted her as she stepped up onto the stage.
“I am expecting to be inspired by her accomplishments,” undeclared freshman Mikayla Gibbons said.
Landauer grew up in New York City, and her love for racing began at the age of 10 with her family’s weekend go-cart racing. At the age of 14, Landauers made history by becoming the youngest and first female champion in the Skip Barber Racing Series. She continued to participate and win in all types of racing, ranging from competitions featuring go-carts, to stock cars and formula cars. Since becoming the first female NASCAR Track Champion in her division at Motor Mile Speedway in 2015, Landauer has risen in the ranks and is currently racing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series.
Landauer graduated from Stanford University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science degree in science, technology and society. Studying business, engineering and marketing, Laundauer learned how modern technology could help build her brand where technology, community and racing co-exist.
Landauer’s main motif for speaking was to inspire and educate society on the hardships women face in the competitive and professional settings. By examining stereotypes and sharing her personal experiences in the racing community, Landauer was able to relate on a personal level to both men and women.
“You have to be your biggest cheerleader and your harshest critic,” Landauer said. “When pursuing your dreams, it is all about perseverance, you’ll get so many no’s before you get a yes.”
According to Landauer, NASCAR has a very prominent old school community of rural men who are not easy to please. When women step into their realm, the men become easily threatened, and will lash out viciously on and off the track. Landauer must give 110 percent just to be respected, let alone win. Yet, the animosity isn’t reserved for just men. Landauer recalled how when confronted with another female opponent, the tension can run even higher between them.
“The truth is, you need to be aggressive, we have to break these set of rules implied by our society,” Landauer said. “The car doesn’t know or care if you are a man or a woman.”
Freshmen social work major Cassandra Prior has been racing motocross since she was five years old. Prior knows the gut-twisting nerves that saturate in a male-dominated sport and the hostility that comes from the other occasional female racer.
“I came to see [Landauer] because I felt like I could relate on a personal level,” Prior said. “I am passionate of my sport; I never want to give it up.”
Landauer concluded her inspiring speech by encouraging everyone not to conform to stereotypes and to dare to be original and break free from the societal chains that may hinder accomplishments. She left the audience with her favorite quote by Jim Whittaker, the first American to summit Everest: “If you’re not living a life on the edge, you’re taking up too much space… You learn the most when you’re out of your comfort zone.”