Monday, August 27, 2007

PR Girls are not the enemy..

As a recent college graduate who has long dreamed of working as a PR girl for a NASCAR race team, while it might be a strange topic to discuss in a first post of a blog, I feel that I must protect the honor of the women who have established themselves as highly respectable, and respectful, professionals who are simply chasing a dream which exists in the hearts of many young women.

Public relations as a whole is a field dominated by caucasian females, and it is projected that in the coming years, this will only increase, with an estimated 80% of professionals being female within the coming years. With its basis in "promoting goodwill and harboring good feelings towards a person or an institution " it is easy to see why women are so drawn to the field.

PR has, in recent years, has become a huge part of our society, involved in every area of American life, from the political, business, and nonprofit sectors, to Hollywood, Music, and other sources of entertainment, including sports.

NASCAR has long been a male-dominated sport, with little opportunity for females to become involved. As the sport has grown from a southern-centric sport to an international phenomenon, women have finally been able to make a name for themselves in many areas, serving as mechanics, engineers, officials, crew members, broadcasters, and public relations representatives.

As with any role inside the NASCAR community, for men or women, the hours are long, the travel extensive, and the time spent away from home, stressful. Nearly 40 weekends a year are spent at the track, and unfamiliar towns and hotels crammed with crew members, officials and fans, replace the comforts of home, and a 'normal life' is all but deserted to pursue a dream. Add in the sponsor obligations, interviews and public appearances a driver has throughout the season that the PR rep is obligated to be at, and the PR person, especially for the most popular and sought-after drivers spend even more time on the road.

For most fans, working in NASCAR seems glamorous and exciting, and most fans would scoff at the notion of mid-season burnout, and have no clue of the sacrifices and strains that come along with the job. I was recently told that for every PR position that exists, a team or PR agency receives between 40 and 75 resumes from qualified candidates.

I recently read that it has become common practice for race teams to hire young-underqualified candiates who 'look good in their merchandise or uniform'. Young professional women were degraded to the point of having their qualifications and credentials diminished down to imply they are nothing more than pretty faces. The conversation continued, much to my personal chagrin, to imply that females looking to be involved with the sport were in fact, looking to be involved with the drivers or male crew members. The word pit lizard, a highly derogative term used for women who prowl the pits and garage areas trying to 'get with' the drivers and/or crew members, was thrown around, seemingly in jest, but for a female who has long dreamed of having a successful career in the sport, the phrase hit a nerve.

Leilani Munter, my personal favorite of the current female drivers, currently competing in the IRL's version of the busch series, Indy Pro, has often used the following phrase to describe her interest in the sport.

Auto Racing: I'm not in it for the boys, I'm in it for
the cars.

I can't speak for any females involved in the sport, or those who, like me, are attempting to break in. But I can speak for myself, and I'm not in it for the boys, I'm in it for the cars...

4 comments:

Penni said...

very valid point and i agree.
being a college graduate w/ a mass media degree i understand that's going to be hard to get a job whether i'm good at what i do or not. one reason being that ppl are going to think it's for the boys but it's not ... lol

Erica Ortiz said...

Doesn't seem to matter what your intentions are sometimes. Even the qualified are viewed as getting the job because of their looks.

Try being a female driver! Talk about over scrutinized and chastized for being there when a "qualified male" could have your spot!

z. Smith said...

Enjoyed this article very much - great points.

z.
NASCAR Race Mom
(in the pr buz but not white female)

Just One Girl's Opinion said...

Admittedly, I got my first NASCAR job because I was a semi-cute, white female ... but, in addition, I was qualified based on four years experience in athletics media relations for a major ACC school - NC State. I knew little to nothing about racing itself, but I had a strong command of the English language and great writing ability.
It was not my desire and never my dream to work in the field. But looking back on my two years on the road, they were perhaps two of the best.
My heart, however, is still with college athletics. Last season I was with the American Le Mans Series - only nine races. That was ideal. All the racing and fun, but for only a quarter of the time.