Date of Award

Summer 2022

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management

First Advisor

Haylee Uecker Mercado


This study explored the lived experiences of sixteen women who have decision-making roles in motorsports in the United States. The purpose was to shed light on the experiences of women who broke the glass ceiling in this unexplored male-dominated industry (Glass & Cook, 2016). The challenges these women encountered along with the mechanisms they employed to navigate those, and finally their motivation to continue pursuing a career in this industry, were assessed via in-depth semi-structured interviews and then the data was analyzed following a constant comparison thematic analysis. Challenges and coping mechanisms were classified according to the four levels, namely individual, interpersonal, organizational, and societal, from the analytic framework advanced by Ragins and Sundstrom (1989) (similar to the approach in Peus et al., 2015).

Findings illuminated that challenges at the societal and individual levels were the most prominent in participants’ careers. Societal level factors (e.g., gender stereotypes and lack-of-fit between women and motorsports) emerged as the strongest challenges in the beginning of participants’ careers; whereas individual level factors (e.g., work-life balance and impostor phenomenon) characterize difficulties they still navigate today. Participants’ coping mechanisms to navigate and overcome challenges were described as informal, which are mainly concentrated at the interpersonal (similar to Sarathchandra et al., 2018) and individual levels, and are particular to motorsports (e.g., close-knit community in racing and the overachiever personality of those working in motorsports).

Although numerous individual level challenges were associated with the racing lifestyle, this lifestyle was described by participants as the main incentive to continue pursuing a career in the industry despite difficulties. They stressed the people in racing, their shared bond, and an emotional attachment to motorsports, as the main components of this unique lifestyle. Sentiments and memories were used to express this relationship with motorsports which motivated them to pursue a career in the industry.

These findings prompted discussions about the experiences of women and gender issues on the management side of sports with a focus on motorsports, a topic which has received very limited academic attention. Contributions are therefore made to literature concerning women on the management side of sports, motorsports, and male-dominated fields. By illuminating the experiences of women who broke the glass ceiling, practical implications are offered to managers in sports and motorsports organizations.

The present findings shed light on the lived experiences of female decision makers in a male-dominated environment, and therefore provide insights that supplement depictions of women’s reality in a field where they face increased difficulties in their careers. Revealing challenges and coping mechanisms can illuminate the path to welcome more women and then allow them to succeed in the field. The racing lifestyle was found to be a strong motivator keeping women on the management of motorsports, and which could be leveraged to attract more women to the field. Future studies could use similar research questions to the ones in this study to extend results employing a cross-country analysis with female decision makers across racing series (e.g., Formula 1 and W Series).